Budgeting Basics: 4 Things Everyone Needs to Know

I spoke at the Women’s Money Conference recently and asked the audience how many of them put everything on their calendars. Nearly every hand shot in the air.

When I asked the women how many use their calendars to schedule time to manage or revisit their budgets, the sea of hands went down.

Surprising? Not really.

Budgeting is often seen as intimidating, time consuming or a sacrifice. But good news, it doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re just starting out as a recent college grad or entering your golden years of retirement, here are 4 budgeting basics everyone needs to know.

Get comfortable with your money

First, start by writing down all of your fixed expenses like rent, utilities and car payment. Then, subtract those expenses from your monthly income. That will help you determine what discretionary money you have to play with. This money can be used for fun or can help you pay down debt, save for retirement or that often overlooked emergency fund that will help cover you during unexpected emergencies like car repairs or illness.

Start small

If just hearing the word “budget” makes you squirm, then start small. Pick one area of your financial life to budget for and start there. For example, taking lunch to work versus dining out could save you upwards of $45 every week.  Pocket that money and put it toward your financial goals.

Make a date with your budget 

Just as you calendar every doctor appointment, work meeting, dance recital or girls’ night out, it’s equally important to make a date with your budget! I suggest checking in at least once a week as you’re getting started and then look to visit your budget at least once a month. It will keep you on track and allow you to adjust your budget throughout the year.

Be creative

Budgets aren’t about sacrifice; they are about making smart financial choices.  Whether it’s shopping for clothes or groceries, there are a million creative ways to save money while keeping your lifestyle and budget in check. For example, turn your eye toward generic brands vs. designer labels or have a clothing swap with your friends. I’ve scored some great blouses and accessories.

So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t started budgeting, there’s no better time than today. The key is to be committed, be creative and be your own cheerleader.

Updated: March 13, 2015 — 7:52 am
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