Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to Create a Simple Budget

I started using Mint.com in late 2007 ... It was one of those websites that gathered information from your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, credit card accounts, and now even includes car, mortgage, and whatever other assets you own.

SO is it Mint.com safe?  Can one site really be trusted to hold all these personal accounts?  Well to be honest, I'm not sure, but they say that they are, so I'll trust them.  There are hundreds of other resources that you can use to budget, like quicken, MS Money, etc. but I went for the one that's free.  There are similar sites like wesabe.com, ynab.com etc.  But Mint has served our purposes so far. (just be careful giving out sensitive information)

So how do we budget?  Fairly simply... Well, what we have done so far was use Mint.com to analyze the areas we spend the most in and then plan for them.

Find Major Categories
Our biggest areas of expense happens to be:

  • House
  • Giving
  • Food
  • Automobile
  • Utilities
  • Misc/Other

We have a seventh category for savings so you can plan how much you want to save each year.

Plan per month
So that is pretty much all we did for our budget.  We have seven categories and plan for each month how much we want to spend.  For example in 2009 we spent almost 4,000 in car related expense.  We divide this by 12 months and get about $330.  We thought $330 was kinda high, so in 2010 we budgeted $240 per month for auto related expenses. 

Stick to the plan
I think this is the hardest part.  How do you stick to the plan?  There is always unexpected stuff and you cannot predict the future.  My suggestion is if you can do it on your own, then great, if not, find other people to go in with you.  Your community is always there to help you when you can do stuff by yourself, just look at Alcoholics anony, Biggest Loser, and pretty much all those people on Suzy Orman, Dave Ramsey show, people in general are weak in keeping goals... so definitely have people around you to keep you on track... that's what we're doing. 

Simple right?  I think if Congress and everyone in America is able to budget better we'd be out of this deficit thing and start paying down our debt.  So here's my little bit of education for everyone. 

Last tip:
Spend less than you make.

What can a budget do for you?

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