Most of us look at setting up a budget as a daunting task. It does take some time and effort, but it can be a tool that helps you to gain control over your finances and focus where you need to focus.
I am frequently asked, “What should I include in my budget?” There are as many answers to this as there are people who have/want a budget. You can be as detailed or as vague as you wish. You should let your particular needs determine just how much detail you want.
For some it is necessary to go almost to the penny on their budget so they can find out exactly where every penny went. For others, they just need a general idea as to what they are spending and where. Normally, the less money you have, the more detail you need so that you are not surprised by something that can throw your entire budget into a financial mess.
Those who have substantial amounts of money may not need to know how much they spent on movies during the month because it really doesn’t put a dent in their budget.
There are certain things that should be in every budget:
House Payment or Rent
If you don’t need any more detail than that, good for you. If you always run out of month before you run out of money – great!
Most of us will have to add several other categories in order to keep track of where our money is going. Here are several suggestions for other categories:
Clothing, Car Payment, Gas, Furniture, Tuition, Medical, Dental, Appliances, Tools, Tires, Carpet, Magazines, Vacation, Emergency, Eating Out, Insurance, Dry Cleaning, Taxes, House Paint, New Roof, Emergency Fund, Glasses, New TV, etc.
As you can see, you can get quite detailed. One of the best ways to determine the items for your budget is to look at your expenditures for the last 12 months. If you can’t find the info for that, then do six months. Try at least to do three months.
Look at bank statements, receipts, notes, etc. to determine what you spent your money on. Make a list of every transaction and what it was for. If you went to a movie, list it and create a category for entertainment. If you bought groceries, list it and put it in the food category. If you are saving for a new car, put that amount in the car category, etc. Once you have looked at all of the expenses for the last year (or six months or three months), you will start to have an idea of what you are really spending. Most people are stunned to see exactly what they really spent and what they spent it on.