Budgeting for Beginners
If you’ve never used a budget before – either because you don’t like the idea or because the thought of budgeting scares or intimidates you, consider changing your perspective.
At its most basic, a budget is a tool. It’s a way to take the first step toward organizing and taking control of your finances. How? A budget gives you information to help you make informed decisions. For example, by knowing how much you’re paying in property tax on an annual basis you can begin saving ahead of time so you’re not surprised by a large bill at the end of the year that you may have to finance with debt. Or if you can estimate how much you regularly spend during the holiday season on gifts you can put a little bit aside beforehand so you don’t face a big bill in January.
A budget also provides you with a structure. Having structure – in other words, having your money picture clearly defined - gives you freedom to make choices instead of them being made for you. Creating a budget is a way of taking control – it can help you get a realistic picture of your financial situation and give you the facts you need to begin making the emotional choices associated with money.
But the bottom line is that a budget is just a tool. It can’t make choices for you. It won’t make you automatically self-disciplined about spending and saving. It won’t erase your financial worries overnight. But it can provide you with the information you need to make choices to take control of your financial future. Work your way through our simple, step-by-step budget worksheet; put it into practice; and then transform your bill-paying process by walking through the following sections.