Money Problems – Day 4: Making a Budget

Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Briefing (200905070001HQ)

Image by nasa hq photo via Flickr

Today, I continuing the  series, Money Problems: 30 Days to Perfect Finances.   The series will consist of 30 things you can do in one setting to perfect your finances.  It’s not a system to magically make your debt disappear.  Instead, it is a path to understanding where you are, where you want to be, and–most importantly–how to bridge the gap.

I’m not running the series in 30 consecutive days.  That’s not my schedule.  Also, I think that talking about the same thing for 30 days straight will bore both of us.   Instead, it will run roughly once a week.  To make sure you don’t miss a post, please take a moment to subscribe, either by email or rss.

This is day 4 and today, you are going to make a budget.

Now that you’ve got your list of expenses and you’ve figured out your income, it’s time to put them together and do the dreaded deed.  Your going to make a budget today.  Don’t be scared.  I’ll hold your hand.

Here are the tools you need:

  1. Your list of expenses from Day Two.
  2. Your list of income from Day Three.
  3. A spreadsheet.  I recommend the spreadsheet included in Google Docs, but Excel or the Open Office alternative, CALC, are acceptable substitutes.

Setting up the spreadsheet is dead simple.

Create a column for the label, telling you what each line item is.  Create a column to hold the monthly payment amount.   At the bottom of column 2, create a formula that totals your expenses.   If you are including a bill that isn’t due monthly, use a formula similar to the day 3 income formula to figure out what you need to set aside each month.  To figure a quarterly bill, multiply the amount by 4, then divide by 12.  To figure a weekly bill, multiply by 52 and divide by 12.

Scoot over a few columns and do the same thing for your income.

Scoot over a couple more columns and set up a total.  This is easy.  It’s just a matter of subtracting your expenses from you income.  Hopefully, this gives you a positive number.

To make this even easier, I’ve shared a blank budget spreadsheet.  No excuses.  If that simple spreadsheet doesn’t meet your needs, I’ve got a much more detailed version that includes categories.   I use the detailed version.

Making a budget may be the most intimidating financial step you take, but everything else is built on the assumption that you understand where you money came from and where it is going.  Without,it, your navigating a major maze based on a coin flip instead of a map.

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