How to manage expenses and create a budget

Do you find yourself spending all of your paycheck every month, and still not able to pay all of your bills?

For a lot of people, managing expenses these days is difficult.

How can I manage my expenses?

This information will help you to manage your expenses, by determining monthly spending, examining where expenditures can be changed, and by budgeting.

Use the Budget-Planner-Consumer-Affairs.xlsx to make this easy.

Determine what you spend each month and what you have available to spend. Which amount is larger? If you have more available than you spend, you have a surplus. If you are short of what you need each month, you have a deficit and a big problem. If you have a surplus, even after you have included your savings, take what is left over and save it or invest it.

If you have a deficit each month, proper budgeting will help you manage your expenses. If you don’t have a way of increasing your income so you will have to find ways to reduce some expenses.

Examine your expenses carefully for areas to cut: Groceries, phone bills, reduce electricity, reduce travel expenses and quit some of your habits.

If after cutting your expenses you are still short, consider changing your lifestyle. Can you find a smaller, less expensive apartment? Can you get a less expensive car or catch the bus?

Downsize for Added Cash

Most of us have ‘stuff’ that we don’t need or use; ‘stuff’ that can be sold for extra cash. If you have items around your house that are in good condition, consider selling them. It doesn’t make sense to struggle to pay bills and try to save when you have hundreds of dollars worth of stuff at home that you need and may have some value.

Change your lifestyle

  • Work to save
  • Live simple and frugal
  • Buy value
  • Do not use credit
  • Learn to say NO
  • Have a spending plan
  • Earn extra income
  • Reduce expenses
  • Avoid buying more stuff

How do I create a budget?

Creating a budget can be frustrating and staying on budget can be difficult, but careful budgeting will improve your financial situation.

Until you know where your money goes, you cannot create a budget or spending plan.

You can start a budget by simply writing down what you spend.

Your budget is your personal tool and you can choose how much detail you want to include.

Think about what categories you would like to use.

Some people find it helpful to work with two groups of expenses:

  • Essentials (SURVIVAL EXPENSES, Have to Have) - electricity, gas, water, housing, groceries, health, transport, education etc. Costs that occur regularly but may vary in amount.
  • Extras (Don’t Have to Have) - entertainment, holidays, clothes, hair, nails and gifts. Costs that are determined by personal wants that may be controlled.

There are no hard and fast rules for creating a budget. What is important is that it is easy for you to understand. Remember to keep the list of categories simple and useful to you. And be flexible. You can change the categories you use if you find they don't work for you.

Try this Budget Planner to help you keep track of your expenses.

How to use the Budget Planner

Choose a time period (e.g. fortnightly or monthly). Type in your regular income and expenses. Remember to use the same time period for income and expenses.

Enter figures into the white boxes and the planner automatically calculates totals and sub totals. You can also change the income and expense items and add new ones.

Analyze Your Spending

Emotional spending occurs when you buy something you don't need and, in some cases, don't even really want, as a result of feeling stressed out, bored, under-appreciated, incompetent, unhappy, or any number of other emotions. In fact, we even spend emotionally when we're happy.

Examine your budget, can you find any expenses that you can avoid?

What is more important to you? A pedicure every other week can cost you approximately $2,600.00 a year and eating lunch in a nice restaurant once a week is approximately $3,000.00 per year per person.

One might argue that these luxuries, along with facials, manicures, golfing, happy hour etc. contribute to our peace of mind and improve our mental health.

One could also argue that an extra $5,600.00 per year comes in very handy. Do the math and decide what you are willing to sacrifice to reach your financial goal.

Keep Your Receipts

Once the budget is set it can be tempting to stop counting every penny and keeping up with every expense.

But if you really want to realize exactly how much you are spending and you want to stick to your budget you should save your receipts.

Save your receipts, and write down every penny you spend and where – don’t forget bank charges.

Keep an accurate account of how much money has actually gone through your hands.

Using a note book to record every penny you spend, every day, is useful.

Share the Responsibility

Every member of the household should participate in the budgeting process, including children.

This is a good opportunity to lead by example and teach your children responsible money management.

Sit down together to explain the goal and determine how much spending money each member of the household should have.

Then, every week see how well you're doing. If everyone shares the responsibility it will be easier to save money and realize your goals together.

Use Cash

  • Carry enough cash to last one week at a time;
  • When you only have cash available you are more likely to question whether the item you are about to purchase is a need or a want;
  • Determine how much you will need each week for necessities;
  • Put the credit and debit cards away.