A personal finance budget is extremely important when it comes to your finances. Having a budget will allow you to manage your investments, your savings, and handle all of your bills in an effective manner.
Start the process by writing out all of your expenses. Then track your spending for at least a month, this includes not just your bills but your savings as well.
At the end of the month use the list of your expenses to categorize them either as needs or as wants. Please understand the basic difference here. A need is essential to your survival like food, shelter, clothes, heat. (it’s unlikely that you would survive for long without food, heat or shelter so money allocated to rent, work clothes, heating oil, are needs-you can extend this to things like transportation as you would not be able to get to work to earn income otherwise (unless you telecommute of course).
A want consists of something not absolutely necessary, but that you desire. Examples would be an iPhone, a gym membership or a pedicure, which you do not need to survive.
Then take a look at your wants list and eliminate the most superfluous. Of what’s left, if there is anything that you can save money on, think of alternatives..For instance, instead of getting your car professionally detailed, save money by getting it washed for 5 dollars by a kid on the block.
Examine your needs as well to see where there may be some saving opportunities. Then proceed to categorize them between fixed and flexible expenses. Your fixed expenses are the same every month, things like health insurance would be classified that way. Flexible ones like your groceries can vary every month.
Take your personal finance budget to the next level. Classify your expenses by due date, for instance, the rent bill should be reflected on the first of the month and if for instance a credit card payment is due on the 5th, it might be next on your chronological budget.
Continue classifying them by weeks, some will be constant (will appear every week- like groceries and gas for the car) and some will be periodic (once in a while- like scheduled car maintenance, heating oil charges or water and sewer charges.) Add up all your weekly expenses to see what cash outlay to anticipate. Total all four weeks and compare to your actual take home salary. Based on that, make sure you put enough in weekly savings to meet those bills when they come due.
If your expenses are greater than your income, take another look at your list and eliminate any “wants” items and re-examine your “needs” to see how you can save money. Call your credit card company to see if you can renegotiate a lower rate or switch to a cheaper prepaid cell phone plan.
Reprogram your house thermostat for lower settings- wear a sweater during the week-end and in the evening if need be. If you are still short, then it’s time to consider getting a second or part time job to supplement your income and meet your obligations.
From now on your personal finance budget will revolve around your needs rather than your wants. You only spend money on wants if you have extra at the end of the month and even then you should try to apply it to any form of debt you may have or to shore up your savings and investments.
If you find yourself in the happy position of having a surplus income over your expenses, establish some goals like a vacation fund or new house fund.
Monitoring your actual income/expenses against your personal finance budget is not a onetime thing, it should be done monthly to catch trends and make course corrections. Saving a dollar here and a dollar there can add up to serious money in the aggregate.
In creating a personal finance budget, remember to make it a priority to establish an emergency fund if it is not already in existence. A rule of thumb is 6 months worth of expenses but in this economy 9 months to a year is closer to what’s wise in my estimation.
Presuming you make $4,000 a month you would need to save $24,000 for the minimum of 6 months. If you make $1000 a month you would need to save $12,000 for the maximum yearly guideline. Do this before you spend $10,000 for a trip to Europe or buy that fancy motorcycle you only use a few times in the Summer.
By making a personal finance budget and sticking to it you can make yourself financially healthy. You can make a goal of buying that car you have always wanted, get out of debt and even retire early.