Whether you're age 18 or 38, keeping a balanced budget is tricky - especially if you're in college and juggling multiple costs.
According to a Gallup poll, only 30 percent of Americans keep a regular household budget. If you don't have a budget (but would like to create one), we've gathered a few helpful tips that will get you started below.
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Step One: Create Your Budget
1. Calculate the minimum amount you need to spend each month and compare it to your income.
Create a list of your expenses (rent, electric bill, phone bill, gas, groceries, loan payments, etc). Add up the costs and compare it to your income. Not sure how to start? Check out this personal budget template. Tip: Include an emergency savings fund in your plan for situations like car problems or unexpected repairs.
2. Determine an amount of money within your means (if any) to spend on miscelleanous or "fun" items.
How often do you eat out, go to the movies or buy a cup of coffee in the morning? Choose a conservative amount to spend on this each month and stick to it.
3. Use leftover money for your debt or savings account.
If you have leftover money, you can either (a) put it in your savings account or (b) pay extra toward your credit card bill, car loan or other debt. Check out these four reasons why it can be smart to put additional money toward your debt each month.
Step Two: Stick to Your Budget
1. Track your spending.
It's no secret that budgeting takes discipline. To make this more fun, track your spending by creating a colorful graph or by downloading one of these money saving apps.
2. Find free or cheap ways to have fun.
Go to the library to check out a book or rent a movie/TV series for free, visit a state park or set up a game night at home with your friends. These are all things you can do for free or at little to no cost.
3. Don't freak out if you make a mistake.
If you go overbudget (as long as it's not a regular occurrence), it's OK - don't beat yourself up over it. If you find yourself overspending every month, plan to re-evaluate your budget.
Step Three: Plan for the Future
1. Re-evaluate your budget every three months.
Your goals and priorities will change with time and that's OK. Make it a point to re-evaluate your budget every three months in case you need to add an additional fund or give yourself more wiggle room.
2. Create goals.
Your income isn't going to be the same forever, especially if you're working toward an associate or bachelor's degree (click here to learn how much more money college grads make vs those without a degree). Make goals for your debt and earnings and think about how you want your budget to look five years from now.
3. Know what you're saving for.
What are some of your long-term financial goals? Do you want to save up for a vacation or buy a house? Keep things in perspective by thinking about what you can do right now in order to get to where you want to be.
Stressed about money?
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