How to build a basic budget

Towards the end of the month, do you find yourself with more month than money? Many people are in the same situation; so, don't despair.Planning is one of the best ways to get control of your finances. But, before you get started on a plan, take a look at where the money in your wallet might go in a typical day. Tracking your expenses will give you an insight as to why your wallet might be empty. Do you get gas for the car on your way to work? Do you stop off at a coffee shop for a nice blended coffee drink mid-morning? Do you eat lunch at a burger place? Maybe you stop by the supermarket on the way home for a few last-minute items for dinner. To cap off the day, maybe you go to a movie with a friend in the evening after work. Sound familiar? Once you start documenting your purchases and expenses, you can see how and where you spend your money to explain the "empty-wallet syndrome." Here are a few steps to help you get started on a budget. Use the budget worksheet at to help you get started. This budget worksheet, sponsored by Visa Credit Cards, will help you take an honest look at your financial situation. For starters: 1) Figure out your income - from all sources, full and part-time jobs, alimony, etc. List the after-tax dollars to get a clear picture of what is coming into the household. 2) Review past expenses - Review your online bank statement, checkbook register, credit card statements, and bills, and make a list of all expenses in a normal month. Fixed expenses such as rent or mortgage, car payments, loan payments may be the same each month. For once-a-year payments such as car registration or insurance, just divide the annual amount into monthly costs. Factor in variable expenses such as phone, gas, electric, cell phone, eating out, groceries, and entertainment. Also factor in the pocket cash you have that seems to "disappear", as we discussed above. Find the average. Add the fixed variable and variable expenses together to get a clear picture of what is going out of the household. 3) Do the math. Once you take the expenses away from the income, you can get a good picture of your budget starting point. If you get a negative number, you might need to think about cutting out or reducing some costs. You might also think about depositing a portion of your income into a savings account for an emergency or other unplanned cost. By using a budget worksheet, you can see how and where you spend your money. Are you ready to start building your personal budget? Here are some tools to help you: 1. Assess your needs versus your wants to help you evaluate what's important 2. Set goals (Example) a. Short term goal- pay off one credit card within the next year b. Long-term goal - start saving for a down payment on that condo you want 3. Make a plan how you will accomplish a goal a. Example - set aside $150 a month extra to pay down your credit card debt 4. Take action - write down a start date so you actually begin on that date. Taking the first step is always the most difficult. Writing things down and then implementing your plan is the key to better financial management.

********** Published: July 05, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 12