How to Make a Budget: A Guide for People Who Love Living Dangerously

How to Make a Budget

Ah, budgeting. The ancient art of not having to choose between rent and eating out for the third time this week. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there: counting pennies while waiting for the next paycheck, only to blow it on “essentials” like artisanal coffee and avocado toast. But fear not, reckless spenders. Here’s the step-by-step guide you never asked for but secretly needed: How to Make a Budget While Retaining Your Swag.

Step 1: Admit You Have a Problem

Look, no one’s judging you. Ok, maybe your bank account is. But what does it know? It’s just a bunch of numbers. Except those numbers are dwindling faster than your motivation to work out. So, the first step to freedom is admitting you need a budget. Don’t worry, it’s just like AA, but for shopaholics. Say it with me: “My name is [Your Name], and I have a budgeting problem.” Ah, sweet liberation.

Step 2: Get Organized, Sorta

The essence of any budget is knowing how broke you are, precisely. So gather all your financial statements, bills, and that shoebox where you stash your loose change (every penny counts). Then, try to make sense of it. Create a simple spreadsheet or download one of those fancy budgeting apps that promise to save you from financial ruin. Personally, I prefer the classic “Crayon and Napkin” method, but you do you.

Step 3: Income, Schmincome

Obviously, to budget like a pro, you need to know how much money you have coming in. That includes your salary, freelance gigs, and the $20 Grandma sends you every Christmas. Add it up, and please, resist the urge to make it rain. This is a pivotal moment, where you realize just how limited your resources are. Yes, money doesn’t grow on trees, and no, your plant at home doesn’t count.

Step 4: Say Hello to Fixed Costs

Fixed costs are like that friend who insists on ordering the most expensive thing on the menu and then skips out before the bill arrives. Your rent, utility bills, student loans, and Netflix subscription are all fixed costs. They will be there, month after month, waiting to deplete your funds. So subtract these from your income, and behold the small mound of money that remains. It’s like playing a game of Jenga with your life, only the stakes are way higher.

Step 5: The World of Variables

Variable costs are the fun part. They are like jazz for your budget — unpredictable, inconsistent, and can leave you scratching your head. This includes groceries, eating out, entertainment, shopping, and those “Oh my god, I need this” impulse buys. The beauty of variable costs is that you can control them, like a puppet master of your financial destiny. But just like Pinocchio, they can get out of hand if you’re not careful.

Step 6: The Dreaded ‘Wants vs. Needs’ Debate

Now let’s talk about the eternal struggle between what you want and what you actually need. It’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place, if the rock was a new pair of designer shoes and the hard place was your empty fridge. You see, needs are non-negotiables like food, shelter, and health. Wants are those delightful extras like concert tickets, weekend getaways, and that weird kitchen gadget you swear you’ll use more than once. The trick here is to be honest with yourself. Do you need that fifth pair of sneakers? Probably not, unless you’re a centipede.

Step 7: Create an Emergency Fund or ‘Oh Crap’ Stash

“Emergency fund” sounds so dire, doesn’t it? Let’s call it your “Oh Crap” stash, for when life throws you those lovely curveballs like a flat tire or unexpected vet bills. Experts say you should aim to save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses, but let’s be real, any amount is better than zero. Think of it as your financial airbag. You hope you’ll never need it, but you’ll be glad it’s there when you crash and burn.

Step 8: Set Financial Goals or ‘Reasons to Not Spend Money’

If you don’t have a goal, you’re just aimlessly throwing darts at a wall and hoping it sticks. So, set financial goals, whether it’s paying off debt, saving for a vacation, or affording that weekly latte without breaking into a cold sweat. Goals give you something to work towards, sort of like leveling up in a video game, only instead of earning virtual armor, you get the ability to pay your bills. How thrilling.

Step 9: Make Adjustments, but Not the Chiropractic Kind

No budget is set in stone, except for the one carved by your ancestors that reads, “We survived on way less than you, stop complaining.” Your income may increase (hurray!), your fixed costs could change (boo!), or you’ll finally admit that you don’t use that gym membership. Adjust your budget accordingly, and relish the feeling of being an adult. It’s almost as satisfying as folding a fitted sheet correctly on the first try.

Step 10: Stick to It, Seriously

This step is as straightforward as it sounds. Stick. To. Your. Budget. Think of it as a diet for your wallet. Sure, cheat days are tempting, but the long-term benefits of adhering to a budget are too good to pass up. You’ll be less stressed, have more freedom, and might even become a responsible adult. Gasp!

Step 11: Celebrate the Little Wins

You’ve reached the end of the month, and you haven’t been evicted, starved, or had to make an embarrassing call to mom and dad for a quick loan. Bravo! Go ahead and celebrate — but within your budget, of course. Maybe treat yourself to an ice cream or a fancy coffee, you’ve earned it.

And there you have it, folks! A practical guide to budgeting that should set you on a path toward financial mediocrity, if not outright stability. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was probably built on a budget. Now go forth and conquer, you financial gladiator, you.