When trying to start out minimizing your expenses it can be hard to figure out what exactly to minimize. “Where should I cut back?” “How do I start minimizing things?” “Is this minimal enough?”
All these questions can come flooding in and when you are doing it alone it can be hard to try and figure it all out on your own, without others doing the same change.
That is where I come in.
That is where I’m here to help you figure some of this out, and today, with this post, it is How To Find Your Minimal Budget. So let’s go ahead and do that! ;)
SEVEN TIPS FOR YOUR MINIMAL BUDGET
1. WRITE OUT YOUR INCOME
You might be reading this and thinking, “That’s pretty obvious Lydia, why would you need to list it?” But I’ll have you know that it is something people don’t actually do all that often. Most people have an idea of what they make but haven’t actually sat down, checked the numbers, and did the math. Figure out the most accurate average of what your income is every month so you know what you are working with.
2. MINIMIZE BILLS TO NECESSARY
The first step in creating a minimal budget is taking a look at your bills now and seeing how you can decrease those. Some of that might mean becoming uncomfortable and making hard decisions, like selling that car with the car payment you can’t really afford, or cutting out going out the extra cable channels. Your bills are the things that theoretically can’t really be changed in a budget, so before you create your budget you should take inventory of those bills and figure out what really needs to be there for you to be able to live your life.
3. FIGURE OUT WHERE YOUR MONEY IS GOING
For you to make a plan of what you want to do with your money you need to first realize what you are currently doing with it. Look into your spending, don’t just go from your memory or what you “think” you spend. Look at your bank account, credit card statements, or even ask people you are around a lot to figure out where your money goes every month. You may surprise yourself with how much you are spending on certain things or categories. Once you have figured out what you typically spend your money on, it can help you give a better idea how to adjust your spending when creating your budget.
4. NAME YOUR GOALS
This is where my personal budgets, and the way I teach budgeting, take a turn from the “typical” way to budget. As much as budgeting has to do with numbers and percentages, it also has to do with your lifestyle and what you personally care about.
I believe figuring out goals for your finances and life (they go hand in hand) are a big part of creating a budget (and creating a minimal one at that) that will work for you. Some examples of goals that affect your budget would be if you have a goal to travel around Europe before you are 25, or if you want to pay off your house before you are 30 (that’s me!), maybe you want to go back to school or just get out of debt and be able to save money every month! You need to identify that goal and use it when creating a budget in order to set up a plan to reach that goal! Do you want to work less and stay home with your kids? Do you want to take lessons on something? Whatever it is, name it, and have it in the forefront of your mind when creating your budget!
5. DECIDE WHAT MATTERS TO YOU
This is the question you need to ask yourself constantly when coming up with items, categories and dollar amounts in a minimal budget: What matters to me?
If you love eating healthy and having nice food is a big priority to you, it matters to you, then your budget can reflect that in that category. But if in that same budget you’ve attributed a lot of money to buying clothes when clothes or fashion don’t really matter to you that much, then your budget is not really reflective of what you care about. Stop dumping your hard earned cash into something that doesn’t really matter to you. Sometimes we follow blindly what others are doing, including what they are spending and where, when we do this, we loose our own priorities and what we care about and end up just spending money to impress people or worse, because someone else was doing it that way. Just because everybody has a car payment doesn’t mean it is right for you. Just because everyone buys coffee at the office doesn’t mean you should. Figure out what matters to you first, then go from there!
6. EVALUATE EVALUATE EVALUATE
Evaluate your budget to make sure it’s reflective of the life you are living now, and the life you want to live in the future. Look at your amounts for bills and your list of what matters to you and see if those coincide? Think about it, if you don’t really care about cars or how nice your car is yet maybe you are paying a $300 car payment, is that accurate or reflective of what you value or even just care about? This needs to be a hard and reflective time for yourself. Get real with where you are spending your money and if you really should be spending it there. Evaluate. Your spending, your bills, and your priorities. Then, start making decisions and creating budgeted amounts that reflect your goal and give you some wiggle room to either put money away, or to pay off that debt of yours. Be hard on yourself as if I was sitting right next to you! ;)
7. FIGURE OUT WHAT WORKS
This will be in the months to follow after creating your minimal budget, after you’ve put it into action! It’s “easy” to put it all down on paper as a “plan”, it’s hard to look a cupcake in the eye and say, “No thank you..”
Once you’ve taken your budget out for a practice run feel free to make adjustments and figure out what works for you. I will advise that you do actually take the time and give it a chance. Don’t just admit defeat after the first activity you have to turn down because of money.
Stick with each change for a month at least and then make gradual changes where need be. My husband and I did this continuously with our budget in the beginning. We realized some amounts we needed to spend much more than we thought, while others we budgeted too much and didn’t need it. Take mental notes as you go and keep in mind those goals of yours, they are what will get you through the no-cupcake-days. ;)
I hope this helps you get a better grip on what it means to create a minimal budget and what exactly the benefits from it can be. It’s more than just numbers and putting a “restriction” on yourself. It’s having a plan for your life and future!
I’m all about that!