How many times have you tried to set a budget? Did it work? Did you stick to it? If you are at all like me, or a lot of folks I know, you may have failed. Maybe once, twice, or more, am I right? I’m certainly not going to claim to be a money guru or financial genius, that would be a lie. However, I have learned a lot in the past few years that might help you if you’re struggling.
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First off, let me fill you in on my poor financial past. I’ve never been good with money. Maybe because I grew up spoiled rotten. Maybe because I never had to budget. I got my first job at 16, like a lot of people my age. I worked part time just for fun. After all, I was 16, living with my parents and didn’t even have my own car. That began my downfall of spending whatever money I had on whatever I wanted. I had no idea what a budget even was, or why I would ever need one.
When I moved away to college, apparently my parents made “too much money”, so there was no financial aid for me. I did get a small scholarship, but not nearly enough to cover the whole thing. So of course, my parents paid for that too. (Like I said, I was a spoiled rotten girl). Of course, I still worked at the same place I got my 1st job, I wasn’t too far from home, so I’d go home on the weekends. I had mom’s car since I still didn’t have my own. She’d do my laundry and I’d hang out with friends.
Sometime during my 2nd year, my desire to stay in college diminished. I dropped out and moved home. I had my own car by this point, (YAY, thanks mom for co-signing) and I had a few credit cards I was lucky enough to get in college simply for being a student. AND… that’s where more problems came from. Borrow from one to pay on another, etc. I wrecked my credit so fast, it was unbelievable. Still, I never saw the need for a budget, but why?
Fast forward, (minus all the boring details where the parents paid my rent, bailed me out of financial troubles time and time again, etc.) to the future. I finally moved far away from my parents in 2011, well into my 30’s. I reconnected with someone from college, (ironically) who was living in Georgia. I’d been living in NE Ohio my entire life. We talked on the phone daily, and then he flew me down for a visit. Less than 6 months later, I was packing up and moving south! The silly thing I did was tell him I HAD to have my own apartment, I wasn’t moving in. Well, that turned out to be another time I SHOULD have budgeted but never did.
Less than 6 months down here, we moved in together, and then in 2013 we married. Still, I wasn’t the type to make a budget. He helped me clean up my credit, and I even got to buy a car, no co-signer! I was making decent money, after all, I’d been with the same company 5 years at that point. I even got to move down with a job already waiting for me. Then exactly 1 year later I wanted a better car. A brand new car, to be exact. So I got one. Did that help me budget? Nope…
I have learned that a budget is the only way that I can keep my spending in check. Plain and simple. I like to shop, and I like to spend money. My current job was a pay cut from the last one, but at least I’m not putting 70+ miles on my car a day anymore. That alone helps a lot. However, I know I still need to budget to keep myself out of financial trouble. And I have had my share of financial troubles, believe me. From a bankruptcy long ago, to even a repossession of my car, I’ve been bad with money and finances.
Start by tracking your income. Your paycheck, weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly. I get paid weekly, hubby is on the 15th and 30th. The best way to plan a budget is to start there. Get out paper, write it down! Find a great planner, or notebook if you need to, but put it all in writing. I’ve found if I want to stick with something, putting it in writing is my only way. There are some amazing financial budget planners floating around out there, trust me.
Next, outline your expenses. Itemize down to the last detail. Don’t skimp here, be honest with yourself and list it all. Mine looks something like this:
- Car Payment
- Electric Bill
- Car Insurance
- Cell Phone
- Gas for car
- Credit Card
- Groceries per week
And of course these can vary, when you factor in dog food, meds for dogs, etc. But those aren’t weekly/monthly exactly, so those will have to go in another list. Obviously now, break these down by what is paid monthly, etc. And be certain to set a budget for things where you can overspend, such as groceries! Make lists and stick to them. And if you have the time/drive to clip coupons, do it! They do help. Don’t forget about your rebate apps and such too. These can all help save, while you stick to your budget.
Check out this post to learn about those apps!
Use this list to divide your paychecks and split them up so you aren’t broke one or 2 weeks out of the month. I take a quarter of my car payment out of each check so when it’s due at the end of the month, it doesn’t wipe out my entire pay for that week. If you can use this method to pay your bills, it won’t seem like you’re living paycheck to paycheck.
More than anything, I can’t stress enough, WRITE IT DOWN AND STICK TO IT! That is the absolute only way you stand a chance of sticking to anything, including a budget. It won’t be easy, and there will be times you want to stray. But don’t. Remember why you are doing it and keep it up. And after you have been successful for a bit, sock some of that money aside in savings, or in a rainy day fund.
Do you have a budget planner? What tips and tricks work for you when you are trying to stick to a budget? I’ve love to hear your thoughts!