Creating a budget doesn’t have to be overwhelming and abstract. This technique of beginning budgeting gets us started. It’s easy and straightforward. And, let’s be honest, taking that first step towards something scary is always the hardest. Once we step, adjusting and tweaking and adding a more difficult task is made easier.
Come on Mama. I’ll hold your hand. I know I was thankful my husband was holding mine.
So, you’ve likely already completed the first few steps of getting a handle on your money. If you haven’t, may I suggest you begin at my Start Here page. It’s a concise, step-by-step plan for beginning this journey. Believe it or not, the budget is not actually the first step in getting intentional with your money. There a few other steps I suggest people take first to get a handle on what you’re actually dealing with and what you hope to get from this process.
You should have your giant pile of receipts OR your bank or credit card statements OR a digital pile of receipts. No matter how you decided to track your spending you should have your month’s worth of data ready to utilize.
You are now ready to dive in and figure this budgeting thing out. I, personally, like to print out bank statements to have a hard copy in front of me so I don’t have to keep flipping back and forth between tabs. Budgeters’ choice.
First, let’s set some ground rules, shall we?
- No negative talk. You’re here. You’re doing the work. You’re awesome.
- Don’t judge yourself or each other (if you’re doing this with a significant other). What is on those receipts is done. It’s spent. Categorize it and move on. We’ll talk about what you and your spouse actually want to spend your hard earned money on and where money can be cut later.
- Keep an open mind. As you’re working through your transactions you may be tempted to give up. Don’t. It’s probably bad, but maybe not impossible. For example, when we first started we had added up $100,000 in debt (not including our mortgage) and were spending more than we made every month. Pretty bad. But if I’d let myself quit and crawl into a hole, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Remember, your goal is to always move forward!
OK, so, onward to actually creating a budget. I thought long and hard about creating a budget printable for you to use. Honestly, it felt like there were so many good ones out there already, that I decided against it. Like here and here, for just a couple of examples. These cost a few dollars but look great! Here’s an amazing round up of budget printables from The Busy Budgeter. If you want me to make one specific to greatestworth, please let me know!
Let’s start already!
- Open a Google Sheets page and give that baby a title. Something like “My Super Awesome First Budget – I’m Amazing.” Catchy, right?
- Take your list of transactions and go through each one, one by one, and categorize them. What I mean is, say my first transaction is Trader Joes, $35. That is almost always groceries, so I’m going to put that in my “GROCERIES” category. You may also buy toilet paper at the grocery store but, for the first few months, don’t worry about separating all that. Let’s keep it easier for a bit, shall we?
- When you get to another transaction that needs to be added to GROCERIES, just add it in the cell below. You may need to “insert a row below” in order to make more space.
- OK, now you’ve got all your transactions entered into categories – now, let’s add up each categories’ total. Do this by putting your mouse over and selecting the cell you would like to show the “total spent” in that particular category. Once you’re in that cell put an = sign there – it will begin a formula for you. Write the word SUM next to the equal sign and start a parenthesis. Your formula will look like this =SUM(
- Now, take your mouse and highlight all the cells that you want to be added together and then add close parentheses.
- Your formula will look like this: =SUM(A1:A5) – I highlighted cells A1-A5.
- Now do this for the rest of the categories – so that you have grand totals for each category.
Now you have a budget that is real and honest and tied to YOUR spending habits. I know that you could’ve easily just filled out one of those beautiful printables and went along your way. The big problem I see with beginning budgeting this way is that it’s REALLY difficult to get real numbers for your categories. Heck, it’s hard to even make categories realistically.
The truth is until you start paying attention to what you’re actually spending, it’s really difficult to make accurate budgeting totals. I want you to succeed! And have quick successes. I don’t want you to feel frustrated when you overspend a category, because, well, it’s going to happen.
But my process of budgeting helps to bring more truth and intention into your budgeting. And I know those are important to you. Because you’re here, changing your life.
Don’t take shortcuts just because it will save a bit of time. Take 2-3 days to complete this process if you need. It will be worth it in the end!
Get to it girl. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish!