Have you ever wondered how to start a budget or thought that starting a budget would be a daunting task?
I used to think that myself, way back in 2010.
I bought my first house as a 19-year-old, newlywed kid and my wife and I both waited tables to pay our mortgage while working our way through college. If you’ve ever served or bussed tables you know that cash flow can be a little unpredictable, so my wife and I had to learn how to budget as quickly as we could!
But I have good news for you: It’s quick and easy to start your budget, and it doesn’t have to be complicated to get going. I’ve got the shortcuts you’ve been looking for below and a FREE tool to jump-start your budgeting adventure. Keep reading!
Budgeting 101: The Basics
So, what is a budget? I don’t want to bore you, so simply put, a budget is a log of all your income compared to your expenses and how you plan to spend your money. Having this log allows you to see how much you have coming in and how much is going back out.
Once you have this put together, you can start saving towards school, paying off debt, or even begin putting away some money for retirement.
Getting Started with Google Sheets and Your Income Amounts
I planned my first budget in Google Sheets back in 2010, and I’ve heavily modified it throughout the years, but it’s still pretty simple. At the top, I have a few cells dedicated to income, and you need to start there.
Sit down by yourself or with your partner and look through your paystubs or checking account and see what your income looks like over the past several months. Your income could be weekly pay, bi-weekly pay, or whatever your company offers. My wife’s employer pays on the 1st and 15th of each month which makes it much harder to track given each pay period has a different number of working days. In this case, we just averaged the last ten checks as a starting point. I get paid bi-weekly, which makes for a consistent paycheck.
So, we have four paychecks per month, so I entered those into the first four cells and summed them for our monthly income.
With me so far? Awesome!
Review Your Recurring Monthly Expenses
Alright, now this may take just a little more time, but you need to enter every recurring expense that you have into the Google Sheet. Monthly recurrences would include your mortgage or rent, utilities, internet, phone bill, Netflix and Hulu, car insurance, and so on. You can even approximate your gas usage, groceries, household items.
The key here is the more of your expense that you plan for, the more accurate and prepared your monthly budget will be.
You can break annual expenses such as property tax, Amazon Prime, and Christmas shopping money into 12 monthly payments and store those in a savings account. Including them in your budget will pay off big when these annual renewals pop up unexpectedly.
Once you have all of your expenses accounted for, sum them up for your total monthly expenses.
Doing the Math
Okay, we’re almost there! Now that we have your total monthly income and expenses you can use Google Sheets to perform a simple formula and see where you stand by subtracting your expenses from your income.
Hopefully, your result is a positive number, leaving you with some extra cash for savings, fun money, or unexpected bills, like new tires.
If your number is negative, then, unfortunately, you’re spending more than you’re making and you need to review your expenses and see if you can make some cuts. If this has happened to you without you ever realizing it, then you may have been racking up credit card debt. If that’s the case, then this budget is paying off already!
Now you have a baseline budget track your expenses every month to make sure you’re staying on track. If you’ve decided that you can only spend $50 on eating out, you need to stick to that as best you can.
When you first start, don’t get overwhelmed by over planning. Try spending a few months just tracking the basics and see how you do.
Once you’ve got your budget and your spending under control, try to use your budget for forecasting your savings. For example, if you know you’re going to need new tires in six months, price your tires, divide that amount by six months and see if there is room in your current budget. If so, go ahead and add a line item for that expense and begin saving for it. If you’re feeling ambitious, set up a Debt Snowball and pay down debt faster using your new monthly budget.
And that’s it! Learning how to start a budget is pretty straightforward, and I know it can be tedious, but it will pay off in a big, big way. You honestly won’t regret it!
Looking for a jump start?
Download the Daily New Years budget template. It comes prebuilt to get you budgeting faster. There’s a simple version for new budgeters and there’s an advanced version for those who want detailed, granular tracking capabilities.
Access it today!
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