Budgeting at the start of a new year is a great way to keep your resolutions, and can give you the financial peace of mind you seek. Now is a good time to start planning for the year — especially when it comes to the following unavoidable expenses.
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There is the saying “man cannot live on bread alone,” which can’t be more true — he cannot live without shelter either! Budget your monthly housing expenses early on.
When budgeting, be sure to include rent or mortgage, as well as other home expenses you may want to create some wiggle room for, such as home repairs, new replacements for old appliances, and decor.
Utilities are a top priority because these essential services are vital to maintaining your lifestyle and the comfort level you’re used to.
Utilities you’ll want to consider include electric, water, gas, phone (both landline and mobile), cable, and Internet.
Many people use a car to transport themselves to work, home, and anywhere else they need to be. Others may rely on a public transit system.
Break down your expenses for each month. Your costs should include maintenance if you use a car, a monthly or weekly pass if you use a transit system, and gas.
It can be challenging to guess how much food you’ll need to buy per week (or however often you go food shopping).
However, you can create a log of your eating habits for a few weeks, which will help you map out your own personal eating patterns. Aside from groceries, you’ll want to make some leeway for lunches with coworkers and snacks for work.
5. Leisure and recreation
One of the most popular budgeting methods is the 50-30-20 rule.
According to this method, you’re allowed to spend 30 percent of the money available to you on leisure activities, such as date nights, dining at restaurants, going to bars, watching a play, and the list goes on.
One activity that can be tricky to categorize is shopping — many individuals, particularly women, go shopping with friends as a social activity. You can budget for that expense under this category, or in a group titled personal items or gifting (self-gifting).
If you’re someone who likes going on vacation, assign some of your funds for getaways and excursions.
You may tell yourself at the start of 2014 that you are making a lifestyle change and practicing more self-restraint with money, which is great. However, the most important factor in making a budget is the reality of your habits, so be honest.
Make room in your budget for giving. You may give more than you even realize, because we tend to associate giving with the holidays. However, there are plenty occasions in which you might give, such as birthdays, charity, self-gifting, and special occasions.
You never know when you might come down with a cold or fall ill. If there is any area that you prioritize, medical and health care expenses should be one of them.
Consider the cost of co-pays, prescriptions, doctor visits, and unforeseen medical emergencies and be sure to allocate a portion of your funds to that.
Though it is an expense that no one likes paying for, insurance can save you from enormous financial drains and pitfalls.
Take into account health insurance, home or renters insurance, life insurance, and auto insurance.
10. Savings and debt payments
Using the 50-30-20 rule we mentioned earlier, 20 percent of your cash should be dedicated towards paying off debt and building your savings. Your savings will be what supports you in old age, if you become sick, or get laid off.
Aside from savings, paying down your debt to zero will help you wipe the slate clean and start fresh.
We’ve given you the categories you’ll need to budget for in 2014 — but what else do you need? Here are a few quick tips we have:
- Add up all your debt into one number.
- Make a list of all your income streams, which can include wages, a salary, tips, bonuses, social security, alimony, child support — any money that will be coming your way.
- If you’re organized, you probably have your bills and bank statements stashed away or filed away online. Bring them out to review last year’s numbers, which can help you realistically assign money to categories for this year
Remember, there is no one set way to make a budget. If you’re detailed, you may want to even break down categories into subcategories. Or, you might make separate lists such as “fixed expenses,” “variable expenses,” and “expendable money.”
Come up with a realistic plan for spending this year — it will be much easier to fulfill your goals.
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