No one likes to keep track of their spending habits. It is scary and even I find myself shocked at how much I can spend while on a trip to the mall or even the grocery store. Not having a set budget can really hurt you when you are trying to keep some money in your savings account. How do you know how much you are spending? How much should you be spending? What will happen if you buy that gorgeous Dooney & Burke purse when you really just need groceries?
Sticking to your budget is hard. Trust me I’ve been there. But it is even more difficult to buy necessities when your bank account is at zero. I have found that keeping a budget shows me how much extra money I have that week or month so I know if I can afford to go shopping in the city or not.
Having a budget does not mean that you are poor or struggling. Even wealthy people keep a budget. Why? You do not want to spend all of your hard-earned money. Its simple. Every time I get a paycheck I get so happy and I automatically text my friends to go shopping (#ShoppingAddiction). That’s all fun and exciting until I check my bank account and see that I have spent most of my paycheck. I get so disappointed in myself when that happens but I still find myself constantly doing it. However, when I stick to my budget, I do not see my paycheck depleted by the end of the week. It is still there even after I go shopping! Budgeting allows me to feed my closet without any credit card debt or massive spending. It is like the ultimate path to adulthood when you can stay within your budget. It shows that you are learning to be responsible.
Want to keep a budget but don’t know where to start? Follow these steps.
Track your spending for one to two weeks
Tracking your spending is a great way to see how much money you spend in a week. When I did that I was horrified. What made me think that I could afford all of that coffee from Starbucks when I had my own coffee at home???! It really opened my eyes to my insane spending habits.
In order to make sure your budget is as on point as possible, make sure that you write down everything. Do NOT treat this like your calorie counting app where you “forget” to add in that whole plate of french fries you ate at lunch. Yes, we all do it.
Once you finish your week (or two weeks if you feel that you want to be super accurate) put all of your recorded purchases into an excel spreadsheet. When you put in your purchases, try to place them in certain categories like food, gas, toiletries, etc.. This will help you see how much you spend on necessities and how much you spend on stuff you don’t need.
After everything is organized, calculate how much you spent that week in each category and compare it to your paycheck for that week. Did you spend more than you made? Did you spend a lot on one category when you really didn’t need to? This allows you to see what you can actually afford each week and how much money you can spend while still saving money.
Set spending limits for each category
When you are finished with your calculations on how much you spend in each category, it is time to set your budget. This is when you decide how much you are allowed to spend each week (or month it is up to you) in each category. This budget should be decided based on your average paycheck and not how much you have in your bank account. Remember you want your bank account to grow and not dwindle. In order for that to happen you should put a certain portion of each paycheck you get into a savings account that you do not touch. This will allow you to have a lot more money in the future for when an emergency happens or if you want to go on vacation.
So how should you keep track of your budget? One way to do that is to keep a journal where you deduct each purchase from that category’s budget for the week. Another way is to keep cash for each category and once that category is empty you cannot buy anything else for it that week. It is all up to you and what you think you can stick to. Do not try to set your spending limits based on you trying to spend little to nothing especially if you spend a lot to begin with. Changing your spending habits takes time and even if you need to start off with a large budget you are still making progress by being aware.
After your budget is completed you are ready to go spend your money. Just remember to stay within your budget. Victoria’s Secret is having their semi-annual sale but your clothes budget is already spent? No new bras for you. You really have to think about what you are buying and if you actually need it because there will be a time when you need something but you just spent all of your money on something frivolous.