Monthly budgets vary from person to person because of everyone’s distinct financial obligations and personal goals. Not everyone may have the same student loans or credit card debt that you hope to reign in by sticking to a budget. While the amounts you dedicate for each expense may vary, some typical components show up on everyone’s monthly budget.
Go through that stack of bills you get every month and include an amount for each one, including rent or mortgage, car, insurance, phone, Internet, all utilities and student loan and credit card payments. Some bills, like your electric bill, vary each month, so you’ll need to figure up an average based on a few months worth of payments. Factor in other necessary monthly expenses like prescriptions, childcare and pet needs. Figure out a monthly average for food and fuel by keeping an expense journal a month or so before setting up your budget. Keep your food budget down by cooking at home, using coupons, taking advantage of grocery store sales and shopping at your local farmer’s market.
Set aside some money in your budget for discretionary expenses -- like those weekly pedicures and morning lattes. This portion of your budget is where you should start trimming first to meet your budgeting goals. For instance, let’s say you get a $20 pedicure every week. That’s $1,040 a year. Getting one every other week will put an additional $520 into your savings account every year. Take your lunch to work more often, and if you’re not using that gym membership or movie rental club, then stop paying for them.
Budgeting isn’t exactly the latest trend, but something must have compelled you to consider living on a budget. Maybe you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck or maybe you’re ready to move from apartment dweller to homeowner. Whatever your reasons are, you need to include your long-term and short-term goals in your budget. It will be easier to stick to a budget by starting small -- like maybe saving an extra $100 a month or paying an extra $50 toward your credit card bills. Work your way up to even bigger savings as your spending habits improve and you become more adjusted to your budget.
Maintaining your budget is crucial and everyone in your household has to get on board with tracking their expenses so that every dollar is accounted for. Excel spreadsheets are ideal for keeping track of monthly expenses. Save time by using one of Microsoft’s free budgeting templates, available through the company’s website. When it comes to tracking daily expenses, naturally, there’s an app for that. Check with your mobile service provider to see which expense tracking applications are compatible with your phone.
Based in South Florida, Leann Harms has been writing since 2008. Her design, technology, business and entertainment articles have appeared in "Design Trade" magazine and Web sites including eHow. Harms has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Florida Atlantic University.