Money can be easily spent and easily forgotten. A numbers-based budget does not give back to your life unless you are in need of some eye-glazing reading material to get you to sleep. Combining your budget with your life values and goals creates a budget becomes relevant to you. It speaks into your life and actually helps you accomplish not only your money-based goals, but also your life-based goals.
Budgeting can be rather black and white. What comes in, what goes out, blah blah blah. But when you introduce the concepts of values and goals, a budget suddenly comes alive! You can see how it works into your whole life picture. You can see how you can use it, mold it, and shape it to align with your values and goals.
Some people have been budgeting since they got their first tooth fairy quarters. Others have this vague notion of what the word means, but no real foundation. Most people probably cringe when they hear the word. Let’s break it down: What exactly IS a budget?
A budget is a “GPS” for your money. It tells you where your money is coming from and where it is going. It can also tell you how you can use your money, should use your money, what to do if you want to “detour” for a bit and do something else with your money. A budget is the big picture as well as the details of your income, your outflow, and what’s left at the end of the month (hopefully!).
Getting started is easier than you might think. Print out your monthly statements for any and all debit/credit cards, and gather up receipts, your checkbook, and a calculator. Write down any cash transactions you remember from the past month, including ATM debits. Then, make a spreadsheet in Excel. We’ll start by getting an accurate picture of one full month.
- On one side, list all Income you get each month in a column, and total it at the bottom.
- On the other side, list all of your “non-negotiable” expenses, or your Fixed Expenses in one column and total it. Take your time to think hard about every expense…life is expensive, and the small things add up. Do you have to pay for laundry? Parking at your job? Do you still “cover” your roommates half of the TV bill, or your little brother’s cell phone on your “Family plan”? Find your car insurance bills, and divide that by 12 to figure out how much you pay each month (even if you don’t pay it monthly). Same with health insurance, renter’s insurance (which you have if you are renting your living space, right?!), and anything else you pay quarterly or annually.
- Subtract the Fixed Expenses from the Income. A positive number means you have money you can use for “Discretionary Spending” (unnecessary things). A negative number means you are accruing debt each month.
- Below these, list your Discretionary Spending. It is often helpful to further categorize this into “Entertainment,” “Health & Beauty,” and other relevant categories for your lifestyle. List everything else here, such as: Netflix, lattes, gym memberships, haircuts, entertainment, eating out, gifts, postage, donations, magazine subscriptions, music download & app purchases on your phone, etc. Go through your statements, receipts, and check payments, and make sure you put ALL the numbers into this spreadsheet in the appropriate column. Don’t forget to include any tithing and charitable giving. This is not meant to be a judgment; it is meant to be an honest picture of where your money goes. At this point, you aren’t making any changes, just putting it all down in writing.
Stay tuned for part two of the series, Identifying and Defining Goals and Values…
Image via A Well Traveled Woman