Creating a spending plan, also sometimes known as a budget, can be a very important tool for getting a handle on your finances no matter where you are in life. In my last Young and Thrifty post, we briefly touched on budgeting as a way to encourage saving habits. Today, I want to look more closely at 3 different types of spending plans. Maybe you’ll find one that works for you! But first, the budgeting basics:
Analyze Your Expenses
The first step to creating almost any spending plan is to analyze your expenses. Figure out what your fixed expenses are, like rent or mortgage payments, transportation costs, food, etc. These types of expenses are things you really need that tend to cost the same amount every month. After you’ve confirmed what your fixed expenses are, you can analyze the rest of your spending habits and determine which of your expenses are flexible, and not as necessary as your fixed necessities.
Once you’ve evaluated your finances in this way, you can start to take charge of your spending using various strategies.
The most common budgeting strategy is to divide your expenses into specific categories and assigning designated not to exceed amounts for each category. For example: “Food, $200/month, gas, $150/month, etc.” Doing this can help you establish your monthly living expenses and also help you understand how much you spend on each category. If you wish to cut down on your spending in a particular area, this may be a useful strategy for you.
Set Amount for Flexible Expenses
Another strategy that is helpful when you’re really focused on saving is setting aside a set amount of money for all expenses that lie outside of your fixed necessities. When my oldest daughter was setting a budget while saving for her road trip, she set aside $100 a month for all expenses that weren’t fixed necessities. This might be tight for some, but setting an amount in this way is a very simple budgeting tactic that can encourage you to make your spending more intentional.
A third tactic that can help you create a spending plan you’ll stick to is to set aside rewards for yourself. For example, if you have $500 to spend on a certain monthly expense, and you manage to only use $480, you can use that extra $20 to reward yourself. This can be applied to your overall monthly expenses or within certain categories. One of my daughters has found this strategy very motivating and usually ends up using her reward money on ice cream.
There are two digital resources I can recommend for anyone looking to create a spending plan. Mint and You Need A Budget are both digital budgeting software systems that will help you set up and track your monthly budget. From my personal experience, I enjoy Mint, and my family uses their free version. Amber Dugger really appreciates YNAB and uses it with her clients.
Though this article mentions only a few strategies, budgeting and spending plans can be as simple or complex as you need them to be. I encourage you to do more research if you’re interested. I recommend this article from Practical Money Skills and this podcast from Jen Hemphill as two helpful resources. In a later post, I will be putting together a list of some of my favorite resources for financial self-education.
I hope you find these spending strategies useful. Stay thrifty!
Images:Camille Orgel, Unknown