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By now, we all heard about budgeting, but little do people know how to use it to make a difference in their finances. Keep reading this budget guide to take your finances to the next level.
A study from U.S. Bank reveals that only 41% of Americans follow a budget. It means that 59% either have a budget but don’t follow it or don’t even have one.
Knowing that budgeting is one of the most fundamental financial planning methods to use for someone who wants to improve their finances, it is quite alarming.
What Is A Budget
A budget is a financial plan that estimates your future expenses based on your expected income over a predetermined period.
In other words, a budget helps you figure out what to do with your income.
While most budgets are created for an entire month, it is not uncommon for people to create weekly or biweekly budgets.
If you are paid every two weeks, you might want to start with a biweekly budget to get more familiar with it before using a monthly budget.
What A Budget Is Not
A budget is not a magic tool that will stop you from spending your money. It is not the solution to all your financial problems. But it can help you solve most of them.
Remember that tools are meant to be used. A budget won’t guide your financial situation if you don’t use it regularly.
If you are not willing to make meaningful changes to your finances, a budget by itself doesn’t do miracles.
Why Do You Need A Budget
There are many reasons why you might need a budget. And as always, it will depend on your personal situation. But, here are some reasons why people are starting to budget.
- Feeling stressed because you don’t know where your money goes
- Living paycheck to paycheck without having enough money to pay your bills
- Losing too much time on your finances without making any improvements
Budgeting is the foundation of personal finance.
What A Budget Can Do For You
1 – Identify Where Your Money Goes
A budget is a great tool to identify where your money goes and what your spending habits are.
There are so many things you can buy at any given time that you can’t remember about your weekly or even daily spendings.
2 – Be Mindful Of Your Spendings
When used correctly, budgeting can become eye-opening experience.
The main goal of budgeting is not to restrict or even stop yourself from buying the things you love in life.
But it is about being mindful of your spendings so you can make better decisions on what to spend your money on.
3 – Create Healthy Spending Habits
After identifying where your money goes and being mindful of your spendings, a budget can help you create new habits.
It is not a secret that replacing toxic habits with healthy ones is crucial to improve your finances. It can also affect other areas of your life positively.
Stop Making Excuses
How many times have you heard people making the following excuses about budgeting?
- It is too difficult
- I don’t have time
- It is not the right moment
- It is too restrictive
Now, read these excuses one more time and think about something you have been procrastinating on.
I have done this exercise many times, and each time these excuses seemed perfect. It is when I realized that I needed to stop making excuses.
Excuses are only good to stop you from learning valuable things in life. So stop comparing yourself to others, fearing the unknown, and take responsibility for your action.
I think this part was necessary to go through, but now let’s go back to our budget guide.
Zero-Based Budgeting Method
Zero-Based Budgeting (or ZBB) is one of the most widely used budgeting methods. The concept is simple, every dollar earned needs a purpose.
The goal is that your income minus your expenses, savings, investments, and debt payments equal to zero.
Let’s take an example to understand how ZBB works.
You can think of budgeting as a guide you need to follow in order to spend your money.
As you can see in the example above, sometimes it won’t go as planned. And that is okay as long as you understand why it happens and use it to plan better next time.
As a rule of thumb, if you can stay within $25 from “Budget” to “Spent” per category, it’s a win! There are 3 categories where the difference is higher than $25.
I like to use the “Finance” category as a buffer, meaning that if I overspend, less money will be going towards it. In this category, I like to track my debt payments, emergency fund savings, investments, retirement savings, etc.
If I overspend for one month, it will directly affect my savings rate. So, I usually balance it with my next month’s spendings to make sure that I’m on track with my financial goals.
How To Choose Your Budgeting Tool
Starting budgeting from scratch can be challenging. But the good news is that you don’t have to because there are hundreds of apps and planners out there.
In order to choose the right budgeting tool for your situation, you need to know a couple of things. There are 3 types of budgeting tools: apps, spreadsheet planners, and printable planners.
Here is a table that shows you the pros and cons of each option.
Most Popular Budgeting Tools
As for budgeting planners, a great place to look is Etsy.
Another option is to check out my financial planner.
In conclusion, I hope that this budget guide will help you take your finances to the next level.
Remember that budgeting is the foundation of personal finance. No matter what is your main financial goal, getting out of debt, build your emergency fund, or saving for retirement, budgeting will help you get there.