Rock your finances: How to create your first budget

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Making a budget for the first time can be an extremely daunting task but it’s a good idea to get a strong hold of your finances early on in life. If you’re a teen fresh out of high school, in college or just starting to live on your own, this post is for you.
The first time I did a budget for myself, I had no clue what I was doing. I was 21 years old and had just separated from my husband-who managed our finances ever since we got married three years prior (yep, I got married at 18—don’t do that). The thought of being in control of my own money was flat out scary.
I imagined accumulating thousands of dollars in debt and wrecking my credit score, before I even had a chance to properly build it. Safe to say, I checked my budget and went over my bank account balance every time I bought something for weeks when I started. After I realized I wasn’t killing myself financially, I stopped the compulsive checking. But still, I’d panic whenever money was brought up. Just because managing it made me so uncomfortable.
As time went on, it became easier and I had more confidence. My credit score is still good and the credit card debt I do have is manageable. And I don’t compulsively check my account everyday. I’ve adopted a very frugal lifestyle and I can safely say, I’m pretty damn good at managing money.
All that worrying for nothing.
Here’s a breakdown of how I do my budgeting. Of course, everyone’s finances are different but hopefully this will be a good starting point for you as you start your own budget.
Note: I do all of my budgeting on my iPhone using the notes app-in one note. I don’t use any special budgeting apps or subscriptions. I’ve tried a bunch and it always seemed more complicated to use one, then to not.

1. ADD UP AVERAGE MONTHLY NET INCOME.

Net income is the money you take home, after your taxes have been taken out.
To find your average monthly net income:
If you get paid bi-weekly,
the amount of one check x 26 (number of paychecks per year) = yearly net income
If you get paid weekly,
the amount of one check x 52 (number of paychecks per year) = yearly net income
For an example, we’re going to say this person makes $700 a week after taxes.

$700 x 52 = $36,400 yearly net income
Then, divide your yearly net income by 12.
$36,400/12 = $3,033 is your monthly net income

2. ADD UP MONTHLY FIXED EXPENSES AND WRITE DOWN THE DAY OF THE MONTH THEY’RE DUE.

Fixed expenses are bills that don’t change every month. If you have some bills that fluctuate month to month—look back at your last 3 payments. Add them together then divide by 3 to find the average monthly payment.
Order your monthly expenses by their due date so you don’t accidentally overlook anything.
For an example,
1200 rent (due the 1st of the month)
100 internet/cable (due the 16th of the month)
80 cell phone (due the 18th of the month)
60 personal loan (due the 25th of the month)
250 car (due the 30th of the month)
———
$1690 a month goes to bills
Keep this schedule at the bottom of your budget so you can easily use it for reference later on or if you ever need to tweak it.

3. DETERMINE YOUR WEEKLY EXPENSES.

These expenses include groceries, gas/transportation, entertainment and anything else you spend money on weekly. Write down realistic averages of what you spend every week on those things.
Note: I include my savings in this section of my budget to keep things simple. And instead of specifying entertainment into categories (dinner out, shopping, etc), I just call it “spending.” (psst, I use that money for whatever my heart desires).
For an example,
50 gas
60 groceries
70 spending
50 savings
———
$230 a week goes to these expenses

4. DO A WEEKLY OR MONTHLY BREAKDOWN, DEPENDING ON YOUR NEEDS.

When I got paid every week and had just begun doing my own budget, I divided my fixed monthly expenses by 4.
For an example, $1690/4 = $423 (rounded up from 422.50)
Then I made sure to keep that amount in my checking account each week to use for upcoming bills.
My bills were always paid on time this way. And I always had extra money at the end of the month, because I held onto more money than I needed to each week (if you do the math you’ll realize that you will too by using this method).
If you’re still living at home or you just have minimal bills AND you get paid once a week, this method might work for you in the short term. It’s a good way to get started budgeting, especially if your payment due dates are evenly scattered throughout the month like mine used to be.
Weekly Budget Example - Easier Method
700 weekly check
-423 fixed expenses
-50 gas
-60 food
-70 spending
-50 savings
———
$47 leftover
Note: this wasn’t a good method after my bills increased from moving and after I changed jobs and was paid bi-weekly. Using this method with bi-weekly pay would have left me short for certain bills. So I then moved on to the method below.

If you’ve left the nest and have more bills and/or you get paid bi-weekly, then a monthly budget would be better for you.
Monthly Budget Example - Advanced Method
3033 monthly income (700 X 52 = $36,400/12 = $3033)
-1200 rent (due the 1st of the month)
-100 internet/cable (due the 16th of the month)
-80 cell phone (due the 18th of the month)
-60 personal loan (due the 25th of the month)
-250 car (due the 30th of the month)
-200 monthly gas
-240 monthly food
-280 monthly spending
-400 monthly savings
———
$223 leftover
When you do your budget on a monthly basis, you’ll need to know what you have allocated each week for your weekly expenses. You’ll also need to know what to put away each check for upcoming bills. If you’re neurotic like I can be, you may also want to do a general week or two week budget along with your monthly budget to see what you should be holding onto each week for both your fixed monthly and your weekly expenses.
Remember, self discipline is the key to healthy finances. You got this!



I'm Sarah Rose. Discern, Describe is my personal development & lifestyle blog for girls & young women looking to build confidence, find inner peace and have stronger relationships. Sign up for the 7 Weeks to Happiness email series and get weekly mini challenges, trackers & over 20 worksheets here.

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