How To Create and Stick To A Budget
“Budget” is one of the most disliked words in the English language — it usually represents restriction and a denial of all the things we like to do, like buying new outfits and cute makeup or having weekly mimosa brunches with our girlfriends.
I got my first “big girl” job last year after graduating from graduate school, and I had this grand plan that I was going to save and be frugal like never before. Needless to say, that’s not what has happened. But, at the beginning of the year, I decided to start changing my financial mindset and I sat down to create a budget. Here’s how I did it:
Track your income and expenses.
For the month of January, I decided to spend as usual, except I tracked each purchase I made in a spreadsheet. I wrote down the date, store, purchase amount and the items I bought.
I quickly realized that I spent much of my money on clothing, makeup, eating out or on little purchases, such as bottled water that I made throughout the day. Also, I saw that I spent way too much on my phone bill (curse you, AT&T)!
Write down your debts.
I made another spreadsheet with my debts, which included a small credit card balance and my student loans. This can be the most painful part of the process, but it’s important to know what you owe so you can create a plan to become debt free.
Follow the 50/20/30 budget breakdown.
I saw this in Essence magazine a few years ago, and it took some of the mystery out of creating a budget. Fifty percent of your expenses should go to fixed expenses and needs, such as your rent, car note and utility bills. Twenty percent should be set aside for savings and debt, and 30% can be set aside for entertainment, shopping, etc.
Of course these ratios can be changed based on your situation. If you want to get aggressive about building your savings and tackling debt, you may want to reduce the percentage for entertainment by 5–10 percent.
Use apps to help you budget and save.
I love using Digit to help build my savings account. Digit examines your spending and withdraws a small amount of money out of your account each day. The amounts are so small that you don’t even notice it, and within months you can save almost $1,000.
Qapital is another app that automates savings, but in a different way. You can set up rules, such as every time you shop at Sephora, the app will put $10 towards your savings account.
There is a plethora of free information out there to help you make the best decisions about your finances. I follow @myfabfinance, @thebudgetnista and @thinkngrowchick on Instagram, and each lady shares advice you can quickly incorporate into your daily routine.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote down a goal that I wasn’t going to purchase any more purses in 2016 and I was only going to buy makeup when I needed it. Let’s just say that hasn’t happened, and that may have been an unrealistic initial goal to set for myself.
Instead, I’ve decided to set aside $100 from each paycheck to get a cute bag or grab a few new makeup items. That way, I’m still being more responsible, but I’m allowing myself to have fun too.
By allowing yourself to still get and do things you enjoy, you’ll have a lesser chance of burning out and quitting altogether.
Do you have any budget tips? Share them in the comments below!