Budgeting. This is the age-old question about personal finance. How do you budget? Now that you’ve organized your finances, know how much you owe, the interest rates and when you pay your bills it is time to start budgeting!
Budgeting can be daunting and very overwhelming. Lindsey and Tolga have a different approach to budgeting. For Lindsey, she uses the mobile app Mint, whereas Tolga uses Excel. Each of us will explain why:
I use Mint because it’s easy. Math has never come easily to me, and I find budgeting to be stressful. Logically, I know I am supposed to budget. I could never find a method which works for me. I tried using excel, but found it hard to maintain. I often forgot I had it saved, and by the time I opened it, a few months had gone by. With Mint, I find it easy because it does the work for you. It automatically creates your budget based on your income. You can create your own categories (mortgage/rent, bills, restaurants, groceries, clothes, etc) to help make your budget. It also lets you track your cash purchases. It shows when you’ve gone over budget and tracks how much allocated dollars you have left. Overall, I have been able to stick to my financial goals and budget and its user friendly interface makes budgeting less daunting.
I HIGHLY recommend using Mint as a way to get your financial life on track. Easy to use online on my computer as well as through their app to always give you an instant update you might need before deciding on buying those new pair of shoes.
I on the other hand like to lay things out in Excel. I don’t do this all the time, just once in a while to see what my overall budget should look like. This gives me an idea of how much I make, what expenses I have and how much I should have left over. Two things that shock people the most when they do this is:
1) They realize that they spend more than they make
2) Shocked at exactly how much they spend on certain things
What I might do differently than most people is I break my expenses out into fixed expenses & Variable expenses.
Fixed Expenses – Bills that come in each month roughly the same amount and can’t be ignored.
Variable expenses – Things I spend on however I can change how much I spend month to month if I wanted/needed to.
The trickiest part of this is estimating what your variable expenses are. You might think you spend a certain amount on food and entertainment… but you’d be surprised how wrong your estimates might be. That’s why an app like Mint is good, because it keeps you honest. I also use it in conjunction with my excel budget.
Complete example of this is below.
So now I have a full understanding of:
- What I make a month
- How much I have to spend each month on essentials
- How much I have left to pay off debt or put into savings
I might not stick to this budget 100%, as most people don’t, but because I have a good understanding of where I am with my finances, I can make the right choices to get them into a better place. Either to help pay down debt, save up for a big trip or how to set up investment savings for retirement.
You will also understand exactly why I set up my budget like this in our next blog – “Personal Finance –“Make it simple”.