When making a budget, it can be extremely overwhelming on where to start. Many people are not aware of what reasonable amounts of money are for each category. Even more don’t realize that in most cases, consumable spending practices can be altered on any schedule or budget to fit the budget. So, here are some suggestions to help you develop your budget:
1. The Grocery Rule
My grocery rule is that you should be spending no more than $25 per family member per week. If you can do less than that, great! But, unless there are severe allergies or medical conditions, stick to at most $25 per person per week. In order to stay within this budget, you might need to consider less convenience foods. For example, switch out your canned beans for dried ones and make them in your slow cooker while you are doing other things. Convenience costs money and often times it doesn’t take much work, time, or skill to make the item yourself.
2. The Savings Rule
Take at least 10% of your income and set it aside for savings before you even start the rest of your budget. Removing the money first makes saving a priority. You also can then adjust the rest of your budget to accommodate the “decrease” in income. Savings are for emergencies. It is always good to have some money in your account for the unexpected.
3. The Annual Expenses Rule
If you have expenses that come up that only happen once or twice a year, such as auto insurance, set a monthly section aside every month. Having big payments that you don’t save for can be detrimental not just to your bank, but to your emotional wellbeing. Even though the expense was planned, many people wait for that month and then scramble on the other sections of their budgets. What happens if more than one of these big expenses fall in the same month?
4. The Aim High Rule
It is always better when budgeting to set too much money for different categories, such as gas, than too little. Until you have tracked your spending for years, the variable spending categories can be very different than what you expect. It is smarter to aim above what you expect to spend and have money left over at the end of the month than find yourself scrambling because you didn’t plan well enough.
5. The Housing Rule
For most people, your housing should not cost you more than 1/3 of your monthly income. If it does, consider moving to a less expensive apartment or house. You can also consider taking on a roommate to offset some of the cost. I’ve seen some bloggers’ stories of renting out their big houses to other families and finding a smaller house or apartment for rent nearby. The most fatal thing for budgeting is living above your means.
What are your rules for budgeting? Do you have any suggestions for other readers?