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It’s easy to feel like your money disappears as quickly as it appears. Its enough to make you wonder if some magic money fairies are literally carting it off.
One way to gain more control and visibility of your money is to build a better budget. A budget helps you track your income and expenses, so you understand just where exactly your money is disappearing too.
It can also help you gain more control and work to create a stable financial future for your family. Building a better budget means building a better future.
What is a budget?
To get on the right track for debt recovery or saving for the things you want, you should know how much money comes in each month as well as where it all goes.
That is really all a budget is. It is a line-by-line list of your expenses and your income. You can also include an item like “entertainment” in your budget that is a set amount you are allowed to spend on that item.
Even if you’ve never done it before, home budgeting can be a simple task when you have the right tools in place and know how to do it correctly.
10 tips to build a better budget
1. Account for all Necessities
The most important goal of a solid home budget is to account for all of the things you need to purchase each month. One way to improve your budget is to make sure you know how much money to set aside for those purchases.
You don’t want to get caught in the last week of the month without enough funds to buy toilet paper, or pay the electric bill.
To do this, make a list of all necessities like gas, rent, utilities, groceries, toilet paper, and any other item you can’t live without, and then calculate the costs for each.
Make your list as detailed as possible, so there are no surprises during the month. If you aren’t used to preparing a budget, it may take a couple of months of practice to get the necessities list down to a fine science.
2. Make Saving a Priority
Building a savings account should be a priority no matter how much money you make or how your debt load appears.
Make sure that your budget has a line for savings in it.
If you have no savings account, you will never be able to get on top of your finances. Even if you are only able to save a couple of dollars per week, start saving now, and eventually, your money will build into a substantial resource fund.
If you have difficulty saving money, be creative and find a solution that works for you. Even if you have a tight budget, there are still ways to save.
Work with your bank to open up a savings account that you can’t withdraw from easily, save up your coins in a collection jar, or give your money to a trusted family member to hold onto on your behalf.
Need help with overspending? Learn some tips to prevent overspending your budget here.
3. Create Overages
Whenever possible, try over-budgeting your bills and expenses to create extra money at the end of your budgeting cycle.
You can use this extra money for debt repayment or add it to your savings account. Over-budgeting actually helps you create a better budget. It will ensure you have enough money to pay all of your bills, purchase the things you need, and plan for unexpected emergencies.
If you use a checkbook or spreadsheet to track your money, try rounding up to the nearest dollar when you subtract out your expenses.
By rounding up, you will eventually have a good amount of extra funds in your account. This also ensures you don’t overspend and put your account into a negative balance.
The cash envelope system is another good way to keep track of your money and expenses. When you get paid, you can pull all of the money out of your bank account and separate it into different envelopes for bills and expenses.
Any money left over in the envelopes after paying bills and buying necessities can be saved, moved over to other budget envelopes, or tucked away for a fun budget to spend on yourself.
Another fun way to “round up” your money into savings is with the Acorns app. The app ties into your debit card and takes the spare change “rounded up” from your purchases and invests it for you!
So not only are you saving extra money without even trying, you are investing that money and making it grow. Use this link and get your first $5 for free with Acorns.
4. “Cut the Crap” Spending
Have you ever stopped to think about how much money you spend each month on espresso coffee drinks, things that make you feel good at the time, or impulse items?
To build a better budget and start taking control of your money, you need to find ways to cut the crap out of your life and start saving your money.
Make a log of all of the things you spend money on during the day and analyze where your money goes. Once you have an idea of your spending habits, you can easily find ways to cut costs and put your money to better use.
It can be hard to cut down on your spending, but stick with it! If you need some motivation, read this post on Why you Should Stop Spending Money on Starbucks and Start Saving for Your Dream Instead.
5. Pay Bills on Time
One important budgeting tip is to pay your bills on time each month and stop wasting precious dollars on late fees.
Make a list of all of your monthly bills and the due dates for each. Keeping track of your bills is essential to build a better budget.
Once you have a list of bills on paper, you can plan accordingly to get each bill paid on time. When you pay bills late, fees are often tagged on. Plus, you run the risk of your account being reported as late to credit bureaus, which will have a negative impact on your credit score.
While you are thinking about your bills, it is also good to look for ways to reduce the amount you owe on your bills each month by cutting down on utilities usage, services you don’t need, and programs you don’t watch.
6. Create a Vacation Fund
Everyone needs a little time away from day-to-day life every once in a while and a fun filled vacation with friends and family is a good thing to save for.
Creating a vacation fund will naturally help you stick to your budget since it gives you a goal to save up for and something to look forward to.
It will help you think twice before spending money on something you don’t need because you will have a worthwhile, fun goal to reach for.
Any money that is not used on your vacation can be added back to your general budget fund or saved for another vacation later down the road.
7. Document all Income and Expenditures
The number one key factor in creating a better budget is to make sure you know how much money you bring in each month from all sources and where it all goes.
Create a handwritten or computer spreadsheet and account for all income you and your family brings in each month. Account for job wages, freelance work, child support, and any other money you receive regularly.
After you have figured out your total monthly income, figure out all of the expenses. This list should include all bills, no matter how big or small, and all the daily expenses you have during the course of a month.
To get the best estimate of your monthly expenses, you need to track your spending for a couple of months and take an average; this total will be the spending you should allocate for when creating your expense categories on the spreadsheet.
While compiling your list of monthly expenses, see if there is any room to cut costs and save some additional money.
Of course, its also a great idea to look for ways to increase your income! If you can increase your budget, things will get even easier.
8. Create a Plan
If you have found yourself in debt, you need to come up with a plan to get out and stay out.
Credit card debt is the easiest debt to create and the most costly for you. You don’t want all your income going to pay outrageous interest charges.
It can however be the easiest debt to escape. Stop using your credit cards for daily expenses and pay down the balances.
Of course pay off any collections accounts first and then pay extra on loans to close out these accounts quicker.
If you have several bills to pay off, start by paying off the bill with the smallest balance so that you can feel a sense of accomplishment once you bring the balance down to zero. After you get this bill paid, select a different one to pay off.
Debt is a budget killer, both from your motivation and available funds. Do everything you can to pay down your debt and get ahead.
Wondering how much you should really save each month?
9. Include your Family
Practical budgeting should be a family affair. Teach your kids early to save money by setting a good example.
Present the family budget to your spouse and let him or her work with you to create a solid plan to bring debt down and control the spending.
Most family arguments over money stem from one spouse not knowing where the money goes each month. And if you both team up and work together, it will go a long way towards building a better budget.
10. Make Visuals
Pie charts, graphs, and other visuals are great for keeping you on track with budgeting. Having visual aids will help you keep the goal in mind when planning and executing your budget.
Create a visual representation of your debt and track it over time so you can watch it decrease. You can also do the same with expenses and income.
Make a goal and reward yourself for small, achievable milestones. And the most important budgeting tip is to start today!
Once you get a handle on your money and finances, it is easy to come up with a plan to get rid of debt and start saving for the future.
Use these budgeting tips and techniques to establish how much money you bring in, where you spend your money, and where you can cut costs.
After you have a handle on what your bills look like and where all your money goes, you can make a plan to pay down your debt and start saving for your future.
Here are my favorite budgeting and saving apps:
iBotta for special offers and cash back on groceries.
Acorns which takes your spare change from purchases and invests it for you to help you make even more money.