It’s silly, right? We all know what a budget is. We know we should have one. But do we? Really?
I can honestly tell you I never created a budget in my life until January 2016. I roughly estimated costs on home projects, entertaining, and household items. All in my mind. I never wrote them down. I certainly didn’t create monthly and bi-weekly budgets on paper to stay the course!
If you are in the process of becoming debt free and living with financial freedom, it’s essential you create budgets. Real ones. On paper not just in your head!
The first steps in this process are deciding to go cash only, analyzing and developing a plan for debt, and then creating budgets.
You will need to start with a monthly budget to provide a broad idea of all expenses, and then additional items like gifts, entertaining or occasional bills. Start with a general monthly budget for the month coming up.
The upcoming month will give you a glance at where your money is heading. Before you finalize this first budget you need to see if you can cut your costs. Now that you have a sample created (feel free to get my budget sheet below this article) you can determine what needs to go to start to live within your means.
Maybe you came out within your income on the first try. That is great, but if you have debt then there was a reason you went beyond your income. Which means that you need to move more income to paying off debt to start out. And you will find some months are easier than others to stay within your income. Some months loaded with birthdays and holidays are probably how you got into debt to begin with.
My guess is you will quickly find that you have spent all of the money and then some on the first budget. This is where cost cutting comes in.
Groceries are one of the biggest expenses in most households, second only to the mortgage. Food is expensive! Well, most of it is. But the good news is you can likely cut this bill right in half. This will be a future article on the blog to come!
There are so many ways to watch “TV” today! It’s awesome. The great news is some are FREE and some are very low cost. Standard and “fancy” cable don’t have to be a major expense to watch shows you love. We gave up cable service (we do have basic 10 still for around $6/month) over 6 years ago. We dropped all major channels and went with only local stations. Why did we keep that? We are allowed access via other methods to network stations with that basic service. PBS, for example, allows streaming on Roku of all their children’s programming with basic cable access. This is how we receive cable into our house so we use it with our child.
What do we do for TV then?
We have a PS3 (we had it from many many years ago). We use it to stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. It’s all the TV we need. We also stream through our tablets and other electronic devices. The cost for all of these services for a year is still less than half of a yearly bill for cable. I will freely admit we do not watch reality television at all. (Although you can see these shows on Hulu for the most part). We only watch about 2 hours of television a day and that’s a maximum estimate. Our child watches an hour or less a day and he chooses from what streams. (Hello to no commercials – aka no more begging for toys).
Tip: If you keep basic cable and don’t mind watching on tablets or computers, you can watch major network television (up to the latest six episodes) for free online. If you go to the channel website you can choose to stream from there. It requires remembering when your show is new and keeping up to speed on it and not falling behind six episodes.
If you have the option of several carriers for Internet it’s time to look at your bill. Compare your service and speed. If you can save yourself $30 or more per month, and get a better service (or equal service) it might be worth the savings to switch. Be sure you find out about hidden fees here though. Some alternatives seem cheaper but they ask you to pay monthly equipment fees or up-front installation costs. Those costs prevent you from actually saving over the whole year.
This is something most people won’t think about. There are amazing deals out there today to get great cell service and phones for far far less than major carriers are providing. We are not affiliated with Republic Wireless, but have used their service and I can tell you it saved us a ton. We had one phone no longer under contract and started trying their service. It’s great. There is unlimited calling and texting, unlimited Wi-Fi data streaming, and 1 GB (they offer many plans this is just the one we needed) per month of data for only $14/month! That’s right! They have changed their plans and ways of doing things since we signed on, though. The plan we have included a refund for unused data each month. The original price was $25 per month but we only ever used half of the data each month. The new plans they offer are $20 a month set rate for the same thing. It’s TRUE! There are no hidden fees or costs and overages. It’s all the truth. The same exact plan on a major carrier network costs us $80/month. (We are under contract on the other phone and will change when we can!). Verizon has come around to closely matching this price now – so it’s always best to price shop your plan to other carriers.
We did have to buy their phone (but now they are allowing transfers with certain types of phones). They even offer even more phones at discounted prices. They are cheap phones and you don’t need to sign a contract or upgrade at any time unless you want to.
After Cost Cutting, What’s Next?
Now you have a cheaper budget by doing somecost-cutting from above. Let’s start by doing the real budget now (enter your email below to get the sheets sent to you!). Work with 3 months at a time so you are planning ahead for those upcoming months that might be more difficult than the one you are in. You may need to keep spending to a minimum one month, or save extra, to make the following month work out.
As you work through the columns you will see monthly bills, and then space for other expenses. Many expenses are covered and listed. The “other” open category can help you budget for things like clothing, school supplies for kids, coffee or other things like eating out. This is the category that may send you over budget if you don’t think about where everything is going each month. You need to monitor where all the money goes.
To help pay bills effectively and monitor the money going out we also do a bi-weekly budget. This is a paycheck to paycheck budget. It lists all the bills plus expenses and additional items for that pay period only. It breaks down the cash going out and what cash we have to spend for each pay period. By breaking it down more it keeps us on track for the month.
It’s easy to lose track and end up over budget. The first two or three months are critical in tracking everything going out to see where you are going over budget (if you are!) We use clearcheckbook.com to do this. All accounts are synced and it is downloadable to a device so you can enter everything from your phone. There is no personal information saved so it’s secure. We also use Google calendar to keep track of all of our bills, when they are due and more. It allows for recurring events. If you have the same bill due at the same time each month it’s automatically added the next month. When you have paid off a debt be sure to delete it and set the new debt amount in your calendar. We include the payment amount in the title of our calendar item.
As you are figuring out each payment for each pay period don’t forget all of your debts from your list. The most amount of money you can spare from your budget should be going toward the smallest debt first. For more help on determining the order of tackling debt check out last week’s post.
By planning out a few months at a time you can see when it’s time to roll a paid debt plus the minimum to another debt. It’s great because you can see how quickly things start to be paid for and how much extra cash you will begin to have.
Leave yourself at least an hour to budget each pay period. You can pay bills and do your bi-weekly budget in that time. You may need an extra 20 minutes to do monthly budgets at the end of the month. Always have 3 months of monthly and bi-weekly budgets planned out so you can think ahead. When you start to see the benefits of putting this on paper you will want to put the time in. It’s worth it.
If you struggle to keep your waistline where it is during the holiday season, and just want some support and tips and tools – please consider joining our FREE Holiday Help group! This FREE 5 day group will continue beyond the holidays but this month we will feature:
* Healthy holiday recipes
* Nutrition and plate size during the holidays that INCLUDES your favorite holiday foods
* Fitness tips and tools
* AND at the end of the 5 days receive a Healthy Holiday cookbook gift! FREE!
* SUPPORT & GOALS!
Check out the FB event and join here.
Coming in January! My New You Challenge Group!
Learn more about what a Challenge Group is here.
Want to get started now? Great! The great news is YOU CAN! I enroll people into already running monthly groups all the time. We have great streaming workouts (so many in all types of workouts), and nutrition support for all the programs! Learn more here.
If you just aren’t ready for exercise yet, or you have an injury – it is OK! You can start with just focusing on nutrition now – and start exercise when you feel like you can! Learn more about our nutrition here.
Want some more free tools? Check out these Blank Fitness & Meal Planning sheets so you can fill it in with what works for you!
Get Your Free Month of Fitness Here. A calendar and guide to get you started simply at home.