When it’s time to start managing your own money (and no, the pocket money your mom gave you is still not your own money, not really), it can be difficult knowing where to start.
I remember trying to manage my money for the first time and it just felt like there was always ‘too much month left after my money’. But once I found out how to actually budget, it became easier and I was actually surprised that I could start saving money at the end of each month.
Let’s take a look at how you can start budgeting like an adult.
Top tips to managing your money like a grown-up
1. List all forms of income
Take an average of how much you bring in each month (or the actual number if it is consistent). Always use the net amount (after-tax) of your income instead of the gross amount (before tax). You need to know exactly how much you have to work with each month.
If your income changes every month, this will be a little more difficult. Use an average amount and keep reviewing and tweaking it each month.
2. List all your fixed and variable expenses
The fixed expenses are the ones that don’t change as each month goes past so this will be your rent, your utilities, your car payment(s), insurance and retirement savings (you should definitely have some form of retirement savings in place), cell phone plan or your WiFi for example. You can also add petrol to this list of expenses (even though it changes) because you know more or less how much you spend on it each month.
Then you have your variable expenses which change month to month, these include entertainment (going to the movies), eating out, clothes shopping, gym memberships, coffee on your way to work. You can list these expenses and the average amounts you think you might spend on them for that particular month.
3. Do the math
Now it’s time to figure out what you’ve got left. Take your income (after tax) and deduct all of your expenses – is there anything left over? How much is left? Is it sufficient?
If the answer is yes, YAY! You now have enough to make it rain… in your savings account.
If your income is not enough to cover your expenses, head back to number 2 and dig deeper into your variable expenses. See what expenses are necessary and which expenses can be taken out.
4. Make saving easy
It was a big shock when I first listed all my expenses. I could see why I was broke before I’d even gotten through my first month on my own. I decided to change my variable expenses and take a few things out. I didn’t cut all the fun out of my life, I just started acting like a sensible adult for a change.
This left me with enough money to save each month. Savings might not sound like a big deal but they always come in handy if you’re ever in a bad month or if you have a trip you’ve always wanted to take.
5. Keep track
Don’t just create a budget and then forget about it. It’s not something that can just be put together and never considered again. Your income and expenses change, so budgets need to be looked at monthly.
It’s easy to keep track of everything using an Exel spreadsheet or online management tools which do most of the work for you (monday.com is a great project management and money management tool!). It’s all about whatever works best for you and what you’re likely to keep referring to.
6. Lessons Learned
Making adult decisions brings responsibilities, especially when it comes to managing money. Not taking these adult responsibilities seriously can mean ending up with a ton of debt and no food on the table (and no Netflix subscription). Each month, you need to take a look at what went wrong and constantly adapt until you’re living comfortably consistently.
Budgeting doesn’t sound fun but once you’ve mastered the art of managing your money, you’ll be so excited about your new budget. Be sure to keep referring to your budget at the end of each month and make sure you’re realistic about your expenses so you don’t keep running out of money each month!