Budget Basics- How To Create Your Budget

how to create your budget

I recently hit my emergency fund goal for the year thanks to a couple of windfalls I received, including an education tax credit. Thanks to my trusty budget, I knew that all the money I was about to receive could be tucked towards my goal instead of wondering where my money stood. I celebrated by purchasing a textbook for a class this week and making an appointment to get some work done on my car. Hey. Murphy’s Law, right?

A few years ago when I had first started my personal finance journey, I would not have been able to do this with my tax refund. I would have been busily paying off something I owed on or playing catch up with my bills. But that’s probably wishful thinking because what I honestly would have done was go on a shopping spree. Nothing beat that high purchasing something new and shiny until I had figured out exactly why I was buying things to make myself feel better about my life.

Creating a budget for myself, reading personal finance blogs and sticking to my guns helped me get on track and today I want to share with you the steps I followed to creating my first budget.

  • Step One- Track Your Spending ( Or tally it up) The first step in any successful budget is to see what you are indeed spending your money on. Do you like to make it rain at Starbucks like me? Or perhaps you are more of a make it rain type of person while buying clothes or treating yourself to expensive dinners during a night out. I’ve purchased both of these things when I shouldn’t have and maybe your doing the same thing.  You need to see where your money is currently going before you can redirect it. When tallying up your spending, you should include everything that you spend your money on including bills. Our budget includes variable and fixed expenses so don’t forget. What’s a variable and fixed expense? So glad you asked because that leads us into our next step.
  • Step Two- List fixed and variable expenses with amounts needed per month. A fixed expense is something you pay every month and it is usually around the same. An example of this could be rent, internet, utilities, car payment, etc. A variable expense is usually a want item such as entertainment, clothing, eating out, etc. This is why it’s important to go through your previous spending and round out the average you have been paying each month to live the life of You & Co. ( That’s you!)
  • Step Three- Add up your regular take home pay. Next, add up how much money you take home after taxes and deductions such as health insurance are taken out of your paycheck. A good way to figure this out would be examining your paycheck stub and looking for the amount listed next to “net income”. Net means after taxes and deductions have been taken out and your pay is adjusted. If it’s less than what you were told you’d be making a year, that sounds about right. Usually employers tell you what your annual gross salary would be at the time of the hiring process. Double check and make sure if it seems extremely low.
  • Step Four- Compare your take home pay to see amount needed per month for your expenses to see how you fair. Now it’s time to line up the amount of money you bring home against the amount of money you are spending. This is also referred to in vs out. You should always have more money coming in then going out! If this isn’t the case, then you need to either do one of two things or both if you are a over achiever such as myself.- A. Make more money or B. Spend less. There are two sides to this argument but I can see the positive in both although making money could be earning potential could be unlimited.
  • Step Five- Write out a money plan and tell those dollars where to go! A money plan is assigning your dollars where to go in regards to your spending. A good rule of thumb for budgeting is to the 50/30/20 rule. 50% of your take home pay is for essentials or fixed expenses such as housing, utilities, transportation and groceries. 30% is for wants or variable expenses  and the remaining 20% is for financial commitments, such as debt and savings. You can definitely play around with the amounts but this is what is recommended and what I would suggest. If you don’t need the full 50% or 30% for fixed and variable expenses, add more to your financial commitments!  Don’t spend too much in one category just because you have it. Once you spend the assigned amounts in your variable expenses, don’t spend more! Remember, you are saving your money towards other financial commitments like savings, not a shoe collection that rivals Carrie Bradshaw.
  • Step Six- Observe for the next month to see how you do and if adjustments need to be made. Like any well executed plan of action, budgets also need to be observed and tinkered with. Perhaps you realized you are not making enough to cover your expenses and you are looking for ways to cut your spending. Maybe you under estimated groceries and gas. Or perhaps, you had a rent increase you forgot about. Things happen and that’s why budgets are adjustable. You may also gleefully realize you like saving money and cut back on Target runs. Also, you may need to adjust your budget monthly for items that may pop up to accommodate once a year events, such as car registration or gifts.

Now sit and watch your money grow! Be able to tell yourself where extra money can go! Or how much you spent on cat food. Either or, once the budget is made, stick to it for continual financial success.

 

Weekly $ Checkup

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Vacation last weekend…Take me back!

I originally saw this idea on Budget or Fudgets blog ( so glad she’s back!) and since I was playing with the idea of doing weekly reviews to keep myself accountable, as well as share what’s going on in my life more, so here’s my first ( of possibly many) weekly $ checkups!

