Click below for the free budget template that matches your lifestyle
It's not fun, glamorous, or even enjoyable. Yet creating a budget is a necessary part of adulthood, and is essentially the first step towards financial stability. Having a working budget in place will help you identify exactly where you stand with your finances. Here are some tips to creating a practical monthly budget to help you keep your finances in check.
Know Your Income
The first thing you'll need to get a grasp of is how much money you're actually bringing in every month. This number is not just your annual salary divided by 12 months. You'll also have to deduct factors such as income tax, pension plan contributions, and other things that would be docked from your pay. Not including these deductions will cause you to have an inflated idea of what your take-home income is, which will put you in the red.
Document Your Expenses, Both Fixed and Variable
Your fixed expenses would include things such as your mortgage, car payments, student loans, and so forth. These expenses remain relatively constant month after month. Variable expenses, on the other hand, are those that either only pop up every few months, or fluctuate in cost month to month. These may include property tax payments, entertainment, groceries, and so on.
Focus on Your Savings
It's a good idea to put some money aside every month - no matter how little - towards your savings account. Financial experts typically recommend setting about 10 percent of your post-tax income aside for your savings, although the more you can put away the better. You might opt to have a portion of your money transferred out of your checking account and into your savings account automatically each month so you don't have the excuse of 'forgetting' to put that portion aside.
Analyze Your Spending Habits - Keep All Your Receipts
Retaining all your receipts for all your expenditures will help you determine how much you're actually spending every month. After two or three months of adding these totals up, you'll have a good idea of the average amount of money that is going towards expenses, and determine whether you need to cut back on spending or not.
Set Goals, Both Short- and Long-Term
Setting specific goals can help you pay off any outstanding debt that you may have, which can eventually free up your finances at some point down the line. Short-term goals can include things such as paying down credit cards, while long-term goals may include paying off your mortgage.
Choose an Easy-to-Use Budgeting Tool
Putting a budget together requires a resource that helps you organize your finances. By using a budgeting tool, such as a simple monthly budget template on an Excel spreadsheet, you can easily tally up your income, expenses, and figure out the difference between the two after all factors have been considered and identified. At that point, you'll be able to see if you've still got money leftover, or if you're digging yourself into a financial hole. A budget can essentially help straighten out your finances if necessary, and allow you to get a clear picture of your financial health.
Click here to download the XLS file monthly budget template.xls.
If you're looking for the easiest and best FREE way to keep a budget and stick to it, visit Mint.com. Here you'll find valuable tools to help you stay on top of your finances by organizing and categorizing your spending for you. By using their easy-to-use monthly budget template, all you have to do is plug in your figures, and make sound money decisions that are good for you! Click here to try Mint for free.