A running theme throughout adulthood is of course, personal finance! It’s maybe the most important life admin task of all because it really does provide the foundation and limits for everything else. Your income is the biggest factor in how you are able live your lifestyle and the choices/risks you are able to make.
And no matter how much money you have, everyone needs a budget.
No matter how wealthy you are, it’s always possible to outspend your income. So in this post, I will walk you through how I budget my income.
My Budgeting Story
I kind of stumbled into the world of personal finance and budgeting.
Since 2014, I’ve been using an excel budget spreadsheet to track all my income and expenses for every cost in my life. Every coffee, every dinner, every parking meter, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I could tell you how much I spent on pretty much any given day in the last 5 years (vacations excluded). When I started tracking my budget, I didn’t mean for it to get this far. Truth be told, I didn’t think I would continue with it when I got older (ironic). I thought that one day; I would just know what to do with money.
Up until I was 22, I was living at home and always only spent what I made from my part-time job after paying my tuition for the semester. However, in 2013, I had the opportunity to work on a paid internship (as a part of a co-op program) for the Federal Government for a year in Ottawa. I’m originally from Vancouver, so not only was this the first time I really lived on my own with regular expenses like rent and groceries, but it was also the first time in my life where I was making more money than I needed to necessarily spend all at once.
So I started an excel budget spreadsheet. I had never really been interested in personal finance before, so I didn’t look at in as anything other than a way to figure out how to track my spending.
6 years later, my budget has been my rock and secret weapon for every achievement in my life. At 22, I was only using a budget to pay down student loans and save for vacation, but at 27, I’m using it to manage my mortgage, emergency fund, and living expenses.
I saved (and spent) over 50K for travel, finished paying off my student debt, and then buying my own apartment, in one of the most expensive real estate markets (Vancouver’s Lower Mainland). All because I kept a budget and learned how to save. I’m not massively wealthy, I make an average income and live in a small one-bedroom apartment outside of the city but it’s something I only did by learning to manage my money. I hope this is something you can utilize as well.
5 Simple Steps To Creating A Budget:
1. Find A Means That Works For You
Spreadsheet vs. Apps
My tool of choice for my budget is a Google Spreadsheet. However, there are many apps that can help manage your budget as well! Two of the most popular apps being Mint and YNAB (You Need A Budget). Both options have their pros and cons and this is a great article comparing the too. If you think that’s the right method for you (I’m so not offended if you stop reading here as long as you get serious about a budget!) but my preferred methods is spreadsheets so I will be breaking it down here.
However, there is no one way to create a budget. That’s the beauty of it! I prefer using a spreadsheet, but you can also use an app, or go old school with a pen and paper. There’s plenty of beautiful templates to choose from on Pinterest – just search “Budget Binder Template” and you’re feed with be filled with beautiful budget options. The ones I most recommend are pinned to my board if you would like to see my favs.
2. Divide Your Budget Sheet Into Categories + Headers
Begin by dividing your budget sheet into 3 major categories: Income, Savings/Investments/Debt, and Expenses (fixed and variable). This will allow you to clearly see how much money is coming in, how much is being used/saved in long term accounts, and how much you are spending. I use the following Headers:
3. Break Your Expenses Down To Mini Categories
Next, breakdown your expenses into mini-categories. . This should be broken into mini categories of fixed expenses and variable expenses.
|Mortgage / Rent||Food/Groceries|
|Transit Pass / Car Insurance||Entertainment|
|Debt Repayment||*Work Lunches/Snacks|
|Other (pet food, childcare fees, etc.)||Misc.|
4. Estimate How Much You Can/Want To Spend In Each Category
Go through each category and mini-category to create a budget goal. How much do you want to spend in each category? List this in the “Budget Goal/Total” column. Then throughout the month track how you are actually spending throughout the month. I create each line as an individual transaction (with some exceptions that I explain in the video) and call this column “Amount.” And then I create a total column called “To Date” to see how much I have spent up until that date in the month.
I use this method because I was never good at “giving a ball park” number of how much I spent throughout the month. It gives me a good picture of my to-date expenses so I’m not spending all at the beginning of the month and then pinching pennies at the end.
I know it’s a lot of extra work, but I enjoy combing through all my credit card transactions every couple of days to write down my expenses. I used to think that it was too much work but then I realized” if it’s too much work to write down my expenses, I really shouldn’t be spending that much.
5. Calculate Your Budget: Add + Subtract
Yes, there is math involved – but only a little bit I promise!
Simply add up all your income and subtract the savings and expenses. You can carry the money over to the next month or subtract it if you go over-budget.
If you would like your FREE template on how to start your budget, you can sign up to have one emailed to you using the button below.
But because I want to ensure that this is as helpful as possible, you will also be emailed a VIDEO guide where I walk through exactly how I use my spreadsheet. It’s super okay (and highly recommended) if end up customizing it to your own needs or create one based off some of the techniques I outline – as long as you start one! Seriously, having a budget has been my secret weapon in life. Money is also a source of a lot of stress and it’s so much easier to conquer when you have control over it.
Happy spending, saving, and being budget-savvy 🙂