Budgets fail for several reasons:
- Your current budget worksheet lacks accuracy,
- Your future budget goals are unrealistic/unattainable, and/or
- You are not sticking to the budgeting goals you have set for yourself.
In order to take control of your finances, you have to be in control of your budget. Let’s dive right into how to make a budget that you can stick to.
GATHER ALL NECESSARY DOCUMENTATION
If you want to create a successful and attainable budgeting plan, I can’t stress enough how accurate your current budget has to be. The first thing I recommend is reviewing what you have spent on all of your expenses over the last year.
This may sound overwhelming but I know you can do it AND it will be worth it.
That being said, determine every type of payment method you have used for all of your fixed and variable expenses over the last 12 months. This can be credit cards, checking accounts, and/or debit cards.
If you use cash for some of your expenses it will be a little more difficult to accurately create a budget but do the best you can to estimate what you spend on your variable expenses since those usually vary.
Now print or download 12 months’ worth of statements for every payment method you use. These statements will mainly be used to accurately predict what your current monthly variable expenses average out to. I will get into that part shortly.
Once you have done that I want you to pull up the detailed budgeting spreadsheet you plan on using. I highly recommend my FREE budgeting spreadsheet which you can get right here. This budget spreadsheet comes with built-in formulas so it automatically calculates everything for you.
If you prefer writing everything out I recommend using this budgeting planner.
CREATE YOUR BUDGET
After you have obtained all necessary documentation and have your preferred budget worksheet in front of you, start by calculating your MONTHLY NET income. Here are the different formulas to figure out what your monthly net income is based on different pay periods.
WEEKLY: Weekly NET income x 52 / 12 = Your Monthly Net Income
BI-WEEKLY: Bi-weekly NET income x 26 / 12 = Your Monthly Net Income
SEMI-MONTHLY: Semi-monthly NET income x 24 / 12 = Your Monthly Net Income
Some people recommend creating budgets based on your pay period but the reason why I personally like creating monthly budgets is because most of your fixed expenses are billed monthly.
It’s much easier to calculate your monthly net income than to break down all of your expenses based on your pay period.
If you would prefer to create a budget based on your pay period, then you will just need to figure out what your fixed expenses will be for that time frame.
So let’s say your monthly rent payment is $1,000 and you get paid weekly. Here would be the formula you would use to figure out what your rent payment would be if broken down per week – $1,000 x 12 / 52. But to keep it simple let’s create a MONTHLY budget.
The next step is to determine what all of your monthly FIXED expenses are and add those numbers to the spreadsheet you are using. This step should be pretty simple as fixed expenses don’t change from month to month. Examples would be your housing or car payment, etc…
After you have listed all of your fixed expenses you are going to look at all of your VARIABLE expenses. This will take the most time and effort but this step is very important as your variable expenses are the expenses that you will have the most control over.
How to figure out your variable expenses:
- Groceries- Look at 2 months worth of bank statements and add up everything you have spent on grocery items over the last couple months. Divide that number by 2 to determine your monthly grocery expense and add that to your budget under groceries.
- Gifts- You will need to look at 12 months worth of bank statements for this to make this as accurate as possible. Add up what you have spent the entire year for gifts and divide that number by 12 to get your monthly gift expense.
- Clothing- This can vary from year to year but for now just add what you have spent on clothing over the last year and divide that number by 12 to get your monthly average.
- Gas- Average what you have spent on gas over the last 2 months and divide that number by 2 to get your monthly gas expense.
- Dining out- Look at what you have spent over the last 2 months on eating out. Include everything from carryout and eating at restaurants to vending machine purchases. Divide that number by 2 to get your monthly average.
Continue to go down your budget spreadsheet and do your best to determine what you spend monthly on each variable expense. Some expenses need to be averaged over a 12 month period since they are very inconsistent and others can be averaged over a 2 to 3 month period.
The spreadsheet we provide has miscellaneous expenses as well at the bottom that you can replace with different expenses if there is an expense that you have that is not included on the spreadsheet.
Once you have completed your budget spreadsheet you will need to deduct all of your expenses from your monthly NET Income to determine what you have left at the end of each month. As I mentioned above, the budget spreadsheet I provided will do the math for you.
The goal is to save 10-20% of your monthly Net Income EVERY month but if that’s not achievable right away, that’s okay… you will get there in time.
Set a realistic goal for yourself and start off by reducing your variable expenses to see if that alone can get you to your goal. If so, then all you have to do is stick to that goal.
If reducing your variable expenses is not enough then the next step is to look at your fixed expenses to see what can be reduced and when. Set that goal for yourself and make a commitment to make those changes when you are able to.
Keep adjusting your budget monthly until you have reached your monthly savings goal. With time and practice, it will get easier and easier. I PROMISE!
P.S. For tips on ways to reduce your monthly expenses check out my post on 15 ways to reduce your monthly expenses.