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Create a Personal Budget with These Simple Steps

Jan 20, 2008
There's no question, a budget is the best way to gain control over your finances and live a life free of financial stress. Here are the simple steps to achieve this:

Step 1: Collect your financial information together. This will include every credit card statement, bank statement and your receipts. Anything that documents your expenses for the last three months needs to be collected. What are you going to do with this information? You're going to use it to categorize your expenses. What do you spend on your home? What do you spend on your car? Your food? Your health? Entertainment? You're not tracking your expenses right now, you're simply coming up with expense categories and sub-categories for your budget. If it makes it easier, begin by drafting the categories and sub-categories you think your expenses will fall into. As you go through your expenses you can verify your category decisions.

Step 2: Gather your income statements or profit and loss sheets and determine how much money you really have to budget with. You can use either your net or gross income as your number, just be consistent. Also, if you choose to use your gross income, make sure to account for your taxes on your list of expenses.

Step 3: Using the same documents you used to create your budget expense categories and sub-categories, now examine how much you spend each month on each. I highly recommend that you write this number down. It may be an eye-opening exercise, but it will also help you predict how much you will spend in the future. You want your budget to be a realistic reflection of your spending habits, not a financial diet.

Step 4: Find a method of recording your budget. This could be a simple spreadsheet where your columns are a list of your categories, your weekly or monthly available spending amount, how much you actually spend and the difference between the two numbers. Your rows will be the income and expense categories you've already established.

Step 5: Create a budget, keeping in mind that you will want a budget category devoted to savings goals too. Once your budget is created, spend a month or two following it. Keep your budget close at hand so you can track your finances closely. Assess your spending on a weekly or monthly basis. Re-evaluate your budget if you need to. Your budget is not set in stone and some of your expenses are variable, meaning you control how much you spend on them. For example, entertainment is variable and your mortgage is fixed.

A budget is nothing more than a spending plan. It isn't a financial diet. It is a tool to control your money and be knowledgeable and smart about where it goes. It's your money after all, and isn't it great to have the upper hand?
About the Author
Create your Personal Budget with these simple steps and easier way. Eddie Lamb owns LiveMortgageFree a website devoted to helping homeowners, first time buyers or tenants to Live Mortgage Free.
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