I see making a budget as a way of making sure the things I needed covering were covered with how much or how little I was bringing in. I actually never saw it as a hard and fast rule, but “more of a guideline,” as Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean put it.
So I was really surprised to find that so many of my friends are vehemently against them, that they hinder spontaneity and limit flexibility. I feel just the opposite. How can you be flexible without knowing what you have to play with?
But then again I am a bit of a control freak. C’est la vie
Example: A Basic Budget
I have tried some online apps to do this, but have yet to find one I like. So I am still just plugging along with Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software which is what I’ve been using since I first left home.
Start by listing all items you can think of that you pay for every month in column A. Brainstorm monthly, semi-monthly, and annual dues as well. Don’t spend a lot of time on this at the moment.
When you are finished, you may want to move items around in the list to place like items with like items, then skip to column E, title it ‘Net Amount.’ Go down the list and write the approximate payments you make per increment.
In this example life insurance is $41.28 per quarter, water is $60 every two months. If you know the actual payment, put that in but it’s nothing to interrupt yourself to correct it when you find more information.
Go back and title column B ‘Frequency,’ write the frequency of payment. In the examples, I’d say quarterly and monthly, but you might find that confusing because bimonthly means both twice per month and every other month. As you can see, I listed both in separate columns. (I told you, ‘control freak’!)
So let’s stick with digits so we can use that in our equations: how many times a year are you required to pay? Below, savings comes out of every paycheck, so it is 13 and water is every two months so it is 6. If you want, add another column after that (but before Net Amount) for the multiplication sign, and another for the “divided by 12” instruction.*
Then title the next column ‘Net Monthly’, you will write a calculation multiplying the net amount by frequency and dividing into twelve to get a monthly amount. For water, it looks like this =C18*E18/12, where c18 is 6 (times a year) and e18 is $60 (the amount due each time I pay) divided by 12 (months).
For the last column, ‘Net Annually,’ I use =G18*12, which is the amount I just calculated multiplied (again) by 12 for the year
*These notations are just for show. In Excel, which is spreadsheet software, you will need to preface actual commands with the equal sign. But if you want to show an actual equal sign you will need to enclose it in quotation marks like this: =”=”
You can see the actual formulas by pressing CTRL + ` (grave accent — on my keyboard it is to the left of the “1”). Hit it again to return to the standard view.