If you know me at all, you know that I am a firm believer in making a monthly budget. What is budgeting? A budget is a spending plan, and a spending plan is exactly what it sounds like: a proactive plan YOU make about how YOU plan to spend YOUR monthly income. To go a step further, I believe zero-based budgeting is the best way to create your monthly spending plan.
How Do You Create A Zero-based Budget?
To create a zero-based monthly budget, you put your take-home pay at the top of the page and then list your saving and spending goals for the month. Next, calculate your take-home pay less your planned spending. If that number is positive, adjust your spending to make it zero; if that number is negative, adjust your spending (or your income) to make it zero. A zero-based budget gives every dollar of your take-home pay a job – in advance – so when you actually get paid, you already have a plan of action for managing your money.
You can find my free monthly budgeting template here. If you want some step-by-step help making your monthly budget, I am hosting a “30 Days to a Budget Challenge” on my Instagram this January. Feel free to jump in anytime! If you want more one-on-one help with your budget, you can submit your monthly budget to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I may give you (anonymous) feedback on it in my weekly Show A Budget series. I also provide one-on-one financial coaching – including creating a budget – and you can sign up for a complimentary financial coaching consultation at profstacy.com.
While all that I have just said is true, a budget (or spending plan) cannot work unless you ALSO track your spending. You can make the best budget in the world, but if you do not track your spending to your budget, the budget is just a list of numbers. Matching your actual expenses to your planned spending is where the magic happens! So how can you track your spending? You can go high-tech with an expense tracker app; you can go low-tech with a pencil and paper, or you can really geek it out with a budgeting Excel template. The “how” doesn’t matter. What matters is that you track your actual spending against your planned spending. That’s where you can see if you are executing to your plan! And, if you are not meeting your plan, you can either make changes to the plan or make changes to your spending. You have the control to change the budget or change your behavior.
I hope that helps you get your money off to a good start in 2023. If you want more help managing your money in 2023, follow my blog and Prof Stacy the Money Teacher on any social media platform you prefer.