Have you ever felt like you never have enough money to buy the things you want? Or maybe take a trip or just need more money for food? I think we ALL have been there. It always feel like the money we make leaves so quickly, it’s like we never had it to begin with! The solution to this is plain and simple, you need a budget! I’m going to lay out 3 simple and easy steps so you can budget like an adult.
I have personal tested these steps and they work without having to drastically change what you already do! While in college, like any student, I was broke. Constantly running out of money for basic things was getting tiring. One day my mom said, “Courtney you really need to stick to a budget!”. So, I worked a little more and tried it out. I was very skeptical at the time because I am horrible at sticking to a routine, but it worked! I guess they do say mothers know best! 🙂 By using these 3 simple steps, I budget effectively and struggle just a little bit less. Already have a budget? Then check out 5 Budgeting Mistakes Everyone Makes so that you can stay successful!
STEP 1: SET ASIDE THE TIME
This by far is the most important step and therefore is step number 1. You must set aside the time, just like you would with anything else that is important to you. I suggest pick one day of the week when you can commit to setting up your budget for the coming week. Pick a time before or after the kids go to bed. Maybe pick a Saturday or Sunday when you don’t have to think about work. Whatever works for you, but remain free from distraction and mentally focused. I spend about 30 mins to an hour on Mondays. Depending on the week, it may change to a different day and that is okay! If it gets done! I even set a consequence in a way for myself if I don’t complete my budget on said day. For me, I don’t let myself purchase anything that is non-essential until I have looked at my budget, even if for just 10 minutes to put in some rough numbers. Setting a consequence won’t work for everyone, so find out what works for you and stick to it!
STEP 2: GET CLEAR ON YOUR GOAL
I am an avid believer that if you don’t have a goal defined, it’s going to be a lot harder to stay dedicated to budgeting. Let’s be real, budgeting is not exactly a fun activity for most people. But having your goal defined makes it easier to see what you are working towards. It makes it easier to decide if spending $15 at Chick-fil-A is worth it. You want to budget? What for? Do you want to buy a car? Go on vacation? Fit in your weekly Chick-fil-A addiction? See where all you hard-earned money is going? No goal is too small or too big, but you MUST define it. It can change in a month or in a year if you want, but it must be defined.
STEP 3: ORGANIZATION IS KEY
So, at this point, you’ve set aside the time you want to dedicate to your budget, remember 30 minutes is more than sufficient. You’ve clearly defined your goal. Finally, it’s time to get organized. This will be different for everyone! Whatever you chose to do, I suggest backing up your budget on a flash drive just in case, it sounds silly, but if I lost my budget, I wouldn’t even know what to do. I heavily rely on having access to it and I check it before making purchases (which can be multiple times a day!) on almost anything.
Figuring out how you want to budget is also part of getting organized. Some people like to use an envelope system. I personally use an excel sheet that I sync with my iPhone so I can access it on my phone. I can adjust or check how much I budgeted for something. If you are the type of person who goes with the flow and doesn’t heavily rely on a budget, the envelope system would work great for you! Maybe you are an extremely organized person who literal plans everything (like me) so having a detailed excel budget would probably be a better fit for you.
Just like any new habit, setting and sticking to a budget will take some time. You’ll have weeks where you’ll be very dedicated and then other times where you might not look at your budget for a month. That is okay! The important thing is to just keep at it! You fall of the wagon sometimes but you have to get back on and keep going. Trust me when I say, once you see where your money is going, you’ll say, “I seriously spent THAT MUCH on that last week?!” But in time, you’ll see your savings growing that will be all the motivation you will need!