The Busy Mom’s Budget for Financial Freedom
**Updated: February 5, 2018**
Raise your hand if one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to budget better and save more money. It’s not uncommon for families to vow to spend better in the new year. But how often does that actually happen?
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Why, if so many people plan to change their finances, do so many people make no progress toward financial freedom?
The answer is simple.
If you’re not budgeting effectively and telling your money what to do (instead of it telling you what to do), you are going to struggle to get ahead.
But don’t worry. I ditched resolutions this year. But I picked up goals in exchange. Goals are identifiable and measurable. My goal for this year is to pay all of my bills on time, build my emergency fund, and begin saving to purchase my first home. Big goals, I know. But all achievable with the right planning and tracking.
Which is why I decided to revamp my busy mom’s budget. Because not only am I a busy mom, I’m starting a new job so I’m going to have even less time in my life for tracking and planning.
What is an Effective Budget?
If you’re like me (or how I used to be) you’d sit down with your pay each week and figure out what you absolutely have to pay, what you need to buy, and see what you have left. Chances are, more than a few weeks out of the year you were scrambling to stay afloat, had no money for emergency situations such as car repairs (my car is on its way to the shop as we speak), or even just a fun family day out and about.
You need to wave goodbye to that version of you. You don’t have to live like that anymore. Trust me. We’re on a limited income here too, but there is a way to manage your money so that all, or at least most, situations are covered at all times. Yes, mama, even that new pair of shoes you’ve been eyeballing.
If you’ve never heard of Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps, you should definitely check them out. While you don’t have to follow all 7 of his steps, the first few steps are extremely important to unburying yourself.
I don’t know much about Dave Ramsey, but I think he’s a genius. He broke down the steps necessary to achieve financial freedom. And makes it feel more achievable than it felt before.
What Do I Put in My Budget?
That’s the most important question you’ll have to ask yourself. You’re going to make a couple of lists here that will get you started. Before you can begin to budget effectively, you have to know where your money goes, where you’d like your money to go, and where your money should go.
Right now, what you need to do to get started is make a list of all your bills and subscriptions. These are things like rent/mortgage, insurance, Netflix, etc.
Include their average, if not exact, amounts and their due date.
Second, I want you to make a list of all your monthly necessities. So, this list will include gas for your car, groceries, household items, childcare and so forth.
These won’t be exact amounts obviously, but I want you to round up. If you round down the amount you usually spend, you’re bound to not have enough at least once. So, this is why I round up. Rounding up leaves me breathing room in case I drive a little further than usual one month, host a get-together in my home with snacks, etc.
Lastly, you’re going to make a list of things you’d like to have money for every month. We’re going to call these committed expenses because you want to commit to having money for these items and expenses. So, if you grab a morning cup of coffee when you hit the road in the morning add that in, if you’d like to be able to spend $50 a month on new clothes or shoes add it in, if you want to put so much money into a savings account each month add it.
There’s no guarantee that all of these numbers will add up to be under your monthly income. But there will be room for adjustment. Part of the budgeting process is also to see where you can cut your spending. Do you use that subscription to Hulu as well as the Netflix subscription or are you hardly using one? $10 a month saved is still $10 a month. If you save $10 a month all year, you’ve saved $120. Not a number to snap at, but it’s still money back into your pocket.
Factoring in Your Income
Now that you know where your money should go and where you’d like to see it go, we’re going to have a look at income. If you’re not paid an exact amount each week you’re going to use the minimum income you’ll earn each month. You want to make sure that even on a low month, you’ll be able to have full control of your finances.
Write down all of your income sources each month, but don’t factor in possible income sources. You don’t want to rely on a maybe. Just write down the sources that you are sure of.
Add them up and see where they compare to the expense lists that you just made. If you’re coming up short, see where your expenses can be cut. Do you buy too many coffees on the road each day? Are you spending too much on new clothing each month? Cut where it’s appropriate.
Budgeting Your Income
This is where people give up. They see that they are already living within their means but can’t figure out how to track everything. This probably isn’t intentional either though. You have to be able to monitor and manage all of your bills and expenses to really be able to make a noticeable change.
This change is not easy! I promise that. But it is worth it.
It’s going to take a lot of motivation and self-discipline to stay on top of your planned budget. But I’ll walk you through the steps first so that you’re not all alone here.
Write all of your bills on your monthly calendar. When are they due? While you’re writing these in, circle the paydays so that you know what bills are due in relation to when you get paid.
Using a budget worksheet, like the one included in my Busy Mom’s Budget Binder, write down the income you expect for that pay period along with the bills that are due before your next payday.
This is where a lot of people slip up. Pay all bills that fall on or before your next payday. This ensures that all bills are paid on time and nothing is missed.
If you only want the budget worksheet you can download it here. To get the entire budget binder, click here.
Write in all of your monthly necessities and your other expenses. A tip, when it comes to splitting up your grocery budget, you don’t want to divide by 2 or 4. If you’re paid weekly you don’t want to divide by 4, but instead, divide by 4.33. If you’re paid bi-weekly, you’ll divide by 2.167. This is because there aren’t 4 equal weeks each month. Some months have closer to 5 weeks. You want to evenly divide your grocery budget, so you’re not left with nothing at the end of the month or the beginning of the following month.
Add up off your income. Add up your expenses. Subtract your expenses from your income. Now here’s the tricky part. The excess income should be put into your savings account. This will help you build a buffer or a safety net even further. Or, if you’re paying off debt, add the excess to one of your debt payments. This will help you pay down debt even faster.
Revisit your budget monthly to be sure that you’re spending and saving appropriately. You can always adjust if something isn’t working out for you.
Note: Don’t forget to include in amounts for birthday gifts, holiday gifts, etc. If you plan for these events, you won’t be taking money away from bills or expenses to cover them. I like to budget a month ahead so that I’m a little more prepared. If I know that the next month I have a birthday party to plan, I can cut costs in the coming month to prepare for the added expense.
Final Notes and Tips on Budgeting
I know that a lot of articles will show you a snapshot of someone’s budget or give you a copy of the spreadsheet that they use (with their figures pre-filled) but copying someone else’s budget is not going to be efficient for you.
You want to sit down and thoroughly review your finances, your income, and your expenses so that you have a good idea of where you stand compared to where you’d like to be financially.
When creating your budget, don’t forget to pay yourself. Give yourself a little money each month for fun or to buy yourself items from your wish list. If you aren’t getting at least a little something out of the deal, you aren’t likely to stick with it.
Have any other budgeting tips or tricks? I’d love to hear them. Drop a comment below, let’s see what you’ve got.