The Basic Budget: How To Start Mastering Money Management

Are you forging through life without an established budget? If so, you’re not alone.

Gallup recently found more than two-thirds of Americans go without a detailed, monthly, written, or computerized household budget that tracks their income and expenses.

The word “budget” doesn’t always come with warm connotations, but it nevertheless can be a very positive force in your life. In essence, it brings peace of mind - letting you stay in control of your financial priorities.  Further, putting a plan in place is not that difficult.

The basic steps in creating a budget:


  1. Determine your monthly income after taxes. In addition to job income, sources might include child support, scholarships, unemployment, and dividends and/or returns from investments.
  2. Compile your monthly expenses such as rent, utility bills, car payments, other transportation expenses, student loan and other loan payments, food, gifts, healthcare, car repairs, home maintenance/repairs, grooming products, fitness memberships, and entertainment/travel fees. Subtract the total from your income.
  3. The money left over will dictate how much you can spend in other categories, save, set aside for emergencies, donate, or further invest.
  4. To avoid debt, any amount you’re short will need to be addressed by either cutting your expenses or increasing your income. Most people start by reducing spending in discretionary categories like entertainment, gifts, and/or travel.

One more note: If you’re a college student, you’re likely in a unique and challenging situation that requires balancing time for work, classes, and study while simultaneously trying to fund tuition, room and board, books, entertainment, and personal needs. Being like the 64% of students who follow a budget is highly advisable since carefully managing your money can be a hedge against the debt that's problematic for so many students.

The average college grad in the U.S. holds more than $24,000 in debt upon graduation, while 10% of U.S. students who borrow are indebted by more than $50,000, according to a report earlier this year.

For people of any age or circumstance, having a personal budget in place can save time, worry, and indecision. Consider setting up a basic plan now so you can better control your own financial destiny.

Tags: Budgeting