I would be lost without a monthly budget, ya’ll. Think knee-deep in CVS and Target receipts and thinking it’s OK to withdraw money from savings…for a pair of shoes. In fact, this was my life about a year and a half ago. I had good intentions at the start of the month, but then around the middle of the month, my good habits would go south. And I ended up not saving a dime that month! I realized it was time for a change and that I really needed to start “adulting” for real this time.
The point is, we are actually stronger than our weaknesses. We’re better than the impulse “sale” buys, fancy snack foods and online shopping. If we establish a budget and stick to it, we can transform our habits!
Here are some things I do to make my budget stretch every month. These may or may not work for you, but they are worth a try on your journey to financial peace!
At the end of every month, I assess the damage from the past 30 days. Sometimes I’m super proud of myself because I’ve stayed on budget…and some months I’ll admit I didn’t do as well. I had an unexpected purchase here and there and it blew the whole budget. Remember to plan for those kinds of purchases such as wedding gifts or car maintenance.
But, using a monthly budget has helped me learn about my spending habits and my weaknesses: food and shopping. I’m easily swayed by big online sales and addicted to fancy snacks and artisan foods. So for the most part, I know to avoid those temptations at all costs.
However, I also plan for what’s to come. I set up the same spending categories every month, but I also look at my planner for the next two weeks. I estimate upcoming costs until my next paycheck such as groceries, gas, recurring subscriptions, rent, utilities, etc. This lets me know if I can purchase something extra on my ongoing wishlist (more on that later).
Ya’ll, we can’t just wing it every month and hope for the best! With consumerism all around us and at the touch of our fingertips, most of us are constantly being tempted to buy, buy, buy. I have to hold myself accountable every day to not impulse buy. It’s a discipline I’ve learned over time but will pay off in the years to come. Good credit and minimal debt go a long way.
I’ve tried using budgeting apps and honestly, they don’t work for me! I have an Excel spreadsheet that I use and I just copy and make a new one every month. It’s nice to compare the same expenses from month to month and see what I need to cut back on. To get started, I suggest using budgeting apps like Mint or YNAB . They are free and easy to use! A lot of banks also have an insights tab to track spending.
Here is budget spreadsheet similar to the one I use! Feel free to use it for your own monthly budget.
I typically have the same spending categories every month. The only exceptions are months like December where I buy Christmas presents or certain times of the year when I have expensive car maintenance and plan for these usually months ahead.
Here are my typical spending categories in my Excel spreadsheet:
Make sure to look at your bank account every few days.
This tip may sound nit-picky but it’s so important when trying to stay on budget! If I forget to look at my bank account for more than three days when I’ve made purchases, it can shock me sometimes. Oops, I forgot my Netflix and Spotify subscription went through. That’s $21 right there. But I also went to Target and spent $30. Oops, again.
I also insert all of my debit card transactions into my Excel spreadsheet. For instance, one of my biggest spending categories every month is my grocery bill. I spend anywhere from $250-270 on groceries, and I eat out maybe once a week. It’s easy to spend a lot on groceries, but I usually try to stay on $50-60 a week budget.
This is a great standard rule for spending and saving every month. Take a look at your monthly income after taxes, 401K contributions and health insurance. Fifty percent of that income goes to necessities such as rent/utilities, student loans and groceries. Thirty percent goes to the things you want—clothing, entertainment, dining out. And you probably know what the 20 percent goes to…saving!
Saving is truly a state of mind, and it’s important to have goals in mind. Whether you are saving for a car, a house, a well-deserved vacation or a big move, set realistic goals and save the same amount every month! There is also a way to set up automatic savings transfers with your bank account. This way, you won’t be tempted to spend that money. Putting money in savings gives me peace of mind. You never when something might happen and you’ll need extra money. It’s good to have a cushion!
I make lists for everything in life, whether it’s for grocery, toiletry or shopping. My little black book of lists is always in tow, especially if I’m shopping and I am tempted to impulse buy. I take a look at my shopping wishlist and remember the things I really want rather than just buying something because it’s cute.
What are some of your monthly budgeting tips?