I don’t need to tell you that the economy is tough, cost of living is high and now that we are nearing the holidays, your budget is really taking a hit. So, what do I need to tell you? That setting up your own personal budget spreadsheet isn’t as daunting as it sounds. With basic knowledge of Excel, your financial statements and a little bit of time, you will have a working budget spreadsheet in no time. This is an excellent way to stay on top of how you are spending your hard-earned money and bolster your savings.
While you can do a bit of research and see if one of the many personal budget templates or apps out there works for you, I like to keep it simple with an Excel spreadsheet.
Start by making a personal budget workbook with several tabs:
- Residential/essential expenses
- Loans/Debt payments
The most important parts of your budget are those first three tabs. Gross monthly income should be logged and then the taxes listed and deducted to give you a net number which will be the basis for everything else. Residential/Essential Expenses should encompass your rent, utilities, car-related expenditures, and all forms of insurance. Loans and Debt obviously track your student loan payments, credit card payments and any other long term obligations that you are paying off. These first two tabs will likely not have a lot of room for cuts or changes so this total will be what you must always accommodate for in your budget.
Next, I have given food in its own tab since it is the easiest place to overspend. I suggest getting as specific with this category as possible so that you can take a close, well-informed look at what you can cut back on. For instance, scrutinize your statements and be sure to track groceries, take out, and eating out at restaurants separately. If you have a particular habit, like a Starbucks addiction or are known to indulge in a mid-afternoon snack at the hip food truck, then you may want to give them their own line item. It is easy for these types of expenses to get lost in a weekly food budget. But seeing your coffee habit aggregated on its own means allows you to see the magnitude of what it is doing to your pocketbook.
Now, go back through your monthly statements and sort all of the superfluous expenditures like haircuts, waxing, movie tickets, travel and your bill for happy hour. Also be vigilant of anything that has in-app purchases. You may not notice that you are downloading a song here or powering up a game for $1.99 there, but it all adds up. Though it may not be fun there is a lot of room for trimming in these areas.
Once all of these tabs are sorted, you total out each tab, add them all up and subtract from the net income amount. Are you in the red or the black? Or maybe it’s a bit grey? Now at least you have everything clearly organized so that you can start tweaking each of the subcategories.
By finding cheaper versions of some line items or scratching some entirely, you should be able to get yourself in a place where you have bit of a buffer. That buffer should be put into an interest-earning savings account for emergencies, holiday shopping or retirement. This total amount of spending will allow for even the smallest bit of savings to be your goal budget number. Always have that in mind and to help yourself stay on track, you can even download worksheets from the internet to work out what your month’s spending was in comparison to the budget number you just calculated for each silo. Were you over-budget this month? Why? Was it a trip for a wedding? or do you need to reign in your online shopping and Candy Crush addiction?
No one likes setting up parameters or facing their bank statements, but once you build this easy-to-follow foundation keeping your personal budget no longer feels intimidating. Your diligence will pay off sooner than you think and you will save more and have less worries!
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