Trying to save money is difficult and frustrating when you live paycheck to paycheck. Establishing, and sticking to, a household budget can be the key to taking control of your finances and getting more from your money. Here’s how to do it.
1. Gather all the documents you will need. These include bills, bank statements, and pay stubs. Using a simple spreadsheet or budget template, or even a piece of paper, make categories for income and for expenses. The categories will vary from person to person but in general they will include things such as mortgage or rent, utilities, vehicle expenses, food, education, and entertainment.
2. Go over what you spent on these items during the past two months. If you don’t have accurate enough records, then keep track of all of your spending for a month before sitting down to make out your budget. You can also estimate your expenses and plan on making adjustments next month when you see what they actually are. Be prepared for surprises – people often spend much more on certain items than they realize, such as food and entertainment. But knowing exactly how much you spend on what is crucial to making your budget work.
3. On your budget worksheet, make a column for estimated expenses for the upcoming month, and fill in the categories. Then leave a second column blank for actual expenses to be filled in later. At the bottom of the estimated expenses column, total the expenses to get a total estimated monthly cost of living.
4. Now estimate your total monthly income and compare the figure to the estimated monthly expenses. If your expenses are higher than your income, you will need to make adjustments in order to improve your financial situation. Either find ways to cut back on your expenses, or increase your income through a second job. This is not an easy process, but it is a necessary one for getting ahead financially.
5. Once you have set your budgeting goals, stick to your plan. This is typically the hardest part of having a budget, but living beyond your means is often what gets people into trouble in the first place. Focus on your future goals and make a commitment to stick to your budget. Using tools that are available to you, such as auto title loans from Embassy Loans, can help you relieve urgent bills immediately and focus on taking charge of your finances. Just remember to factor the loan payment into your budget as an expense.
Remember, budgeting may not be easy, but it is simple: you cannot spend more than you earn. The lower you can get your expenses, the faster you can pay off debt, get caught up on bills, and start saving for the future. Budgeting doesn’t have to be a drag. Make saving money a game – how little can you spend on groceries this week? How low can you get your fuel costs by grouping errands and carpooling? Finally, reward yourself for being good – your reward can be something free, like a family game night, or something inexpensive, like pizza or a movie, that you built into your budget. (And yes, “fun money” can, and should, be one of your expenses).