Is staying on top of your finances a struggle for you? Perhaps you don’t even know how to write a monthly budget and your get overwhelmed when you think about tracking your monthly expenses? Don’t worry, because today you are going to learn a super easy method to create a personal budget for the month!
In case you didn’t already know I am a planning geek, and that, my friend, includes planning my finances too. I was never too bad at money management; even when I received some pocket money as a child, I always made sure I saved some instead of spending it all in one go. I still remember the satisfaction when, at 10 years old, I was able to buy myself my first Ninento DS with my own money, it just felt so good! So I’ve always tried as much as I could to be careful and make wise choices, but I wasn’t always successful (uhm, hello never used gym membership, magazine subscriptions, and excessively priced nights out!), and I did it more in a random way rather than following a plan. However, when I became more clear about the life I wanted to create, I had to write my own financial plan and learn how to create a budget.
I’d say I started being a lot more conscious of my money when I was an au pair. I was living with my host family, they paid me pocket money and I had free food and accommodation. However, I still had to pay for my Oyster card (London people will know the amount of money spent on public transport), my phone bill, and any other expenses, and since au pairs’ wages are pretty low, you can understand that wasn’t enough money to live on, which is why I started looking for side hustles.
Once I got a few extra coins coming in, I started saving as little as 20£ a week, and although it wasn’t a lot, it was a start, and it helped me become more responsible and disciplined. After that, when I started university and started renting in London, my expenses grew, but so did my income (I then started working as a live-out nanny with a beautiful hourly pay, you can read more about my story here), so I started living my best life (not so wisely).
I had a few episodes where my bank account showed a negative balance and I had to pay back an interest to my bank, I had times where I walked to/from work because I didn’t have money for a bus, and at some point, I just decided I was tired of that and it was time to get serious.
I read a lot of books, listened to podcasts, watched webinars, and most importantly I sat down and wrote a budget. Once I did that, I was able to see it and stick to it (occasionally I made some bad choices but I quickly got back up). In 2019, I was able to save £ 5k, being in full-time education and working many hours (though not full time) as a nanny. It might not be a lot for somebody, but for me, it was an achievement to be really proud of! For the sake of transparency, I will say that I’ve been blessed to have my dad help me with the rent because otherwise, I would have never been able to go to university and to afford to live in London with no benefits or student loans. If you think about it then, my situation is not so different from someone that lives at home with their parents and has no rent (and perhaps no other bills) to pay for, and though my dad has been able to help me with the rent, I’ve always worked really hard and paid in full for all other expenses.
What I’m trying to say is that even though our situations might be different, if you create a budget tailored to your circumstances and stick to it, you will be able to achieve your goals and be on track with your finances. So I’m going to take you through the steps I used to create my budget, and don’t forget to download my FREE printable with a monthly budget spreadsheet. Now, let’s dive in!
*Please note that I’m not a financial advisor and this is just my personal experience and self-taught knowledge.*
How to create a monthly personal budget as a beginner – and stick to it!
1. CALCULATE YOUR INCOME
First and foremost, you need to know how much money you make per month. Include ALL of it, your paycheck from your full-time job, any side hustles, any money someone sends you monthly, any extra income (and don’t forget to tailor it each month if things change). This is the first and essential step to start writing your budget.
2. DETERMINE YOUR EXPENSES
Now, this is the tricky part where you have to check all the money that goes out of your bank account, your direct debits, the cheeky takeaway, your groceries, transports, and anything else. For the sake of organization, I write two separate columns: one will have the regular expenses (e.g. rent, transportation, bills, food shop, phone bill, etc.), and the other one is related to each specific month (any online shopping, gifts, unplanned medical expenses, etc).
3. DEFINE A MONTHLY SAVING GOAL
According to the balance between your income and your expenses, you will see how much money you have left, and that’s when you should determine how much money you can and are willing to save each month. After that, my advice is that you create a monthly standing order so whenever you get paid, that amount goes right into your savings account and you don’t have to worry about doing it manually (or be tempted to skip it or save less). It is possible to save money while on a budget, and if you want more tips about that, you can check out my post where I share some advice on how to set and achieve your financial goals.
4. HAVE A MONTHLY ‘FUN ALLOWANCE’
Although I’m big for saving and being disciplined, I also know that just as for any other area of our life, we need to be rewarded for our achievements and it’s important to treat ourselves. Please understand I am IN NO WAY encouraging you to live above your means, if you can’t afford something, just don’t do it. What I’m saying is that it’s also (in my opinion) not healthy to live a life of deprivation, so unless you have a big debt to pay off or any other commitment that requires a lot of your finances, then I believe it’s okay to treat yourself sometimes. It can be as simple as a pizza night, or a new lipstick, or a book. Whatever feels like a treat for you, just go ahead and do it. My recommendation is that you set a max amount that you will spend on a month, and once that is done, it’s done.
5. SAVE FOR YOUR DREAM HOLIDAY (OR OTHER SIMILAR THINGS YOU WANT TO DO)
Finally, if you love traveling as I do, you may desire to go on a holiday every year or so, and I can tell you it’s totally possible. I plan my trips A LOT in advance to get the best deals and be organized (strange of me, right?), but also because that way, if I know the costs I will be facing, I will set smaller saving goals instead of paying everything at once and then live off toast and eggs for 6 months. So as soon as I decide I want to travel somewhere, I set up a separate savings account and start saving a little each month. Once I know exactly how much tickets+accomodation will cost, then I make a specific goal to hit every month, and then everything else I save is for my time there. I’m definitely going to be writing a post about how I plan my holidays so keep an eye out for it (in fact, it’s already planned in my content bank – check out my blog post on how I create my content plan to be as productive and consistent as possible).
Related budgeting articles
Summary of how to create a budget for the month in 5 steps
I know this was a long-ish post but it’s what I wanted to say to help you get your finances in order and being able to achieve your financial and life goals. I hope you found this useful and don’t forget to download my free budgeting spreadsheet here!