If you don’t know how much you are spending, you will never know where you can cut back in order to begin saving. If you want to know how to make a budget, you must first start with tracking your expenses. According to Off The Grid News, 43 percent of American households would not be able to pay their bills if they went one month without a paycheck. And according to CNN Money, 76 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
While that makes me feel a tiny bit better, I still know that the vast majority of those percentages are people who are able to live way above my means. These polls include people who are able to afford gym memberships, cable or satellite, and a hefty car payment. They are able to afford large rent payments, and vacations once a year. I do not fall into this category, and I know there are many others that also do not. So what do we do to get ahead? How can we cut our spending if we are not using our money to go towards things such as car payments and vacations?
As it turns out, I have lived paycheck to paycheck almost all of my life. There was a brief period in time when I was granted a sum of money from a company which I worked for that had an excellent benefits package. I am truly grateful for it, I would not be where I am now had I not been given that opportunity. But, I did not invest any of the money and so now I have to be more frugal, more spending conscious, and be sure that I do not spend on things I do not need. This is where making a budget becomes so important.
Tracking your Spending
The first step to making a budget is tracking your spending. For one full month, track what you spend every day, diligently. There are several ways that you can go about this task. You could make yourself an excel spreadsheet or you could find one online and download the template on to your PC. Another option is to use some type of software like Quicken. You could use a service like Mint or Every Dollar. Each one of these options is effective, the key is to make sure that you are disciplined in your tracking. Track every dollar you spend including your morning pick me up.
Making an Excel Spreadsheet Budget Tracker
Here are some examples of Budget Tracking Spreadsheets that you can view to get an idea of what yours should look like.
Quicken Deluxe Personal Finance & Budgeting Software is the most popular money management software that helps you manage your money and save. This software organizes your personal finance, bank, credit card, investment, and retirement accounts all in one place. It helps you stay on top of spending and budgeting.
With Quicken Deluxe Personal Finance & Budgeting Software you can create and stick to a budget. It also helps you develop a personal debt reduction and savings plan, and securely import your bank transactions. Linking your bills to this financial software will automatically track the due date and amount due. You can set personal reminders and even download their Mobile App to stay on top of spending on the go. The software is easy to set up, and has a great support team to help you along the way. It is even possible to transfer your information from Quicken to Turbo Tax at the end of the year, simplifying the tax filing process.
Mint and Every Dollar
Mint automatically tracks what you spend, separates it into categories, and helps you create realistic budgets. Once you get your account set up and add all your credit and debit card information, Mint will automatically track your spending every time you use one of these accounts. This will give you an overall consensus of where your money is going. It is even smart enough to divide your spending into categories automatically when you use your debit or credit card depending on where you shop. For instance, if you use your debit card at Safeway, Mint will categorize this purchase as “groceries”. On the other hand, if you use your card at TireRama, it will be categorized as “auto repair”. Pretty smart, huh?
Every Dollar works in much the same way as Mint works by tracking your spending, and placing purchases into categories so that you can see where you are spending all of your hard earned money. The upside to Every Dollar is the Baby Steps Tool. This tool helps keep you motivated as you strive for financial freedom.
What Works For You?
Choose the tracking and budgeting plan that works the best for you in your particular situation and remember, there is no one right way to track spending or set up a monthly budget. I know the way that works best for me and my situation is pen and paper budgeting. It sinks in more for me when I have to actually write out what I am spending money on, and tallying it up at the end of the month always makes me feel more in control of my finances. Leave me a reply below and let me know what is your favorite way of tracking your spending?
Other Money Saving Information
If you are having trouble being accepted for a checking or savings account because of past delinquencies on your accounts, be sure to visit my post about an Alternate Banking Option that may be right for you.
Check out my Money Saving Tips for ideas on how you can cut your spending on items that you use every day.