As a recent college graduate, I understand the infamous struggle. College is expensive and it’s nearly impossible to graduate without any debt. I was able to keep my student loans down, but not without accruing debt elsewhere. The way to combat this is creating a budget. Yes, I know, it can sound a little intimidating. Even so, it’s absolutely necessary!
We have several vehicles, a home, our student loans, among many other bills that we have to pay for each month. It’s a lot to balance, especially as a young adult! It’s not impossible by any means, but it’s something that needs to be learned and practiced. Creating a budget isn’t hard, you just have to stay organized and know where to cut back.
Here are my best tips and tricks to balance a busy life, loads of bills, and *hopefully* still have money leftover.
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Step One: List All of Your Expenses
I’ll walk you through the steps of how to create a budget, like I do.
First, think of everything possible. Even little things, like Netflix. This will help us figure out what you are truly spending!
Often, I use an Excel spreadsheet. Creating a budget in Excel allows me to update it easily if a due date or payment amount changes. I make a column for each week with the bills that are due and then split them up based on what days I get paid. This is a little over the top, and I’m constantly checking and updating it.
To make it easier, I’ve made a simple, easy to use design that you can update monthly. Here’s an example of mine:
This is easy to print, easy to fill out, or heck, it’s easy to use as a template to create your own!
Step Two: Review What You Have
This step is where we can review and cut back expenses. Ours is pretty strict, there’s not many places where we can cut back currently. Here are a few places where we did and how much we’ve saved.
$30 – Switching from Unlimited on our cell phones to shared data. We haven’t gone over and we’re still able to use our phones plenty.
$8 – Cutting out Netflix. We weren’t using it a ton, plus we pay for Dish. It’s small enough to keep if you will use it, but if not, cut it out. You can always sign up later if you’re missing it!
$70 – Bundling our vehicles and homeowners insurance together. Before we were married, all of our insurance was separate. Getting several quotes and joining everything together saved us $70!
$40 – Our phones were due for upgrades and we each chose phones that were $20 less monthly. They were still new models, just look for discounts and do it at the right time!
$200 – We increased our budget for groceries, which decreased the amount of money we were spending eating out. I also stock up my freezer using recipes from The Family Freezer. With my freezer full of super easy, healthy, and inexpensive meals — there’s no reason to eat out (unless it’s date night!).
Just this simple swaps cut out $348! That’s $4,176 annually. There’s a few more places where we will cut out. Refinancing our our home could save up to $100, which is $1,200 annually. Getting into a vehicle that’s a few years older could save me $200 or $2,400 annually. Most of this is about timing and knowing what you can afford. At this age — it’s a lot of making sacrifices and saving up for things you want!
Pro tip: know that to keep it balanced, almost any company is willing to change their due dates to accommodate you!
Step Three: Stick to Your Budget
This is the hardest part. Being patient with money can be so difficult!
If you say you’re going to spend $100 on groceries — don’t go over!
If you need to spend extra on a birthday gift — put it into the budget and make sure you spend what you can afford.
Just because you have a credit card don’t mean you should always use it — think about it before you max out a credit card, especially if you can’t pay it off right away. High utilization can really screw up your score!
Step Four: Set Goals
Right now, our goal is to pay off our debt. We don’t expect to pay off our house and vehicles anytime soon, but our goal is to pay off our extra debt within three years: mainly credit cards and student loans!
Our goal after that is to build up a hefty savings account for emergencies!
We have plenty of goals we’d like to reach after those, but knowing where we’re headed helps us make the small sacrifices.
You can start small: pay off a small debt, save $500, cut back all your unneeded expenses. Just set those goals so you can see what you are working towards!