How to Implement a Budget & Achieve Your Goals (Fixed Expenses)

Meeting our financial goals most often comes after we’ve made some sort of sacrifice, and yet, if we don’t know how to run a proper budget, then there is no way to ensure that we will succeed. This series, How to Implement a Budget and Achieve Your Goals, helps us do just that.

(If you missed the first installment of this series, you’ll want to check it out HERE.)

If you’ve collected your income information simply hang onto it because it’ll be important down the line. In the meantime, we are going to take a critical look at our expenses.

Did I just hear you groan? Don’t worry, it won’t be as hard as you think and I’ll walk you right through it!

Types of Expenses

There are several types of expenses we are looking for when we choose to budget including fixed expenses, variable expenses, and unplanned expenses.

Fixed Expenses

These are your monthly expenses including food, housing, and transportation that remain very close to the same each month.

Variable Expenses (Also referred to as Flexible Expenses)

Variable expenses may not be the same from month to month and may or may not be necessary. For example, they could include clothing or other purchases that will differ and could be held over to the next month if the budget does not allow for it.

Unplanned Expenses

While we work hard when budgeting to avoid unplanned expenses, they do happen. Sometimes it can be as simple as a child losing a shoe at the playground and needing a new pair, up to the need to replace a car.

Categorize Your Fixed Expenses

Right now, we are only going to focus on the fixed expenses that we have each and every month. These will likely fall into one of the following categories:

Tip: Grab your FREE Fixed Expense Worksheet to help you navigate this process! Find it HERE.


I like to break this category down into two subcategories: groceries and eating out. Ultimately, if I have to cut back in any given month, that division allows me to cut back on the one that’s less important.


This category is for anything transportation related, including gas, bus tickets, car repair, vehicle registration, and oil changes. I do not include car payments in this category but add them in when I address debt.


Of course, rent and mortgage payments fit into this category. You will also want to include anything that makes your housing situation more comfortable including water, sewer, garbage, electricity, maintenance, HOA dues, and anything else you pay regularly.


Your lifestyle expenses are anything that, while you might enjoy having it, isn’t a necessity. I always include gym membership, cable, internet, phone, and Netflix in that category, among other things. These will be specific to you and your family, but if it doesn’t fit into another category, it belongs in this one.


Depending on what your situation is, you will likely have some sort of insurance payments you make each month. If it comes out of your income pre-tax (as some health care premiums do), then I don’t choose to include it here. Home, car, or renter’s insurance are the common ones to include.


This category doesn’t apply to everyone. If you are self-employed and have to pay into taxes each quarter based on what you’ve made, then you will want to make sure that is accounted for in your budget. Additionally, if you find at the end of each year that you are responsible for paying more to the IRS then you pay out in your paycheck, then you might want to set aside a little money each month to cover that rather than having to panic when the bill comes in.

Your Turn

You know what I’m going to ask you to do, don’t you? It makes everyone cringe a bit when it’s time to compile the monthly expenses, not only because it’s a tedious job, but if you haven’t been tracking your expenses, you might be a little worried about the reality of the spending situation.

Don’t worry, even if it doesn’t look the way you want it to now, if you stick with this series, you’ll be pleased you did so! And remember – those goals won’t happen by themselves – it takes dedication!

  • Print off the last three months of your itemized bank statements. (Yes, I said THREE months)
  • Using different colored markers, highlighters, or colored pencils, go through each transaction line by line and, based on the color you chose for your category (i.e. pink for transportation, blue for food, etc.) highlight each expense accordingly.
  • List all of the “fixed” expenses (the ones that stay EXACTLY the same each month) on the FREE printable worksheet, along with the amount. (I recommend checking them off as you go.)


In the food category, unless you have been sticking to a strict amount for food each month, I recommend adding up each instance of food purchase over the course of each month. Of course, you can separate that by “groceries” vs. “eating out” if you want. Do this for each of the three months, and then average the three. You can use this FREE Grocery printable to help you do so.

If you plan to have a weekly budget for food, then you might also want to take a look at splitting it up weekly. Don’t worry, the worksheet will help you do that as well.

Don’t have a panic attack just yet. Sure, you might have spent more than you intended to spend, but this exercise will help you going forward. Enter the average of the three months into your budget worksheet. (You can always change this later, for now, just keep the average.)

Other Expenses

Once you’ve finished addressing all of the categories listed above, it’s likely that you will still have some items on your bank statements that are not highlighted because they just didn’t fit. If that’s the case, and you’ve finished all the steps requested of you, go ahead and move on to the next installation of this series where we’ll address those extras!