You want to be debt free, have your sights set on buying a lake house, or want to retire early and travel the world. Whatever your goal is, it probably requires adjusting your finances to make it happen, correct?
It’s your lucky day because this series is going to help you do just that, with a complete focus on meeting your goals, whether they be short-, mid-, or long-term goals.
If you don’t have a goal or aren’t sure about it, I highly recommend checking out the series: How to Make Goals and Achieve Financial Success (you can find Part 1 HERE). It’ll walk you through the importance of goals and your finances and help you to put a few together.
For the rest of us, let’s figure out how we can make those goals feasible, by beginning with our budget.
Tip: If you want a simple tool that will guide you through this whole process, check out the Blessed Budget Workbook.
What is a Budget and Why Do I Need One?
It’s amazing how many times a week I hear from people that they don’t have any reason to budget. According to them, spending their money until it’s gone and then starting over when the paycheck hits the bank again is just par for the course.
I’ve been there, done that and I can promise you that, without a budget, meeting any goal that involves your finances will be nearly impossible.
What is a Budget?
In the simplest of terms, a budget is a method by which you make educated decisions when it comes to allocating your income. A budget helps you spend less than you earn and prioritize expenses for the purpose of achieving longer-term goals.
Why Do I Need One?
The truth is, you don’t need a budget, rather you could, like I mentioned before, go until you run out of money each month and then start again when the next paycheck is deposited into your account. Plenty of people do it.
And yet, very few are happy with where they are financially.
Think back to the goals you have. Will you be able to achieve any of those goals if you keep on the way you have been over the last year, five years, decade? If you live paycheck to paycheck, spend needlessly, and rarely tell yourself no?
I’m guessing the answer is no because goals stretch us: they ask us to do more, to be more than we already are.
The budget is the tool to help us get to that end goal.
Will it take work? Yes.
Will we want to give it up at times? Yes.
…and yet, when we have a goal that we want to achieve bad enough, the sacrifice won’t feel like a sacrifice quite as much. In fact, we might actually enjoy sticking to that budget and making “smart financial decisions” for ourselves.
- Are your goals big enough to motivate you, even when this budget thing gets hard?
- Will they require a change from you?
If Your Goals Aren’t Motivating Enough
If you answered no to either question, ask yourself why those goals don’t require you to change. Is it because you have already made the smartest financial decisions possible? Or perhaps because you are happy where you are?
If that’s the case, I applaud you, and I want to let you know that the following steps are going to be hard. While you might be the exception to the rule, you are going to assess your finances in a way you may not have done before, and you will be less likely to stick with it without a motivating goal to go along.
Need to look over and/or change those goals? This is a great time to do so! (Find my best tips HERE!)
If you answered yes to both questions, then it’s time for us to get budgeting!
The Parts of a Budget
In order to put together a successful budget, it’s critical that we address the following categories: income, expenses, savings, and debt.
Determining how much you make is normally the most fun part of making a budget unless, of course, you don’t make much, and then it can be stressful. For the purpose of making a budget that will help you reach your goals, you need to compile a list of all forms of income. This can include paychecks, spousal or child support, and any additional bonuses or benefits you might accrue over the course of a year.
You might think a year is a long time, and that you really only need the current month for your budget, but I beg to differ. Even if you believe your income is the same from month to month, it’s important to make sure that’s actually true. I know that a lot of people don’t realize that there are months (especially when they are paid hourly or weekly) that the amount of income they receive is different.
Likewise, when we reach the segment on expenses, there are months when expenses are higher than others, for one reason or another.
Using the FREE printable income worksheet, you’ll want to do the following:
- List all of the income sources and amounts you have.
- List all of the income sources and amounts your spouse has.
- Calculate the gross (total before taxes) yearly total and net (the amount you take home).
- Determine how much of that income comes in each month (does it stay the same or does it vary from month to month?)
Tip: If you have irregular or variable income, check out THIS POST.
It might be tempting to estimate that income, but I recommend that you don’t. If anything, make sure you have the exact amount, because it can (and will) make a huge difference in your budget long-term.
Trust me, I wouldn’t just have you embark on this exercise if I didn’t have a real plan for what we will do next. I’ve been there in that spot where I’ve had less income that I thought I did, and alternatively, in the spot where I didn’t budget the income we did have, and then found our financial situation in a worse off state than I ever dreamed it could be.
Don’t be like me. Make sure you have accurately portrayed your income in your budget. It’s YOUR budget…no one else will see it. So be honest.
When you are done click over to the second installment in this series.