Budgeting

Step #3 – Calculate food and personal expenses.

After you’ve made a plan and faced your debts, you need to start calculating your expenses. Start with your fixed expenses. Print out a bank statement and credit card statement for the last month. Use different colors and mark every food expense and personal expense. Once you start, you will see a pattern and decide how many colors to use or expense categories you want to use.

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Food – I suggest breaking out food into grocery store and eating out. Food expense is such an easy place to overspend when you’re not budgeting and keeping track of it. I keep my Costco purchases in a separate category because I don’t get very often and it can derail my weekly grocery budget. So, I just keep it separate. I also budget separately for my kids’ school lunch accounts. Don’t be discouraged if this number is really high. When you’re aware, you can easily start to fix this if your current spending habits aren’t in line with your goals. Look back at your goals, and figure out if your food spending is keeping you from working towards your goals.

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This is not how I look when I go shopping. Haha. My kids are usually in tow and mad because I didn’t buy all the things.

Personal – I like to break the personal expenses into lots of categories. This is a good area to start using cash envelopes to get this spending category back in line. In the personal category, I include personal expenses like haircuts, gifts, cash, clothing, dog grooming, and items for the house (all the stuff I buy at Target). Just like using cash envelopes, I like to put the same amount away each month for these items. If I put away $40 per person each month for clothes, I have a good amount in that category when it is time to buy clothes. I try to buy my kids some clothes each season. The only time I completely clear out this category is when it’s back to school time. I do the same thing with haircuts and gifts. These amounts can hit all at once. But, I try to be prepared. If I set aside so much each month for these items, I have the right amount when you need it.

I’m breaking down my budget starting basics into six easy steps. If you spend 30 minutes on your budget each week, you will have a budget set up and ready to start at the end of six weeks. Then, I’ll help you keep it going and sticking to your budget.

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Budgeting

Set Financial Goals

Do you feel stuck? Are you not great with numbers or money? Do you not know where to start with a budget? I’m breaking down setting a budget into small 30-minute steps. If you follow these steps every week, I’ll have you managing your own budget in just two months.

  • Brainstorm. You will start by brainstorming a bunch of goals you could have. In other posts, I will show you pros and cons of certain goals. However, I’m not going to tell you which is the best goal. Here are some ideas but you should sit down and write your goals with your partner.
    • Emergency fund
    • Debt reduction or elimination
    • Save money for big purchases
    • Retirement
    • Insurance or Death planning
    • Live on less then you earn
    • Give to others
    • Find work you love
  • Prioritize. Once your list is complete, go through and pick out two or three goals that you and your partner want to focus on. Have you ever watched a three-year old soccer game? Each kid’s goal is the same to kick the ball, but they don’t really go anywhere. You need to work together with your partner to create a focus for your goals. The other goals can also be priorities but you need to start by focusing on a few goals at a time.
  • SMART. Now that you have some goals set as priorities, convert them into smart goals. This stands for Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. You need to specify what your goal is so you can measure it.
  • Plan. Now, you can plan. Break the goals into smaller goals. You are not going to specifically figure out where the money is coming from just yet. You are only going to break it up into smaller goals.

Getting started on a budget does not have to be time-consuming or exhausting. You can make your budget work for you. This week, our only focus is to figure out what our goals are and when we want to achieve them.