How to Budget 101: A Beginner's Guide To Saving
How do you start a budget? Know where to start and create a budgeting plan you can stick to with our Budgeting 101 Guide.
14 min read
Budgeting doesn’t always have to mean saving every dollar you make. In fact, the true markings of a good budget are ones that allow you to enjoy yourself while saving cash to help you achieve your long term goals. A budget is essentially a roadmap for where you want your money to go. Start budgeting your money today and get in control of your finances. Avoid common budgeting mistakes, don’t get caught up on bean-counting and set up the perfect budget you can live with. Check out some simple budgeting tips for beginners below and learn how to budget money and save with ease!
What is a budget?
Put simply, a budget is a detailed list of your income, what money is coming in and what is going out. Rather than just looking at your bills and necessities, a budget looks at all of your spending - yes everything! That includes social expenses and entertainment, groceries, medical expenses, household necessities and even birthday presents or Christmas gifts. Putting together a personal budget gives you an idea of where your money is going and where you can save.
What are the Benefits of Budgeting?
Why should you budget? Creating a budget will give you a holistic view of your expenses, and allow you to visualise your incomings and outgoings with ease. There is a wide range of benefits to budgeting, including:
Complete control over your money
Seeing where you have been spending in black and white will allow you to take the power back with your spending, and help you to feel in control of your finances.
Uncover spending patterns
Spending too much on work lunches? Bought a few too many rounds of drinks at the weekend? Understand your spending patterns, and find saving opportunities you can live with.
Tracking your spend against your financial goals will give you more of a push not to buy that morning coffee or unnecessary item.
Saving for a rainy day
Clearly visualising your incomings and outgoings will give you an idea of how much you can save, and give you more peace of mind.
Create a safety net
Squirrelling away a few dollars here and there will give you a safety net in case of emergencies, and help you to be prepared for whatever life throws at you.
Knowing you have a little extra money tucked away will help relieve some of those money worries, giving you more time to worry about the things that really matter to you.
How to get into the Budgeting Mindset
Determine why you need a budget
Need help with budgeting money? Discover what your main savings goal is, and how you can best achieve it. Sit down and write down your financial goals. Maybe you’re saving for a holiday, or just want to have a little extra each month so you aren’t living from pay cheque to pay cheque.
Below are just some of the reasons people decide to track their spending with a monthly budget:
- To reduce overspending in problem areas.
- To stay on track with long-term goals.
- To reduce conflict between partners.
- To ensure that your spending is reflective of your values.
- To break the cycle of living pay cheque to pay cheque.
- To live within your means.
- To get out of debt.
Get a full picture of your spending habits
First, add up all your income so you can see how much you have coming in each month. Make sure you include all of your income, including your salary, money from any side hustles or second jobs, child support or alimony arrangements, business income and any income you receive from investments. If your income varies from month to month, or you are working freelance, one way to get the most out of your budget is to essentially pay yourself a salary. This way you can decide on a set amount you are comfortable with, and save anything leftover on a good month to cushion you through a bad month. This will also help you to curb any unnecessary spending, and help you to feel more financially stable.
Once you have noted your income, you can start to create a list of outgoings. Once you have this all noted down, you can start to see what is realistic for your budget. Start by tracking your spending for 30 days, or looking at your spending for the previous month. There are a number of ways to track your spending:
- Spreadsheet budgeting.
Whether you're a spreadsheet wizard or an Excel beginner, entering your purchases into a spreadsheet will give you full visibility on your spending. This can be time-consuming, and you may forget now and then, but will ultimately give you the clearest view of your finances.
- Note it down.
Keep a notebook to hand and note it down whenever you make a purchase.
- Budgeting Apps.
There is a range of budgeting apps available to make it easier to track your spending by linking your bank accounts and credit cards. Be sure to link all of your accounts to ensure you get an accurate view of your spending.
- Bank Statements.
Review your bank statements and credit card statement to track your spending across more than one account. The only downfall with keeping a budget this way is the statements may not have your transactions detailed as you would like, and you may not remember what certain transactions were for, so it may be better to just use your bank statements as a starting point when you are putting together your budget.
Set specific budgeting goals
Personalise your finance goals. Think long-term and set actionable, realistic goals. The key to budgeting is to be specific with your goals and have a solid deadline to work towards. Instead of saying, *"I'm saving for a trip overseas," *you should say, *"I'm saving $10,000 by June for a trip overseas." *Cementing your goals will give you the motivation you need to make your savings dreams a reality, and give you something more concrete to work towards.
Some popular long-term finance goals are below:
- Saving for retirement
- Education costs
- Paying off debts
- Travel and holidays
- Buying a house
- Buying a new vehicle
Choose the budgeting format that works best for you
With your income set out in front of you, it’s time to lay the foundations for your budgeting and forecasting set up. It’s important to choose a budget management system that works for you, taking into account what you value.
Below are two of the most popular simple budget systems you can implement today!
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The 50 30 20 Budget
The 50 30 20 budget, made popular by Senator Elizabeth Warren in the United States, is great for allowing flexibility in your budget but can lead to overspending if used incorrectly.
To use this budget take your monthly wages after tax and set aside 50% of your monthly income towards needs, such as food, rent and any repayments you need to make. Then take 30% and put that towards your wants, things like entertainment, weekend trips or online shopping. The remaining 20% can then be put towards your savings goals.
A zero-based budget involves making your income minus your outflow hit $0. Using this method, all of your dollars are assigned a job that represents a spending category, with some going to savings and others going to pre-defined pockets. This budget is restrictive, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it will definitely help to avoid overspending and meet your goals.
Using Tools & Tech to keep you on Track
There are a number of organisational tools and tech you can use to keep on top of your budget. Here are some ways to keep yourself accountable:
Keep up to date
Use a calendar to map out any irregular expenses you may need to plan for, such as annual holidays, Christmas and birthdays, and other important payment months, such as tax time or annual car registrations and inspections.
Automate your savings transfers
Have a specific transfer set up at the beginning of the month that transfers your savings for the month automatically. Then leave it where it is!
Set up direct debits
Ensure your bills are automated so that money budgeted for bills and other expenses goes straight to those things . If it’s gone before you can get your hands on it, you’re less likely to spend it.
Track your spending with a budgeting app to make sure you’re sticking to your goals. An app makes it easy to keep your eye on your linked accounts and see where your money is going each month.
Be Aware of these Common Budgeting Mistakes
Save, save, save
Set up a savings account and keep adding to it each month. Little by little, your savings will increase.
Give yourself long-term goals and save more. Try not to push your expenses into the following month, and be sure to keep an eye on any birthdays or holidays coming up in your budget calendar and budget accordingly.
Take the little things into account
Don’t forget about those small charges that can mount up, such as that $2.50 fee when you withdraw money, the $12 fee on your bank account or that morning coffee pick-me-up. Make room for these in your budget to avoid any discrepancies.
Don’t plan an unrealistic budget for yourself that you’ll never be able to achieve. Set yourself goals you can reach, and you will save more in the long run. See how it goes after the first 30 days, and if you can’t stick to it, change it!
Make monthly adjustments
Be strict with yourself, but make sure you account for the change. Small changes such as increased monthly repayments, changes to your interest rates on your mortgage can affect your budget. Adjust to these changes and you will save more later down the track.
Try not to overspend!
Stick to your budget! If you’re spending more than you’re earning, you will find yourself in debt - fast.
For people juggling more than one debt, being able to create a budget or set saving goals can be a challenge. Depending on your situation, a debt consolidation loan may help by combining multiple repayments into one while lowering your overall interest rate.