because you have a big job, and you worked hard for it. But despite having a happy bank account, life is expensive, and you might have a lot of loans to tackle from all your years of schooling and want to nip those in the bud ASAP. At the same time, you fought on the frontlines of the pandemic for an entire year, are fully vaccinated, and want to explore new cities on weekends and days off.
Introducing our least favorite word: Budgeting. We know how busy your day-to-day lives can be, and budgeting can help you keep track of your spending easily so you can spend more time with your patients. Budgets rely on balance; if you spend less in one area, you can spend more in another, like a rainy day fund, or a “treat yo self” purchase.
Budgets only work if you’re honest about your finances and you’re committed to the cause. To make a budget that doesn’t take into consideration what you’re currently spending, what you can afford to spend, and what your priorities are–well, you might as well not make a budget at all.
So now that we’ve taken the honest pledge, let’s get started making our budget.
Make a Pile of Your Paperwork
Important documents to have for your budgeting needs include:
- Bank statements
- Investment accounts
- Recent utility bills
- W-2s and paystubs
- Credit card bills
- Receipts from the last 3 months
- Mortgage, auto, or student loan statements
These documents will help you identify a monthly average for spending and saving. The more documents with figures, the easier creating the budget will be.
Calculate Your Income
Use the net amount of income per month, such as the amount of your paycheck that goes directly into your pocket. Include all sources of income, such as additional side-jobs, child support payments, or Social Security. If you have a variable job (like freelancing), consider using the income from your lowest-earning month in the past year as your baseline income when you set up your budget.
Write. Down. Your. Expenses.
This is the most important part of creating a budget. A list of your expenses, such as going out, groceries, commuting costs, and more can help identify your spending and formulate your budget based on your monthly income. Additional expenses can include:
- Car payments
- Personal care
- Eating out
- Transportation costs
- Student loans
Determine Your Mandatory vs Your Optional Expenses
Here’s the breakdown: Mandatory expenses are payments you have to make each month, like rent, insurance, or car payments. If you plan to save a fixed amount or pay off a certain amount of debt each month, also include savings and debt repayment as fixed expenses.
Optional (or variable) expenses include things like groceries, gasoline, and eating out. These numbers may flex each month.
Use your receipts from the past 3 months to set an amount toward each expense, both mandatory and variable. Mandatory expenses are easy because usually you pay a fixed rate for these types of payments. Use your receipts and your best judgement to assign your spending value to the variable expense categories.
Total It Up
If your income is more than your expenses, you’re in good shape. You may have some extra money laying around which can be put towards retirement or paying off a debt. If your expenses are more than your income, a budget would definitely help you manage these expenses.
Adjust if Necessary
Find areas in your variable budget that you can cut down in order to balance out your budget. Look for places you can reduce your spending—like your Seamless addiction—or eliminate a category—like canceling the super expensive gym membership and settling for the mid-tier club.
Aim to have your income and expense columns to be equal. This equal balance means all of your income is accounted for and budgeted toward a specific expense or savings goal.
Moving Forward With Your Budget
A budget can be fixed, assessed, revamped as many times as necessary to make it work for you. You might have thought $50 per month was sufficient for gasoline, but you actually only need $40, so that extra $10 can go towards another Uber Eats order. Your goal is to keep your spend value at or lower than your income every month, so you might need to allocate your funds to different categories as the months progress. Keeping track of your spending through mobile banking apps can really help keep your finances top of mind and prevent you from overspending.
Some more tips for budgeting:
- If you work on commission, be aggressive in saving to help cover periods when the market is slow.
- Pay with a credit card only if you will have the money to pay it off at the end of the month.
- Adjust your budget monthly if you find you overestimated or underestimated your expenses.
- If you have tendencies to overspend in certain categories, switch to a cash-only budget that prohibits you from spending once the cash is up.
Vohwinkle J. How to Make a Personal Budget in 6 Easy Steps. The Balance. Updated October 6, 2020. Accessed May 3, 2021.