Planning a budget involves identifying your income and figuring out spending priorities and trade-offs. Basically, you’re establishing a cash flow plan that lets you know how much you can spend each month—and how much you can save.
First, divide your expenses into two categories.
A simple but effective way to look at your expenses is to divide them into nondiscretionary (your needs) and discretionary (your wants) categories.
Don't forget to set aside money for upcoming big-ticket items that come once or twice a year, such as insurance premiums and real estate taxes—they can be easy to forget when creating a monthly budget.
Then list your sources of income.
Where is your money coming from? Your regular wages are most likely your primary source of income. But don’t forget to add in other sources such as bonuses, gifts, income from rental property, interest or investment income, government checks or any other source.
Now put some real numbers into your plan. Add up your income, itemize your expenses and do the math.
Coming up short? Prioritize.
This is where you may have to prioritize in order to reach your goals. For instance, can you cut back on entertainment in order to save more? Would it be more economical to take public transportation than pay high gas prices?
Our monthly budget planner can help you more easily calculate your expenses and allocate your income.
It will also help you see more clearly where your money is going and how you may have to modify your spending.
Keeping your budget up to date and sticking to it are often the hardest parts—but they're also keys to success. So once your budget is complete, monitor it regularly.
Here’s a simple idea: Try carefully tracking your spending for 30 days. Does it match your projections? Do you need to change your daily spending habits to meet your longer-term savings goals?