If you’ve read the past few posts, you probably know that I’m a recent college graduate (as of a year ago now) and a newlywed. Because of this, I’m relatively new to the world of “adulting.” Creating a budget has been one of the skills my husband and I have had to learn as we go. Like many life skills, we’ve taken the advice from our parents and college classes and figured out what works best for us. Even though we aren’t budgeting pros, we’ve learned some lessons along the way that have helped us get our finances into a good spot.
Everybody is different. It’s an age-old adage, but it’s true in almost every area of life, including budgeting. For example, my husband and I created our budget with a spreadsheet and then keep track of every purchase with the EveryDollar app. We like that this one is designed to help us assign a job to every dollar in our income. We also love that it automatically resets each month and carries over any unspent money so we can watch our savings grow. We add our purchases as we make them, so even when we’re apart, we can quickly see how much money we have in a category. Here is a list of other popular apps you can use. If you aren’t an app person, I know people who budget by dividing a week or month’s worth of cash into labeled envelopes. It’s easy to keep from overspending because when the envelope runs out, that’s the end of that category for that month. Others go with trusty spreadsheets and receipts. Others divide their money into broad categories like savings, needs and wants and then spend freely within those. Find which of the many approaches works for you and make a habit out of it.
One of the unexpected lessons I’ve learned is that budgeting is not a science. Expenses ebb and flow. If you have to go over-budget in a category every once in a while, it’s okay. The rule-follower in me panicked the first few times I overspent in a category by a few dollars, but then my sweet, spirit-of-the-law husband reminded me that our budget is a set of guidelines, not mandates. Generally, it will all even out — the key is to not overspend consistently and not to spend money you don’t have. If you find that you’re continually running out of money in a category every month and can’t realistically cut back anymore, it may be time to re-adjust. Look for places where you’re regularly underspending and think about moving funds from there. Or find some fun purchases you could do without. Here are a few more budgeting myths that I know will help me have a better perspective going forward.
For me, one of the most rewarding parts of budgeting has been watching our savings categories grow. Working to cut down unnecessary expenses in other areas so that we can put more toward long-term goals makes it worth it. We like to pack our lunches, subscribe to emails so we can watch for deals on clothing and shop sales at the grocery store. Think through your goals and see if you can find ways to work some into your budget: Even a little bit at a time adds up faster than you’d think. Do you want to pay off those student loans more quickly? Take a trip this summer? Buy a car or maybe even a house? Find ways you can save a little bit at a time for your goals. Here are some more tips for creative ways to save.
Do you want more tips or in-person help with creating and sticking to a budget? Join us for our Adulting: Creating a Budget class. You’ll learn how to properly plan financially by identifying your expenses and knowing what you can spend and when, how to save, and how to adjust for different types of pay periods.
Click the button below and type the class name into the search bar, or call 405.377.3333. To find out about more courses like this sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. You can view all of our upcoming courses in our digital catalog.
Abby McCain is the Communications and Marketing Secretary at Meridian Technology Center.