  1. The most I’ve spent this last week was – Gas, surprisingly!
  2. Today I am thankful that I got to celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday with him and that I was able to successfully launch my GoFundMe campaign! As of writing this, I am almost to $1,000 towards my goal!
  3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free thing I did last week that made me happy was hanging out with my boyfriend on the couch and watching Breaking Bad. Sure, I pay for internet but I’ll still consider this free. Also, is anyone else addicted to Walter White going down mayday?
  4. I will consider this week a success if I hit $1,00 officially towards my goal and finish two papers that are due next week.
  5. If I had today off I would spring clean my apartment! I haven’t had anytime and traveled last week so I’ve been dying to get it together.

This past week has been busy! My boyfriend and I spent the past weekend with his family in California for their annual family vacation. I had such a great time and loved getting to know them even more. I also was able to spend my birthdays boyfriend with him which made me happy. It’s hard getting to celebrate all the holidays and special days when in a long distance relationship so I’m happy we got to spend it together.

This weekend I’ll be laying low and staying in. I plan on spring cleaning my apartment, finishing two papers that are due next week for school and cuddling with my cat. If you have a minute, please check out my GoFundMe campaign, it would mean a lot to me if you could donate and share. Every little bit helps!

Please Help Me Raise Money To Study In Israel!

israel photo

 

Many of you know that I am planning on studying abroad this summer in Israel with Arizona State University. But, studying abroad is not covered in our financial aid packages, even though I will be receiving summer tuition credits! In order to help see my dream of studying counter terrorism in a foreign country, while pursuing my passion for serving inner city youth, I am fundraising to help with my travel costs and education!

Today, I would like to share with you excerpts from my GoFundMe campaign in hopes that you could donate and share with your social networks to help spread the word and help me accomplish my dreams!

Although many of you may know me from my involvement with the personal finance blogging community, specifically my involvement with the Plutus Awards for the past three years, many of you may not know that I was orphaned at age 15. My mother passed away two days before Christmas during my freshman year of high school. After being through a traumatic experience, I was passed away from relative to relative, basically for my social security benefits, until I was old enough to move out and support myself on my own.

These circumstances have left a lasting impression on me, and as a result I am passionate about working with inner city youth. While going back to school full time to finish my dual bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice, I work full time for a non-profit in a junior high school in urban Phoenix helping youth prepare for college and life.

Since being on my own as a teenager meant being responsible for my own education I haven’t had the traditional college experience.  I’ve always had to work full-time while going to school.

While working full time, I was able to graduate with an associate’s degree, and I was the first in my family to graduate college with any degree. Now I’m in my second semester back in school for my bachelor’s.

Last semester, I made the Dean’s List, was invtied to join the honors society,and was presented with the opportunity to study abroad in pursut of my degree. I will earn 6 college credits over the summer and finish my degree on time even while working full time. The program in Israel will give me valuable experience for my aspirations to help others.

Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and because my life experiences have pushed me in the direction of and have given me a passion for working with troubled inner-city youth through non-profit work, I am asking for financial assistance before the opportunity passes me by,

By donating to my GoFundMe campaign, you will give me the opportunity to focus on my education and my passion for helping kids overcome barriers that are similar to mine. Any money raised will go directly to my tuition, and my travel expenses, and will go far in helping me achieve my dreams.

Thank you!

Setting Goals, Part Two

goals

Back in January, I shared how to set S.M.A.R.T goals and today I am here to share a few more of my goal setting tips!

Figure out your “big” thing
Between being a full time student at a major university and a full time employee, plus friend, girlfriend, blogger, etc. , my hands are pretty full with life. Without setting goals and breaking them down into steps every month, I wouldn’t be able to get as much done as I’d like and I’d feel like I was floating. Even though I do feel anxious and overwhelmed at times with life, I always can reflect on what my goals are and what needs to be done to accomplish them. How am I able to do this without being a hot mess most of the time?

I focus on the “big” thing that needs to be accomplished before anything else. My “big” thing at the moment is my education and trying my hardest to get good grades. So, whenever I feel overwhelmed with my huge list, I do what absolutely needs to be done to ensure my big thing is accomplished. Remember what is the most important to you and make sure you don’t lose focus on that. Sure, I’m not always fun when I lock myself in my room to study or take test but I know it’s my “big” thing and treasure it.

If goals are overwhelming, try a power word.
Last year, I was in a weird place. I had just broken up with my ex boyfriend at the time and moved in with a new roommate. I was in a city that although I had made friends, I only had two good ones which left me feeling isolated. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to work on or where to even start so I focused on a power word for the year, mindfulness. Everyday I tried to focus on the situation on hand and just be positive and open to new opportunities.

I can easily say 2014 was one of my greatest years. I went back to school, won a national award, saved up enough money to get my own apartment, traveled all over the U.S and met someone who has been pretty awesome for this season in my life.  I worked on myself and while working on myself is a continuous process, remembering my power word really helped me. Sometimes a big list of goals when we’re not sure what we want is fluff but focusing on a word you resonate with can help tremendously.

To Do List & Baby Steps Are Key
I get overwhelmed and anxious way more than the average person sometimes. When I feel this way, working on my goals is the last thing I can even imagine doing sometimes. Who wants to write a paper when their brain is fried after teaching all day? Instead of cracking out a full 5 page paper, I’ll start an outline or do research and then save the next step for another day. Instead of studying 5+ hours for a mid-term, I’ll do a chapter a night leading up to it for a week prior. It’s hard to do everything at once but by breaking it up and keeping a running to do list, it’s easier to accomplish and not as intimidating.

What do you do to accomplish your goals with ease?

March Goals

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Harrison George, aka Kitty Bae.

The weather has been sooo nice lately in Phoenix lately that I am scared to jinx it and hope we’re able to get at least two more months without soaring high temps. Summer will be here before we know it and I’m not too excited since our summer is everyone else’s winter. As in, I’m not leaving the house and hate life. However, I do have a pool now and can walk around with no pants in my apartment, so, plus!

  • Get my apartment ready for my guests! My best friends are coming into town for Gay Pride and I am super excited to have them staying with me in my new apartment! I want to finish getting it ready for guests. I am completely unpacked but I don’t have anything on my walls and I have a pile of things to run to Goodwill. My dining room has been the catchall spot and I want nothing in it.
  •  Turn in all reimbursements, invoices and balancing out my spending. I have been bleeding money since the middle of January between buying things for my apartment, being sick for a few weeks and having too much fun with friends since I had put myself on a spending ban for awhile. I also buy items for my program at work that I am able to get reimbursed for however, I happen to be bad at turning in receipts. I also need to invoice a social media client, my work mileage, some writing, etc. I hope to get everything settled so I can see how close I am to reaching my goals!
  • Launch Israel crowdfunder! Since I didn’t receive my scholarship, I plan on fundraising my way to Israel! I’ve never fund raised anything before personally so I’m a little nervous. I plan on reading a book, shooting my video and launching next week. I’ll be sharing here as well as some other channels.
  • Continue to balance work and school.  It’s always a balancing act but I think for the most part I am doing well. I need to continue doing this and also taking more time for myself to do NOTHING. My cut off time from school and work will be 9pm every evening. I can read, watch Netflix or go to sleep like a little old lady.
  • Lose 5 more lbs!  I’ve been averaging a five lbs weight loss for the past two months and I’d like to lose another five lbs.  My 30th birthday is in a few months and I would like to be fit for the next decade in my life! Also, I want to look good in a romper 😉
  • Deal with the big thing. I have something big and ugly that has been hanging over me and is stressing me out. I have faith things will be resolved but it depends on some phone calls I have to make but avoid because it makes me anxious. I’ll be taking time everyday to deal with this until I can walk away from it.

That’s more than enough to keep me busy. What about you guys?

Athena

February Goals Recap

Ahhh February. I am pretty happy with how I’ve done this month, even with considering I didn’t make much headway on my goals. I am happy because I am finally not sick anymore, even though my energy levels are shot. I’m doing well in school, H has been here for a good part of the month escaping the snow and it my apartment is starting to slowly come together. If only I could figure out a way to get things to stay on the concrete wall since these Command strips only work for a day or so. >_<

  • Bond with my fur baby. PASS. It’s official, I am a crazy cat lady. Harrison is a great cat and although he gets feisty and goes through this thing where he decides to bite me, he is so sweet. He loves to play, cuddle and just chill. Also, I wasted too much money on cat supplies I thought I would need. All I really needed was a food dish and some bottle caps for him to play with.
  • Change mailing address. FAIL. My roommate is kindly bringing my mail to me along with some clothes I left so I will definitely push this to next month.
  • Schedule a homework calendar. FAIL. I am pretty on top of all my homework but I didn’t make a calendar. I should definitely still do this especially since I have five million papers due.
  • Finish scholarship application for Israel and create a Go Fund Me campaign! Half pass. Finished my application but sadly did not win it. I have my script written and if I do want to film my video, I need to do it soon since my bf is going home. I also need to get the page up!
  • Unpack and work on creating my apartment my home. PASS My apartment feels like my home and I think that has a lot to do with my current happy. I hosted my first ladies night with some friends before a concert and we had a great time. I purchased another bookcase so the only thing that could be considered “lacking” could be a TV and entertainment center. But, I don’t really spend a lot of time watching TV in the first place to really justify spending a few hundred on a television in my opinion. I watch three of four shows religiously on my iPAd and that’s about it.
  • File taxes. PASS! I am currently trying to hoard my tax return as much as I can!

I am not sure what I would like my March goals to be yet so I will work on those and get back to you. Probably just maintenance with all areas of my life!