Budgeting 101: 12 Tips to Help You Take Your Budget to the Next Level

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You’ve started budgeting, but maybe you still have questions. While taking the first step toward creating a budget is indeed a very good thing, there are some things that people learn along the way that they wish they’d learned sooner.

We’re here to help! Here are 12 solid tips that will help the budgeting process run even better, and you’ll get the results you’re looking for much faster.

Learn to Budget Ahead

Look ahead by a full month as you start to budget. You’ll need a new budget each and every month and getting that set up ahead of time can help you avoid any financial surprises.

Track All Expenses

No matter how small you might think a particular expense is, it can add up so much more quickly than you expect. That means you even need to include that .50 cent pack of gum. Seriously.

Budget to Zero

Take charge of your money by telling it where to go each month. In other words, you should create a zero-based budget.

You can do that by following these directions:

  • Add all of your sources of income.
  • Type in any fixed expenses, such as rent, mortgage, food, utilities, and transportation.
  • Type in your common monthly expenses, such as entertainment, clothing, and restaurants.
  • Every dollar should be given a name so that every bit of your income is noted.
  • After adding all expenses, put any leftover money toward a financial goal.

Be Honest With Yourself

Take the time to review your spending habits and adjust any that aren’t necessary. Those little purchases can add up to hundreds by the end of a year, so maybe that sock obsession isn’t really worth it in the long run.

Set a Realistic Budget

There is no need to be overly strict with your budget, as long as you can afford it. Learn to make adjustments as needed. Pay attention to how much you’re spending on what, and if you find yourself overspending on a certain category, prune it a little—or prune from another category instead.

What matters is that you’re meeting your goal each and every month. However, you shouldn’t stress yourself out over it.

Save Big Over Time

Speaking of not stressing yourself out, if you have any big purchases in the future – such as a nice, new set of braces for your child – try to plan ahead and set smaller amounts of money aside over time. This also works for holidays like Christmas, when you know you might spend more than usual in a given month.

Setting aside a little money ahead of time can make a big difference.