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How to Create A Basic Budget

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Mastering Personal Finance:
A Guide to Creating a Basic Budget

In today’s fast-paced world, managing your finances has become more crucial than ever. One of the foundational tools for effective financial management is a budget. A budget helps you keep track of your income and expenses, ensuring that you are in control of your financial health. Whether you’re a recent college graduate, a young professional, or someone looking to gain control over their finances, creating a basic budget is the first step towards stewarding your money wisely.

Step 1

Gather Your Financial Information

Before you begin crafting your budget, gather all the necessary financial information. This includes your sources of income, such as your salary, freelance gigs, or any other sources of revenue. Additionally, compile a list of your regular expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, transportation costs, and any monthly subscriptions.

Step 2

Categorize Your Expenses

Categorizing your expenses will help you understand where your money is going. Common categories include:

  • Fixed Expenses: These are consistent, unchanging expenses like rent or mortgage payments, insurance premiums, and loan repayments.
  • Variable Expenses: These are costs that fluctuate from month to month, like groceries, entertainment, dining out, and shopping.
  • Savings and Investments: Allocate a portion of your income to savings and investments, including emergency funds, retirement accounts, and other financial goals.

Step 3

Calculate Your Income and Expenses

List your total income and total expenses under their respective categories. Make sure you are accounting for all expenses, no matter how small. This will give you a clear picture of your financial inflows and outflows.

Step 4

Set Limits for Each Category

Based on your income and expenses, set limits for each spending category. Be realistic and practical about your limits. This step requires some adjustments; you might need to cut down on discretionary spending to ensure that your budget remains balanced.

Step 5

Monitor and Adjust

Creating a budget is an ongoing process. Track your spending throughout the month to see if you’re staying within your limits. This can be done using spreadsheets, budgeting apps, or even pen and paper. If you find that you’re overspending in a particular category, make adjustments to bring things back in line. Remember, flexibility is key.

Step 6

Review and Reflect

At the end of each month, review your budget and assess how well you’ve adhered to it. This reflection will help you identify patterns, areas where you consistently overspend, and opportunities for additional savings.
Creating a basic budget is a fundamental skill that can empower you to take control of your finances and work towards your financial goals. By organizing your income and expenses, setting realistic limits, and regularly monitoring your spending, you’ll gain a clearer understanding of your financial situation. Remember, a budget is a tool that evolves with you – as your circumstances change, so too can your budget. With determination and consistency, you’ll be well on your way to mastering your personal finances.

Kevin Byrne, CFP®, MS is the owner of Byrne & Company Wealth Management, LLC (BCWM) and is a Registered Investment Advisor in Washington State.  BCWM is a Fee-Only financial advisor and a member of NAPFA.

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