I remember feeling so excited to begin my adult journey right before I graduated college. I couldn’t wait to start working and making a salary. 40-something thousand a year sounded like a million bucks at the time. After a few months of working, I realized I still felt broke. Every month it was as if I would make money then it would disappear. One day I was lying on my grandmother’s bed expressing my frustration. She let me vent then she asked me, “Do you have a budget?” To which I responded, “Yes, I use this app called Mint.” She then responded with “I don’t know about any app, but you need to sit down and write out a budget every month like I’ve done for years.” Next thing I know she’s setting up her little brown desk table that I refer to as her “paying bills table” and telling me to write down my expenses.
I had a major realization in that moment.
That’s when I realized that outside of paying off my student loans and paying for daily basic necessities, the majority of my paychecks were going towards restaurants, bars, and Uber rides from the Lower East Side to Jamaica, Queens. I have paid over $100 for way too many cab rides. Creating a physical budget has been life-changing. Creating an effective budget allowed me to save up enough money to travel to somewhere new every other month at just 21 years old. It also has helped me afford to live in my own apartment, pay off 60% of my student loan debt and fund my side hustles. I’m constantly improving my saving skills and finding ways to make my money grow. If you struggle with budgeting or have never had one that you could be consistent with, I’d like to give you some tips that have helped me.
1. Schedule a recurring budget planning meeting into your calendar
This is a VERY important step. This is your reminder to get your financial life together for the upcoming month. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Setting aside the time to invest in your financial future is the first step towards creating a consistent budgeting habit. On the last day of every month. I make sure to set aside time to plan my budget for the month. Since I get paid twice a month, I create a budget for the 1st through the 15th and the 15th through the end of the month. Find a reminder method that works for you and start implementing it now.
2. Identify where your money is going
I recommend you physically write down all your expenses and income. Expenses are anything you have to pay every month such as your phone bill, gas bill, rent, student loans, credit card repayment etc. Your income is all the money you make including your salary, money from your side hustles etc. Lastly, list the common items you spend money on. For me that includes food, events, hair and nail appointments etc. This will provide you with an overall view of where your money goes every month.
3. Write out your financial goals
Everyone has a financial goal and if you don’t, create one. I’ve never met a person who didn’t desire financial freedom. So many people think it’s so hard to achieve financial freedom and that living paycheck to paycheck is what they are doomed to do forever. THAT’S NOT TRUE. Please stop that limited mindset right now. There is an abundance of money on this Earth and you deserve to have your share of it.
In order to acquire financial freedom, you have to map out what it looks like for you. Financial freedom for me is being able to afford my expenses comfortably, maintain my lifestyle, and save for emergencies. Determine what figure is ideal for your lifestyle. You may do this exercise and realize you need to make more money, that’s fine. You can always start a side hustle (for side hustle ideas, click here). Many of you will probably realize that a couple of lifestyle changes could greatly help you pay off your credit card debt, go on your dream trip, save for your ideal home, or pay off your student loans. Once you have your purpose for budgeting identified, you will feel way more motivated to achieve it.
4. Choose a budgeting method
There are many different methods out there. Some people like budgeting apps, if you can make them work for you then try that. I don’t recommend them because I think the most accurate way to keep track of your personal finances is to manually do it. There are some great software systems for businesses like QuickBooks for example, but for me a regular old excel doc works best.
If you have no idea where to start with your method, try the 50/30/20 rule. With this method, 50% of your after-tax income goes towards your needs, such as bills that you absolutely must pay. 30% goes towards your wants aka the things that make you happy and 20% is contributed to your savings.
I personally prefer to create my own budgeting sheet. My boyfriend and I have a couple of types of monthly budgeting sheets that work for us and keep us on track, so we know where all our personal dollars and business income is coming from and going. This includes our Monthly Budgeting Planner where we plan our budgets for the month, a Monthly Spending Tracker where we track everything we spend down to the penny, our Weekly and Daily Savings Plan where we map out how much we have to save to reach our yearly savings goal and lastly a debt repayment tracker. For access to the exact excel spreadsheet format that we love, click here.
5. Analyze and assess your budget monthly
Now that you’ve set up a budget, you have to make sure it’s working for you. Most people don’t reach their goals because they don’t sit down and reflect on whether or not they are doing the right things to achieve the goals they set out to accomplish. Make sure to total your monthly income and subtract it from your monthly expenses to understand your monthly cash flow, aka your profit. If you’re not happy with that number, it’s time to cut back somewhere on your spending and seek some additional sources of income until you reach a number you’re happy with. Don’t expect to make the perfect budget the first time. Budgets evolve over time and take a couple of trials to become effective. The discipline to manage your money won’t come overnight but with consistency it will become easier.
If you want to improve your money mindset, read two of my FAVORITE books about money. These two books are life-altering. You will not think of money the same after reading these.
Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins
If you have any questions or just want to chat with me, DM me on IG.