So you know you need a budget, but you aren’t quite sure where to start. You’re not alone! This year, let’s get your budget off on the right foot. Even if you’re a total newbie, this is the best budgeting advice for beginners.
I get it. There’s all kinds of “budgeting for beginners” advice out there. There’s tons of different blogs and plans and books…and well, I’m sure you’re overwhelmed.
Sure, budgeting can be a little scary at first. Getting started requires that you to take an honest look at where you stand financially. Not easy, I know. And working on your budget might mean you have to decide to make some cutbacks or sacrifice something you want to do. But let’s face it, ignoring it and pretending like it’s not there won’t make it go away. In fact, it’ll just make the problem worse…and you’re certainly not going to feel any better, either.
So now’s not the time to drag your feet! You can do this!! I’ll break down how to budget for you into super simple baby steps.
Creating and sticking to a budget puts you in control, helps you get a handle on everything, and provides a lifeline. Your budget gives you a clear picture of where you are and a realistic place to start from. It takes some practice, just like any life skill, but I promise you can do it!
Getting Started Budgeting
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to budgeting? Just do it. That’s right, it’s time to get started! Even if you have no idea what you’re doing or how you’re going to make it work, just get out of the gate and start.
If you’re a beginning budgeter, there are tons of options and resources out there. But of course, it’s hard to cut through the noise and determine what will be the most helpful. If you’re feeling ready to start, the very best advice is in our free 90-Day Budget Boot Camp. It’s my step-by-step budgeting plan, complete with easy baby-step actions you can take to create a budget you can live with. Do it for three months and you’ll get your budget on track.
Once you go through my Budget Boot Camp, you’ll have all the tools you need to gain a clear picture of what’s coming in, what’s going out, and where your money is spent each month. You’ll be able to pinpoint concrete ways to save and areas where you might be able to stretch your budget a little to get to the things you want.
When it comes down to it, budgeting is simply that: a way to keep on top of finances so we can get to the things we want—whether that’s vacation, to pay off debt, or to retire early. Budgeting is simply a means to an end, so you can actually know where your money is going and how you’re spending it.
Writing Things Down
If you’re ready to start my 90-Day Budget Boot Camp, then sign up! It has everything you need right there. No clutter, no noise, no B.S. Just a solid step-by-step budgeting plan for beginners.
If 90 days sounds a little scary or if you’re commitment-phobic, instead, start by walking through our tutorial How to Start a Budget (When You Suck at Budgeting). This step-by-step process will walk you through one of the most important keys to budgeting: writing things down.
We often fear that budgeting is going to be difficult because of the sacrifices or having to save or going without….but really? It’s just the tracking that gets us. In fact, writing things down and keeping track of bills and spending is often the most difficult part of budgeting.
For the first few months of budgeting, you might want to walk through it on paper, rather than trying budgeting online or in an app. Paper is easier if you want to get a clear picture of where you are—and it’s the easiest way to get started. Once you’ve been tracking your budget for a few months, you can switch to any online tool or app you like. But to begin, use paper.
Following the tutorial, you’ll write down your income and gather your monthly bills and expenses to add to your list. I’ll help you set a grocery budget (that you can actually live with) and give you tips for meal plans and other ways you can stick to your budget.
We’ll also walk you through your goals, how to save up for things like vacations and fun, ways to make sure all your bills are paid (when they’re due), and how you can negotiate and find better ways to save money.
All of this starts with writing down your budget and beginning to paint a clear financial picture of where you are today, and where you want to be.
Keeping it Realistic
As a newbie working on your budget, it’s easy to get all gung-ho about it and think, “I’m going to budget all the things! I’m going to be a SUPER SAVER!”
While it’s great to have enthusiasm and excitement about your plan, you also want to stay realistic and come up with a plan you can actually live with and achieve.
If you’re married or in a relationship and sharing money, you’ll need to loop your significant other into the conversation and find ways the two of you can coordinate and support each other on the budgeting front. It’s hard to have these sorts of honest conversations sometimes, but it’s even harder to save money when one of you isn’t on board. Is it impossible? No…and a saver and a spender can definitely make it work, but you have to communicate and be realistic.
You and your significant other have to find common goals and remind each other of the big picture. You might be a better saver or feel like you want to be in charge so you know it’ll get done, but in the long term, having an honest conversation and working together will result in more success (and a happier marriage).
When you’re working on finances and your budget with another person, it’s important that you both stay realistic. Even if you think you can give up Starbucks for life, never eat out again and wear the same clothes for the next ten years, your spouse might not feel the same way or be happy that way. Keep things realistic.
Learning & Reassessing
When you’re just starting out as a beginner budgeter, you might be ready for budget basics, but advanced budgeting can seem crazy hard and frustrating. Don’t sweat it. Learn and constantly reassess and apply your new knowledge.
If you were learning a new athletic or artistic skill, you’d have to practice and apply yourself. You’d have to try things and learn and study people who are doing it well. Budgeting is just like that. It’s a life skill and you have to keep learning and growing as you go. It’s not something that just comes naturally.
There are tons of budgeting resources out there, here on Busy Budgeter and elsewhere. It can be hard to tune out the things that don’t apply to you (hint: if they ask you to PAY for budgeting tips OR if it seems way over your head—MOVE ON)…but always keep an eye out for helpful budgeting advice. There are so many great ideas for how you can save, ways you can meet your financial goals, earn money from home, and figure out how to pay off debt.
For now, though, simply start with these budgeting basics and move forward from there. If you follow the plan, you’ll so become a great budgeter and you’ll be able to reach your dreams and feel in charge of your finances…finally! It feels good, I promise. Go for it!