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starting a budget

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Are you tired of feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your finances? Do you want to take control of your money and start building the life you want? If so, then starting a budget is a crucial first step.

Budgeting is the process of creating a plan for your money, outlining your income and expenses and setting goals for your financial future. It can be intimidating to start, especially if you’re not used to tracking your spending or making a plan for your money. But with the right tools and mindset, anyone can create a budget that works for them.

In this ultimate guide to starting a budget, we’ll walk you through the process step-by-step, from understanding your current financial situation to setting and achieving your long-term financial goals. We’ll cover everything you need to know to get started, including how to track your expenses, set a budget, and make adjustments along the way.

Whether you’re looking to pay off debt, save for a down payment on a house, or simply gain more control over your finances, this guide will give you the tools and knowledge you need to succeed. So let’s dive in and start building the financial future you deserve!

Understand why you need a budget

Creating and maintaining a budget is essential for anyone who wants to achieve financial stability and success. A budget is simply a plan for how you will spend your money.

By creating a budget, you can prioritize your spending, ensure that you have enough money to cover your bills and expenses, and avoid overspending or living beyond your means. A budget also allows you to save for short-term and long-term goals, such as building an emergency fund, paying off debt, or planning for retirement. Without a budget, it’s easy to overspend, accumulate debt, and struggle to achieve your financial goals.

Maintaining a budget is just as important as creating one. Once you’ve established a budget, you need to stick to it if you want to see results. This means tracking your spending, adjusting your budget as needed, and avoiding unnecessary expenses.

It’s also important to review your budget regularly to ensure that it’s still working for you and to make any necessary changes based on your financial situation and goals. By maintaining a budget, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about your money, stay on top of your bills and expenses, and work toward achieving your financial goals over time.

Determine your income

Determining your income is a crucial first step when starting a budget. Your income is the foundation of your financial plan and will determine how much you can allocate towards expenses, savings, and debt repayment. To determine your income, start by calculating your gross income, which is the amount you earn before taxes and other deductions.

If you’re paid a salary, determining your gross income is easy. Simply multiply your monthly salary by 12 to get your annual salary. If you’re paid hourly or on commission, you’ll need to calculate your average monthly income by looking at your pay stubs or bank statements from the past few months.

Once you have your gross income, you can subtract taxes and other deductions to determine your net income, which is the amount you actually take home each month.

In addition to your primary source of income, you may also have other sources of income to consider. This could include side hustles, rental income, or investment income. Be sure to include all sources of income when calculating your total monthly income.

Once you have a clear understanding of your income, you can start to build a budget that allocates your resources in a way that aligns with your financial goals.

List & Categorize your expenses

starting a budget

Starting a budget is an important step towards achieving financial stability and success. One of the key components of budgeting is tracking and categorizing your expenses. By keeping a detailed record of what you’re spending money on and sorting it into categories, you can identify areas where you’re overspending and make adjustments to stay within your budget.

There are many tools and apps available to help you track and categorize your expenses. Some popular options include Mint, YNAB, and Personal Capital (now Empower.com).

These tools allow you to link your bank accounts and credit cards so that transactions are automatically categorized. You can also manually categorize expenses that may have been missed or mislabeled.

By reviewing your spending habits regularly, you can identify areas where you need to cut back and make adjustments to your budget accordingly. With a little discipline and consistency, tracking and categorizing your expenses can be a powerful tool for achieving financial stability and reaching your long-term goals.

In addition to tracking and categorizing your expenses, it’s important to set realistic goals and prioritize your spending. Whether you’re saving for a down payment on a house or trying to pay off debt, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your financial priorities.

By setting goals and prioritizing your spending, you can make sure that you’re allocating your resources in a way that aligns with your long-term vision for your finances. This may mean cutting back on unnecessary expenses or finding ways to earn extra income.

Ultimately, starting a budget is about taking control of your finances and making intentional choices that will help you achieve your goals.

By tracking and categorizing your expenses and prioritizing your spending, you can create a roadmap for financial success and achieve the financial stability and security that you deserve.

Budgeting apps we recommend

Tracking your spending is an essential part of managing your finances effectively. When you know exactly where your money is going, you can make informed decisions about how to budget, save, and invest your hard-earned cash.

