Budget. I absolutely hate the word, and the idea of it – but it’s something extremely important.
Let me let you in on a secret: we’re presently five months into the year, and I still haven’t perfected my budget. By “perfected”, I mean that I still overspend and under allocate sometimes. Every time I swipe my card or finalize a PayPal transaction, I hear my mother’s voice in my head whispering, “You need to have a budget.”
But I do. I do have one. Do I use it?
That’s completely up for discussion.
What I’m getting at isn’t that I’m a horrible spender (I’m not, I make room for savings and I feel like I think about purchases that I make.) The point I’m bringing across is that budgeting is harder than just an excel spreadsheet and a promise.
So, you can stop being so hard on yourself for your spending habits. That doesn’t mean that you get a free pass, though – you still need to formulate a budget and stick to it. This post is here to help you do just that. (Yay for financial responsibility!)
It’s time for Budgeting 101.
What exactly is a budget?
I remember the first time I learned what a budget was. I was petrified. At the time I was chronically allergic to Math. Fast forward to the present and my tolerance for complex equations hasn’t really improved much. But now, I’ve got a better understanding of what a budget is.
A budget is a sheet that you use to manage your income, expenditure and savings. It is extremely specific and harrowingly accurate. There’s no room for partial estimations or basic figures in a budget. It’s a well-oiled machine, and for it to work everything has to be thorough.
That being said, it was a challenge for me to start budgeting because I faced a few challenges:
- I’m an entrepreneur, so I don’t get a specific salary that I could just plug into a chart. I had to estimate, and that was my downfall initially.
- I don’t have an affinity for numbers. Believe me. I have no idea what it is, but they easily boggle my mind. To this day I’m easily confused by counting things and checking things in my head.
- I was (kinda still am) an impulse shopper. It used to amaze me how I could justify spending copious amounts of money without so much as a second thought.
There you have the abject smorgasbord of problems that is the reality of Devonnie Garvey when it comes to budgeting.
Still, I overcame those problems so you can too.
Budgeting isn’t a science, it’s an art.
One day, after depleting my bank account impulsively, I felt so sick of myself. That purchase was the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back. So, I sat around my laptop and I forced myself to come up with a way to ensure that I wouldn’t do it again.
After a few hours, I managed to come up with something that resembled a budget. I had estimated my income. Plus, in hindsight I had been too generous about my allocations for expenditures (I really didn’t need that much money for shoes.)
Yet, it was a start.
That’s one of the biggest things about budgeting in my opinion. Starting.
If you don’t start you’ll never be able to progress. You’ll be 65 wondering when you got this old and why you still don’t own a car. Make the resolve to today to start budgeting. (You can use this free goal setting printable to get started.)
So, having a budget isn’t a science. It’s an art, it’s entirely up to your interpretation and there’s always room for a personal touch.
Nonetheless, like art there are certain principles that you need to follow, like:
- Try to be as precise about income as possible. If you’ve got a stable salary, all the better for you! However if you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer with a fluctuating income, then try this trick: go over your earnings for the past 3-6 months and figure out an average to use for your budget. That way, if you make more you’re good. And conversely, if you see yourself falling short, you’ll be motivated to meet your budget.
- Be realistic about your expenditures. Start with the important things like food, rent, transportation and bills. Also, if you don’t have a fallback like health insurance or a wad of savings allocated for rainy days, be sure to make an allowance for that. I can’t stress this enough.
- After you’ve made your budget, the motivation to stick to it isn’t just going to descend from the heavens and enfold you in an angelic embrace. No, you’re going to have to pursue that motivation and force yourself. You have to develop discipline, and whole lot of grit. You haven’t experienced true pain until your favorite store has a sale and you’ve already spent all the money you allocated for clothing. If you can survive that, you can survive anything.
- Have a support group. Keep friends who are operating on the same wavelength with you financially. You can’t expect to keep on track with your budget if you’re around people who spend money willy nilly and are broke the last three weeks of the month. And, if you don’t have a choice but to be around these people, make sure that you at least have someone who you can talk to and who will keep you accountable.
- Trust yourself, and don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not going to succeed on your first try. There will be days when you cheat your budget, and there will be moments when you feel horrible after impulse buying that cute top. Those things happen, and that is totally fine. The main idea is that you have to be willing to keep trying and consistently putting out the effort to ensure that you get better at budgeting.
Like I said, it’s an art and you’re the artist right now.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be that abstract concept that’s hard to implement. And it doesn’t have to be a painful routine. It’s actually a healthy habit, one that’s good for you and your pockets.
Here’s to a making budgeting a lifestyle!