Every family needs an expenses system to keep a positive balance of the money you receive minus the money you must pay on a monthly basis. Once you ensure you have properly allocated your income, you can start thinking about savings and investments of different types to grow your capital. This is based on the general structure of a financial balance sheet.
I suggest the following categories for your first expenses record and then you can decide if you need to add or keep it simpler.
Here are some tips to build your own budget and how to keep it accurate.
Foundations of regular vs variable expenses
Before everything else, you need to keep in mind that not all expenses are the same. As an example, if you are looking at apartments for rent in Cincinnati, you’ll need to make monthly payments, but also pay utilities and any furniture, TV, wifi, etc. To keep things simple, we will consider two types.
- Regular expenses that are frequent and follow a pattern (E.g., food, gas, rent)
- Variable expenses that happen on a random basis obeying specific needs (E.g., a new laptop, a new desk, or a new TV). Learn more about fixed vs variables expenses here.
Even the smallest building needs strong foundations, so start to ask and keep your everyday receipts to generate a database that you can use to estimate and follow up on your payments. Let’s assume you have never done a budget before, and you need the information to have an idea of what is your expense level. This does not necessarily require you to spend two hours a day, just keep the receipts and on the last day of the month add all the amounts. You can do that easily while you watch a random Netflix show with your kids.
You can go as detailed as you want, the main objective is to build the habit to keep the receipts, summarize expenses, and realize accurate base numbers. If by any chance you need guidance with payments and debt, you can contact a personal counselor, learn more about it here.
You may wonder, what if I can wait until the end of the month? Then, use the receipts for a whole week and use those numbers to create an average of your budget.
Of course, those receipts will reflect mainly regular expenses. So, you can use the remaining amount to calculate if there is room for variable expenses.
Keep saving the receipts and summarizing the amounts for your regular and variable expenses month to month and after three months you will have your first-quarter report ready to use for future purposes. (E.g moving to a different neighborhood, defining a new job opportunity, planning a big purchase).
I personally prefer to use 80% of my time producing and executing the activities that will provide my income and use the 20% to monitor and define the next strategy to achieve the family goals. Therefore, by the time you monitor your quarter budgets, you can plan your next moves and notice any budget deviations.
Adjust and repeat
Live happens and you will need to make some corrections and adjustments over the run. However, this is the beauty of having a budget. I will not take you by surprise and it will take just some minutes to identify where to adjust and plan your best strategy.
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