This is how I started my budgeting process –
01: It’s a good idea to start by writing down every single thing that you spend your money on for a month or so. This may seem like a bit of a chore but it really comes in handy further down the track when you’re trying to determine what you need to set money aside for and where money is slipping through the cracks. I did this for a few months and realised that I was spending way too much money on buying my lunch every day at work. So I now bring my lunch from home and treat myself to lunch in the city once a week or so.
02: List your priorities. Whether you get paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly it’s important to know what your financial responsibilities will be within this period. It is essential that you take care of these responsibilities before spending money on anything frivolous. These priorities will generally be rent, bills, transport, food, insurance, framed and autographed Darren Criss headshots etc. etc.
03: Clear your debt and start saving. If you have no debt to begin with, congratulations – you are a rare breed. If you do have some financial debt (credit cards, car loans etc), figure out how much money you want to set aside each pay period to start clearing the amount you owe. If you want to save money on top of this, I would suggest opening up a specific savings account to put your savings into so that you’re not tempted to spend it. If you’re starting your savings from scratch try to figure out what that money will be used for. Do you want to save up money for a trip, or a deposit for your own home, or a new car, or a designer handbag? Figure out how much money you will need and how much you can afford to put aside per pay to reach this goal by a set date. It’s also a great idea to set money aside for a rainy day, and again I would suggest putting this into an account that isn’t easily accessible so you’re not tempted to spend it.
04: Take a look at what’s left. We’ve put aside money for financial responsibilities, paying off debt, building savings, building a substantial Darren Criss shrine, and now there (hopefully) should be some money left over to play with. Now it’s time to figure out what is a reasonable amount to spend on ‘stuff’. I am lucky enough to have come around in my way of thinking when it comes to owning a crapload of STUFF. I have too much STUFF and I now think twice before buying anything new. Not everyone is like this though, so it’s a good idea to set some boundaries with spending money on clothing, entertainment and beauty products.
I no longer set myself a dollar amount budget for STUFF, but instead have a list of essentials that I need/want and a set number of things that I will allow myself to buy each year. I have what some people call a personal uniform (as in I really only wear the same kind of outfits all the time, just with different items mixed in) so I tend to buy the same kinds of clothes all the time. This turned out to be a bit of a blessing because instead of having countless options as to what kind of clothes I want to buy each year, I know that I will be buying 1-2 new pairs of dark denim jeans, 2 new pairs of black ballet flats, 5 new blouses, 1 new black fitted blazer etc. (note: I will be doing a separate project on organising a wardrobe and shopping for a personal uniform so I won’t go into it too much here). I am the same with beauty products, I know what I like I know what I need and I know what I want so I am able to budget for it. If you aren’t like this I would suggest setting yourself a dollar budget per week-fortnight-month-whatever works for you for spending on STUFF and go from there.
05: I really think the most important thing to do when setting yourself a budget is to figure out what you want and what your ultimate goal is. My goal was to build a new house, so I set aside a lot of my money for savings. This is my number one financial priority. I have reduced the amount of money I spend on myself and I have changed my lifestyle quite a bit (read: I have embraced the hermit life and I watch a shitload of television).
I will be writing some follow up posts for this project, so please let me know if there is anything particular you would like me to include. I would also love to hear your thoughts on budgeting, and if you have any tips or tricks for reducing the amount of money you spend!