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How to Create a Budget in 5 Steps

March 29, 2022

So why are budgets so important, anyway? Simply put, budgets help us keep our financial lives flowing. By tracking our spending and saving, we can set ourselves up for a more stress-free financial lifestyle where we can pay bills on time, build an emergency fund, and save for major expenses. So whether you use Columbia Credit Union’s great free budgeting app within Online Banking, or make your own from scratch, let’s look at how to create a budget in 5 steps.

How to create a successful budget:

  1. Calculate your income. The first step in starting a budget is finding out how much money you make in a month. Calculate your net income, which is your final, after-tax take-home pay. You should include your full-time job and any other income sources, like income from rental properties or dividends. 
  2. List your spending and expenses. Begin by listing all of your fixed expenses, such as mortgage or rent, car payments and student loan payments. These are expenses that stay the same each month. Then, list your variable expenses, such as dining, entertainment, travel, groceries and other expenses that vary from month to month. Finally, add in other expenses, such as taxes and insurance, which may be billed annually, semi-annually or quarterly.
  3. Set and fund your goals. Setting your goals will determine your success in planning and keeping a budget. You should make a list of both short- and long-term financial goals you want to accomplish. Short-term goals, like saving up for a vacation, should take a year or less. Long-term goals, such as saving for retirement or your child’s college education, are goals that will take years to accomplish.
  4. Create your budget. Using whatever system works for you (our Online Banking tool, another app or website, envelope system, excel spreadsheet, paper budget), create a budget. Find areas where you can cut back and find areas where you can fund your short term and long term goals.
  5. Review and track your progress. It is important for you to track your progress and review your budget frequently. Your budget will likely change over time depending on your salary and financial goals. 

Following the steps above to become a budgeting pro will help your financial life flow a little bit easier, reduce some money-related stress, and set you up for future success.

Want some free one-on-one help? Schedule an appointment with a Columbia Credit Union Certified Financial Coach here.