Finance is a tricky business – just ask all your econ major friends, eh? To make matters worse, your personal finances and budgets are kind of an integral part of being a functional human being, and therefore a serious buzz-kill aspect of adulthood. Here are the bare bones basics of getting on top of that budget game:
One of the most important parts of keeping a budget is keeping all of your information organized. Pick a method – any method – and stick to it. There are all kinds of notebooks and budgeting sheets for sale out there, like these notebooks on Etsy or these awesome downloadable budget sheets. Once you’ve picked your method, stick to it, and incorporate filling this stuff out into a monthly routine.
Keep track of what’s coming in.
While it seems like common sense, we think it’s worth repeating: keep completely on top of all the money that’s coming in. This includes any money from jobs, birthday checks, or other odd jobs you might be involved in. You can’t get a clear picture of where your finances stand if you don’t know all the money you have coming in.
List out the bare essentials.
Paying your rent? Kind of non-negotiable, which is why you absolutely, positively need to list it as a monthly expense. Seriously guys, it should be the very first thing you subtract from your monthly income. Other things you need to include as monthly expenses: utilities, food, groceries, student loans, car payments, insurance plans. These things should be what you subtract from your monthly income first.
Figure out what you don’t completely need, but are going to pay for anyways.
For some people, there are simply things that they are going to pay for. While they’re not as essential as rent, they’re still really important. For some, it’s using that nice night cream that keeps them from breaking out. For others, it’s paying for cable, because where would be without our weekly fixes of Olivia Pope? These things are things you should budget for monthly, too.
Consider the fun stuff.
Ideally, your total monthly income is going to be larger than the sum of your non-negotiables. From there, you can divvy up your money however you’d like (within reason). Most of us allot a certain amount for fun stuff like the impulse buy at Forever 21 or an Uber ride home. We suggest setting yourself a monthly allowance for the fun stuff – X amount of dollars to spend on whatever you want for the month.
Make sure you’re actually saving.
It’s not really the goal to be breaking even every month; you want to be in the black so that you’re saving money. Like we said above, you’re probably going to have some cash left over after you deal with the rent and other important expenditures. After that, we highly, highly suggest putting at least some money away in a savings account. For some people, it’s really helpful to determine how much you’re going to put away each month, and do that straight away so you don’t spend your savings.