One of the easiest ways to track your spending is by using a budgeting app. These apps allow you to link your accounts, track your spending in real-time, and categorize your transactions so you can see exactly where your money is going. Some popular budgeting apps include Mint, Personal Capital, and YNAB (You Need a Budget).


Mint is a free budgeting app that allows you to see all of your accounts in one place. You can link your bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts, and the app will automatically categorize your transactions. Mint also provides personalized budgeting advice and alerts you when you’re approaching your budget limits.

Check it out

Empower (previously Personal Capital)

Empower is another free budgeting app that’s geared toward investors. In addition to budgeting and tracking your spending, the app provides investment management tools and retirement planning calculators.

Check it out

YNAB (You Need a Budget)

Finally, YNAB is a popular budgeting app that costs $11.99 per month. YNAB uses a unique budgeting philosophy that focuses on giving every dollar a job, so you’re always in control of your spending. The app also provides educational resources and support to help you stay on track with your financial goals.

Check it out

Set financial goals

starting a budget

Setting financial goals is a critical step in achieving financial stability and success. Without clear goals, it’s easy to drift aimlessly through life, spending money without a plan and never really making progress. Financial goals can help you prioritize your spending, save more effectively, and stay motivated when times get tough.
To set effective financial goals, start by identifying what matters most to you. Are you saving for a down payment on a house? Trying to pay off student loans? Planning for retirement?
Whatever your goals may be, make sure they’re specific, measurable, and realistic. Then, create a plan to achieve those goals, breaking them down into smaller milestones that you can track and celebrate along the way.
With clear goals and a solid plan, you’ll be well on your way to achieving financial success.

Create a budget

Now that you have determined your income, listed your expenses, tracked your spending, and set financial goals, it’s time to create a budget. A budget is a plan for your money, which shows how much you can spend in each category.
Your budget should include:
  • Income
  • Fixed expenses
  • Variable expenses
  • Financial goals
When creating your budget, make sure your expenses are less than your income. If your expenses exceed your income, you will need to find ways to reduce your expenses or increase your income.

Maintain your budget

starting a budget

Maintaining your budget is crucial for achieving your financial goals and living within your means. Here are a few tips for keeping your budget on track:

  1. Make it a habit: Maintaining a budget requires discipline and consistency. Make it a habit to review your budget and track your spending regularly. Set aside time each week or month to review your budget and make any necessary adjustments. You can also set reminders or use budgeting apps to help you stay on track.
  2. Stay accountable: Share your budget with someone you trust, such as a spouse, friend, or family member. This can help keep you accountable and motivated to stick to your budget. You can also join a support group or online community for people who are working on their finances. Having a support system can make it easier to stay committed to your budget and achieve your financial goals.

By making budgeting a habit and staying accountable, you’ll be able to maintain your budget and achieve financial success over time. Remember to be patient and persistent, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments as needed.

Celebrate your successes

Starting a budget can be a daunting task, but celebrating your budgeting milestones can be a great way to stay motivated and on track. Whether you’ve successfully stuck to your budget for a month or hit a savings goal, taking time to recognize your achievements can help you stay motivated and committed to your financial goals.

One way to celebrate budgeting milestones is to reward yourself for your hard work. This doesn’t mean blowing your budget on a lavish purchase, but rather finding ways to treat yourself that are in line with your financial goals. For example, if you’ve successfully saved money on groceries for a month, treat yourself to a nice meal at home using some of the money you saved.

Alternatively, if you’ve paid off a credit card, consider treating yourself to a fun and inexpensive activity like a hike or a bike ride. By finding ways to celebrate your budgeting milestones, you can stay motivated and focused on your long-term financial goals.

Another way to celebrate budgeting milestones is to share your successes with others. Whether it’s with a friend or family member or on social media, sharing your achievements can help you stay accountable and motivated.

It can also inspire others to start their own budgeting journey and take control of their finances. By celebrating your budgeting milestones and sharing your successes with others, you can create a positive feedback loop that reinforces your commitment to financial success.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, starting a budget is an essential step towards achieving your financial goals. By understanding why you need a budget, determining your income, listing your expenses, tracking your spending, setting financial goals, creating a budget, and sticking to it, you can take control of your finances and achieve financial freedom. Remember to celebrate your successes along the way and keep working towards your financial goals.

Check out this Video by Whiteboard Finance breaking down the 50/30/20 Budget Approach


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