First, List All of Your Income
Make sure that you cover all of the bases, not just your paycheck. If you receive a regular income from investments, alimony, child support, royalties, or retirement income, list the income you receive from those sources as well. If you have a permanent part-time job, add it to the list. With temporary jobs, sales, and freelance income, create a conservative estimate of what you can expect to make on a monthly basis. Realize, however, that you may have to change your budget if these sources of income dry up.
Next, List Your Monthly Bills
At the top of the list should come your housing payment, be it rent or mortgage. Utilities should come next. Since electricity and gas bills often fluctuate with the seasons, you need to average them to come up with a monthly estimate. Taxes, insurance payments, and other annual or semi-annual payments can be averaged on a cost-per-month basis. If you put aside the money for these expenses every month, those expenses will not cause you so much stress when it comes time to pay them.
Estimate Your Monthly Food Bills
Food prices often fluctuate with the seasons as well. Make your estimate is on the high side so you make sure you will have enough money to feed yourself and your family. If your estimate is high, you can reward yourself later. The money you save can go toward an item you are saving for, or toward a fun trip or other luxury item. Of course, the extra money saved can always go towards a savings account as well.
Factor in Transportation Costs
Whether you have your own vehicle or use public transportation, you will need to estimate your monthly cost. If you have a vehicle, list the monthly lease or loan payment, as well as insurance, maintenance expenses, repairs, and fuel costs.
Add Your Credit Card and Loan Payments
If you have credit card debt or other loans, list your monthly average payment. If you can squeeze a little more out of your budget, try to put it here, so you can work toward a goal of being 100 percent debt-free. Make sure, however, that you do allow enough money to pay these every month so your credit score will not drop. A low credit score may mean higher insurance payments or not getting a higher-paying job, so making sure your bases are covered here can save you money in other categories over the long run.
Don’t Forget Long-Term Savings and Fun
If you are saving for a home, a car, or a vacation, set something aside every month for these long-term goals. It is also important to include a little each month for something that will make you happy, so you will be encouraged to earn more. Rewarding yourself for your hard work keeps you from burnout, two factors that can kill the joy you get from a job well done. It will also keep you motivated to stick to the goals that you have listed in your budget.