I don’t need to tell you that the economy is tough, cost of living increases are constant and now that we are nearing the holidays, your budget is really taking a hit. So, what are we to do? I’m here to tell you that setting up your own personal budget spreadsheet isn’t as daunting as it may sound. With basic knowledge of Excel, your statements and a little bit of time, you will have a good foundation to get your head around where your hard-earned cash has been going.
First off, you can do a bit of research and see if one of the many personal budget templates and apps out there suit you, but I like to keep in simple in an Excel spreadsheet.
Start with making a personal budget workbook with several tabs:
- Residential/essential expenses
- Loans/Debt payments
The most important parts of your budget are those first three tabs. Gross monthly income should be logged and then the taxes listed and deducted to give you a net number which will be the basis for everything else. Residential/Essential Expenses should encompass your rent, utilities, car-related expenditures, and all forms of insurance. Loans and Debt obviously track your student loan payments, credit card payments and any other long term obligations that you are paying down. These first two tabs will likely not have a lot of room for cuts or changes so this total will be what you must always accommodate for in your budget.
Next, I have put the essential need for food in its own tab since this is the easiest place to over-spend. I suggest getting as granular and specific with this category so that you can take a close, well-informed look on what you can cut back on. For instance, scrutinize your statements and be sure to track groceries, take out, and eating out at restaurants separately. If you have a particular habit, like a Starbucks addiction or are known to indulge in a mid-afternoon snack at the hip food truck all the time, you may want to give them their own line item. Seeing your coffee habit aggregated on its own means you can see the magnitude of what it is doing to your pocketbook instead of being lost in a weekly food budget.
Now, go back through your monthly statements and sort of all of the more superfluous expenditures like haircuts, waxing, movie tickets, travel and your bill for happy hour. Also be vigilant of anything that has in-app purchases. You may not notice that you are downloading a song here or powering up a game for $1.99 there, and it all adds up. There is a lot of room for trimming in these areas though that is never the fun one to want to cut. Once all of these tabs are sorted, you total out each tab, add them all up and subtract from the net income amount. Are you in the red or the black? Or maybe it’s a bit grey? Now though you have everything clearly organized so that you can drill down on each of the subcategories and see what you can tweak.
By finding cheaper versions of some line items or scratching some entirely, you should be able to get yourself in a place where you have bit of a buffer. That buffer should be put into an interest-earning savings account for emergencies, holiday shopping or more comfort in the future. This total amount of spending will allow for even the smallest but of savings should be your goal budget number. Always have that in mind and to help yourself stay on track, you can even download worksheets from the internet to work out what your next month’s spending was in comparison to the budget number you just calculated for each silo. Were you over-budget this month? Why? Was it a trip for a wedding or some rare occasion or do you need to reign in your online shopping and Candy Crush addiction?
No one likes setting up parameters and facing their bank statements, but once you set up this easy-to-follow foundation, keeping your personal budget will no longer seem intimidating. Your diligence will pay off sooner than you think so that you can save more and have less worries!
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