Money really does rule the world. We’re all trying to earn it, save it and make it stretch a little further. Like many aspects of #adulting, working out how to manage your money is boring, but it’s essential. The idea is to spend less than you’re bringing in, but sometimes, that’s easier said than done. Life is expensive. That’s where budgeting comes in. It helps you to track your moolah, so that you’re not blindsided or worried about your card getting declined at the register. Plus, budgeting pays off – if you do it right, you’ll have the cash to go on more holidays, buy more clothes, or do grown-up things like invest.
We’ve got you with this step-by-step guide to a starter budget. (PS. You’re about to become a pro at Excel.)
STEP #1. CALCULATE YOUR AFTER-TAX INCOME
If you get a regular paycheck, that dollar figure is your take-home pay. Most companies withhold your tax, so you never actually see it floating in your bank account – which is both depressing and a good thing.
Open up an Excel spreadsheet, and type in that number. Along with your salary, list any other sources of income. Maybe you babysit, run a blog, freelance, play music gigs, or make money from another side hustle. Maybe you’re paid rent for a property you own.
If your income is inconsistent, do your best to calculate your average monthly income.
Your list might look like this:
|Income source||Monthly amount|
Your income is the number you’ll be subtracting from later.
STEP #2. WRITE DOWN YOUR MONTHLY EXPENSES
In your spreadsheet, start by listing your fixed expenses. These are the things you must pay for every month, such as rent, petrol, bills, groceries, health insurance, and public transport.
Then, add any debt you have, like HECS or car payments.
Lastly, jot down your wants – those extra expenses that pop up during the month. For example, your F45 membership, Netflix, plus how much you spend on eating out, pampering, and shopping.
Remember, right now, you’re just putting everything down on paper. For the best results, be as honest and accurate as you can. (It’s a drag, we know). The actual budgeting bit comes next.
At this stage, your spreadsheet might say:
|Expense||Cost per month|
|Credit card repayment||$100|
|Daily coffee||$90 ($3 a day for 30 days)|
|Lunch 3 x a week||$180($15 per meal)|
|Entertainment – travel, movies etc||$150|
STEP #3. USE THE 50/30/20 RULE
Ok, now that you’ve laid it all out, it’s time to shuffle your money around to match the 50/30/20 rule. It’s a simple guide, but it’ll help you to control your cash and hit those savings goals. It also leaves you with wriggle room so you can, you know, live your life.
Here’s how it works
- 50% of your income goes towards essential expenses (those ‘needs’)
- 30% of your income is allocated to ‘wants’
- 20% of your income is transferred to a savings account
If you can follow these principles, you’ll find you’ll be less stressed about money in the day-to-day, and have more to spend on things like holidays.
Let’s use the example from above. If you do the math and figure out that you pull in $3,800 a month, split it like this:
- $1,900 (50%) on expenses
- $1,140 (30%) on wants
- $760 (20%) into savings
Do your ‘wants’ add up to more than 30% of your income? If so, it’s a smart idea to adjust them based on what you can afford – which is something you now know, thanks to your budget! You might find a cheaper gym, make coffee at home, or invite your friends over for dinner instead of going out. Here are tons of sneaky ways to save money.
Do your ‘needs’ fall under the 50% cap? That’s amazing. If you’re struggling to let go of some of those ‘wants,’ see if you can lower some of the essential expenses. Maybe you can get rid of Foxtel, switch your phone carrier, or walk more instead of driving. Every little bit counts. ☺
No budget is perfect. Sometimes, life gets in the way, and you may need to dip into your ‘wants’ or ‘savings,’ but try not to make it a habit. The goal is to live comfortably, and have some cash on the backburner for later, or for emergencies.
STEP #4. AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS
Most banks let you ‘set it and forget it’ – take yours up on the offer! Set up an automatic transfer, so a portion of your paycheck (20%) goes straight into your savings account.
Are you trying to save for something big, like a gap year? If you’re on a massive savings mission, set up an account at a different bank (the inconvenience will do your head in), or sign up for a savings account that you can’t touch until a certain date.
STEP #5. REVISE YOUR BUDGET
Think of your budget is a living document. It’s not ironclad. Each week, spend 10 minutes looking over your expenses. Did you exceed your budget? What can you do to avoid that mistake next week? Or did you spend less than you thought?
And when things change – like if you get a pay rise, or move apartments – update your spreadsheet.
Pop that bubbly, girl! You’ve officially created a budget.
#Girlboss money advice by Katia Iervasi