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How to Set a Budget

Posted By Jessica Fisher On August 21, 2014 @ 7:08 pm In Budget Living,Frugal Friday | 9 Comments

Ready to get your finances in order? If you don’t know how to create a budget. Today’s the day to learn how!

How to Set a Budget - Ready to get your finances in order? If you don't know how to create a budget. Today's the day to learn how!

You hear the word budget all the time: budget-friendly this, budget-friendly that. I think people often mean: “being frugal” when they say “budget”. But that’s not the same as having a budget.

A budget is a recipe for how you will spend your money. It’s simply figuring out what you can spend on the different areas of your life without spending more than you have.

For years we struggled to create a workable budget since our income fluctuated with my husband being self-employed. We found out how to budget while self-employed people [4], tweaking other systems to fit our life and income.

As I confessed a few weeks ago, we’ve been a little loose with our budgeting of late. Aside from funding our France trip, we didn’t give any “extra money” (whatever we didn’t need for basic living expenses) a specific purpose. Instead, we let that be “fun money”. Now that we’re coming face to face with the reality of our rental property situation [5], we’re battening down the hatches. That means our budgeting is getting a little tighter.

“Been there, done that,” we say to each other, thankful that we’ve know how to live on less.

Here’s our process for creating a budget:

1. Determine your income.

For us, we’re focusing on the two regular checks we get each month: my husband’s paycheck and an inheritance he receives from his mom. That is our number to live on. Any other income that comes in is being saved, earmarked to pay the extra we will owe when we find a buyer for the rental house.

2. Figure out your baseline expenses.

As I paid the bills this month, I filled in each amount into this Monthly Costs Worksheet [6]. Since I pay the bills and track our finances, this worksheet is a great tool to communicate things to my husband.

His first response: Our water bill is that high? 

Communicating the amount of each bill in black and white is great; I know my comments aren’t falling on deaf ears and he can see it clearly.

3. Subtract expenses from income.

Dave Ramsey uses this phrase a lot when coaching folks on budgeting: Give every dollar a name. It basically means that you’re going to determine what each dollar is for — before you spend it, if possible.

Take your income and start subtracting the expenses. If you do this line by line, then you really see how the money is “disappearing” as you spend it.

How to Set a Budget - Ready to get your finances in order? If you don't know how to create a budget. Today's the day to learn how!

4. Make a plan for creative spending.

If you come up short or don’t feel enough comfort at the end of all that subtraction, you’re going to need to get creative. What can you do without this month? What can you cancel? Do you really need to have cable, lunches out, or that new pair of shoes?

Since we’re tightening our budget this month AND have school and doctor expenses that we don’t normally have, we have to be more creative in our spending — or not spending as the case may be. During our money meeting, we strategized about how to make it through the end of the month:

  • using cash [7] to track spending better
  • using up gift cards [8]
  • not buying new stuff
  • selling used school curriculum
  • returning the shoes that I bought on a whim and haven’t worn

5. Revisit your budget frequently.

Every month you need to write a new budget. That was the thing I didn’t understand as a young bride. Every month is different. Your family has different needs, and you need to adjust accordingly.

When you’re just starting out — or getting back in the swing of things — I recommend revisiting the budget and retallying expenses on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The more it’s in your face, the more diligent you’ll be.

You will get better at budgeting the more you do it. I promise.

Do you create a zero-based budget each month?

Why or why not? Do you have any tricks that help you?

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[4] how to budget while self-employed people: http://lifeasmom.com/2011/02/paying-off-debt-when-youre-self-employed-frugal-friday.html

[5] the reality of our rental property situation: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/01/your-biggest-money-mistake.html

[6] this Monthly Costs Worksheet: http://lifeasmom.com/2012/10/keep-track-of-financial-stats-and-monthly-costs.html

[7] using cash: http://lifeasmom.com/2010/06/frugal-friday-how-to-live-without-credit-cards.html

[8] using up gift cards: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/06/how-to-use-up-those-gift-cards-youve-been-stashing-frugal-friday.html

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