Making a simple budget to improve your personal finances
Making a simple budget to improve your finances. This is an important step in reaching your financial goals and financial independence
I am sure there will be many among us who have never actually attempted to make a budget or even noted down their expenses on a daily basis. Many of us would have never experienced the need to see all their income and expenses in one single sheet – which is more due to negligence than lack of knowledge.
Why budgeting is important?
All large companies and organizations do their budgeting, write their expenses, do regular audits in order to see if their actual spend is as per the budget or not. They hire specialists to do this job as they want to prevent any money leak and also they want to be on top of their expenses so that they don’t lose money in a big way.
How about budgeting at my personal level?
At personal level, we do not need the kind of skill level that corporations employ to do budgeting, but a basic work on spreadsheet which is not too much time consuming is enough. This is just to have a quick access to your financial status at any given day and to plan any expense which is not a regular one like purchase of a new car, or a foreign holiday.
I don’t have knowledge of accounting software / tools required to do budgeting
No worries. For keeping track of personal expenses and basic month on month budgeting, you need to be an expert in using accounting software or tools. As this is Information Technology era and all of us are well versed with MS office (MS excel to be more precise), which is more than enough to do the designated task of budgeting.
What do I need to do with MS excel?
First make a list of all your spend in a month. For starters, make four columns in the excel sheet.
- First one should have the date of expense
- Second should have the place where you spent the money
- Third should have the amount you spent
- Fourth one should be the category of expense (classification as food, grocery, housing etc)
Every single expense, I repeat every single expense you incur should go in this excel sheet. Why? You need data. This data will make foundation of your budget. And the data accumulated over few months will give you enough food to analyze your spending pattern and believe me; it will help you save tons of money.
At the end of the month, sum up all. You will be amazed to see how much you spend, when there is no budget for expenses.
Now – sort these expenses by category. Sum up the money you spent in each category. This category wise spend will be the backbone of your budget for the next month.
Easy so far? Isn’t it?
Now make a new spreadsheet which will be the budget for your next month. Keep four columns in this sheet.
- First is category name (housing, food & groceries, fuel etc)
- Second is what I spent on category last month
- Third is what I intend to spend in this month on the category
- Fourth is how much I actually spent on the category (this will be filled once the month gets over)
So many things to do? This looks little tough for me. Do I need to carry this exercise every month?
This might look little tough as you are not used to of doing this. Only the first cycle would take time, then it’s a kind of a cake walk. Once you have completed one cycle, format is ready. You only need to enter the data from month 2 onward.
Ok got it. Now how is it going to help me save money?
If you are making your budget for the first time, there are good chances that your spending is more than your income otherwise you would not be taking pains to make the budget. Once you have data for a few months – say three months you can see and analyze the expenses you have incurred in each category. If you are spending way too much on eating out or buying cloths, it would be clearly visible in the category expenses figures. You can dig a little deeper to check and see if you can trim these high spend category expenses which are not required for survival or which are mostly want related expenses.
Armed with the data of few months, you can repeat the exercise of trimming the unwanted expenses. The money which gets generated from cutting down unwanted expenses will improve your cash flow and will give you an opportunity to invest this money in order to generate higher net worth. This higher net worth in turn will lead you to financial independence at a quicker pace. Wealth creation is all about the art of increasing the gap between your income and expenses and keep investing the difference across the investment spectrum to generate higher and stable returns.