Finance

How To Start and Stick to a Budget

how to budget

I’ve gotten a few requests to talk about how I budget from bills and shopping to travel and retirement, so let’s start at the beginning. When I first started my graphic design business back in 2007, I saved money by living at my mom’s house. Only paying for my car and basic expenses allowed me to set some money aside which is how I was able to afford my move to Chicago. I bought furniture slowly and would set some money aside whenever I wanted something. It was a process but it all came together in the end. So today, I want to talk about how to budget. 

How to Budget

After launching The Everygirl, I continued to work on design projects full-time until we were able to salary ourselves  for almost another two years. That first salary didn’t fully cover all of my expenses, so I cut my clients by about 2/3 which helped pick up the slack. Two years ago, we were finally in a position to pay ourselves enough to cover all of my expenses. The past year, I’ve been putting 1/3 of my paycheck into savings, but between my blog, rewardStyle commission, and the occasional photo shoot or interior design project allow me to travel, shop, donate, and put additional funds into savings.

Track your spending

I’ve used Mint to track my spending. My checking, savings, credit card, and even my IRA are all linked to my Mint account. This makes it easy to see what I have, what I owe, and how I spend my money. Check your accounts every week–look over spending patterns to figure out how you can save, know what you’ve spent the past few weeks, and consider what’s coming up, too. Going out to dinner and ordering take-out are enjoyable experiences, but it’s all about balance. Figure out your budget and set reasonable number of days for you to pick up lunch or dinner. Consider meal prep to reduce your bills–it helps!

Make a list of fixed expenses and create a budget

Consider all fixed expenses like your mortgage, loans, insurance, food, entertainment, childcare, and transportation. You can set budgets for fixed expenses, shopping, travel, and groceries, and can even set savings goals. So if I want x amount of money in savings by July 1, I know how much I need to put away each month in order to make it happen.

Think before you buy

After you have tracking expenses under control, figure out how much you have to spend in each category. Be mindful of both big and small purchases, and pause before ordering something. Why are you buying those shoes? Do you actually need them? Can you really afford them? I do buy things I want but often pause for a day or two before making the purchase. 

Come up with a budget

If you want to come up with a real budget, you’ll need to adjust your spending. Is there a workout membership or subscription you can cancel? Take a closer look at how you spend on food and clothes, and make adjustments as needed. 

Set realistic financial goals

Make a list of short and long term financial goals. How much do you want to put aside each week or month? Is there something you’re saving for? How much do you want