Well, if you are like most folks– your credit card bills are coming due for all the stuff you splurged on at Christmas. Am I right? If you are like most Americans, in this economy, you are surviving pay check to pay check. You are getting less money in your check, because the tax break is gone and things are costing more than ever due to inflation. (Can anyone say milk and gas?)
So, what can you do? How can you organized and see where your money is going? Do you even know where your money is going?
The first thing you need to do is to create a budget. So, gather all your bills, your checkbooks, check stubs, bank statements, anything else you might need and a pencil, and print out a budget worksheet.
Okay, now take a deep breath and begin filling out your budget worksheet. Keep in mind that things like electricity and gas fluctuate depending on the month, so make sure you estimate more for those line items. Also, make sure you estimate accurately. If you normally spend $200 a week at the store, budgeting $75 a week is a little drastic and probably not achievable.
Once you have all your expenses estimated and written down, use your check stubs to calculate how much your take-home pay is in an average month. Take your take home pay total, and deduct your expenses from the budge worksheet. This should– hopefully– be a positive number. This is how much discretionary income you have at the end of the month, provided you have stuck with your budget accurate and you do not spend it on extras like entertainment or other things. If the number you calculate is a negative number, this means your expenses are more than your pay. You need to take a long, hard look at your extra expenses (cell phones, cable, entertainment) and see where you can reduce or eliminate spending.
Now, the most important thing about making a budget is sticking with it. One frivolous purchase can skew your budget– and wallet– for the month. When you pay your bills through the month, glance at your budget worksheet and make sure you are within the amount you set. If you aren’t, research why and possibly adjust your budget amount. Sometimes, it helps to notate next to the budget amount how much your actual amount was to determine any differences.
Following your budget for a few months will help you identify your pitfalls or weaknesses. Are you eating out too much? Are you spending more on groceries than you think?
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you check out my post on Manilla.com. This is an awesome FREE bill organization site that allows you to input all your bills and it will send you reminders when things are due! I have mine set up to auto login to my bill sites which is helpful when you are out and about and realize you have forgotten to pay something! Super cool, check it out!
So, how did you do? Do you have more money than you thought? Less than you thought?
My last bit of advice to you is this… don’t go crazy with that discretionary income. Put it in the bank and save it. Save it for a big purchase or a dream vacation. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to spend it. Otherwise, having a budget will be useless!
Worksheet used with permission from eMeals.com.