Step one: locate your spouse. Methods include yelling their name, calling their cell phone, ringing the cattle bell for dinner (be ready for their disappointment when there is no food), or gently tugging on their shirt to get their full attention.
Step two: locate two chairs, or other sitting devices that comply with two people, such as a couch or bench. These can be found grouped around tables, in living rooms, or outside with canvas backs and cup holders. Where you find a sitting device and what it is doesn’t really matter, just make sure it’s one that you can stay in for a while but isn’t so comfortable that you will fall asleep.
Step three: Lower your rear and bend your knees over the sitting device until it is holding you up. Your legs will be baring no weight and your knees will be at a roughly ninety-degree angle. Instruct your spouse to do the same, either next to you, in front of you or on another sitting device close by.
Step four: Now that you are sitting, BEAT OUT THAT BUDGET. This calls for an entirely new list of steps that are much more complicated and less fun. Be calm and do not fight if you can help it. No good ever came out of two people arguing about money while sitting simultaneously in chairs facing each other. Fighting usually leads to standing which usually leads to walking which is the opposite of writing a budget.
The unfortunate truth about writing budgets is that it is an activity that is interesting and/ or fun to very few people, but it is also an activity that has to be done to be fiscally responsible. When you and your partner decide that you have- or want- to sit down and write a budget for yourself, you must come to terms with the fact that it’s not going to be all that fun (although you can make it fun if you try) and that you will most likely start to pull your hair out.
Before you even begin to think about money or numbers, allot a manageable amount of time to household budgeting, and stick to your schedule. If you want to get everything done at once, set an amount of time that you can work hard for and when that’s done, take a break and do something you like for at least fifteen minutes before going back. So, budget like it’s your job (because it really kind of is) for forty-five minutes, then take a fifteen-minute break. If you have more time, budget for thirty minutes every night for a week or so. Whatever your schedule is, make sure you work hard for the entire time you’ve allotted yourself. Be extremely productive when you’re working and do something you really enjoy doing when you’re not. Things get done surprisingly well when balance is used. If you are new to budgeting, check out our advice on how to budget for beginners.
When you have your schedule planned out and you are ready to begin with the actual budget writing, look carefully at your income versus outcome for every month you have records or for which you can obtain records. Are you in debt? Are you making money to save? Maybe you are just breaking even. Whatever the case may be, you must know the actual factual numbers of what you make and what you spend each month before you can effectively budget.
Next, determine your priorities. What do you absolutely need to spend money on every month? Bills will (probably, hopefully) be the first thing on your list followed by groceries and other necessary living expenses (shampoo? Toilet paper? Don’t forget about the little things.) Keep track of receipts or look at your bank account if you use a debit/credit card and get spending statements and calculate how much these things cost. Then, make sure that at least that much money (and probably a little extra for cushioning just in case) goes into your checking account each month.
A side note; once you know your spending and have determined your priorities, you will most likely be able to find ways to save on everyday items. Maybe you find that you can buy generic brands, or that you end up throwing away a lot of food because it goes bad before you have time to eat it. Who knows what you may find; there is probably some way to cut down on your monthly spending, which is why making a budget isn’t just a one-time deal. It’s a constant, usually monthly, task to review and plan for the next month.
After the necessities are accounted for, if you have extra income, make some financial goals. Maybe you would like to pay off your house or car in five years, or you want to take a vacation at the end of the year. Even if you just want to get out of debt and start saving for a ‘rainy day,’ you must discuss these goals and write them into your budget. Having them be even as tangible as written down makes them a lot easier to stick to long term.
Next, go to the bank, or call the bank, or find your bank on the Internet. Use all the cool bank things that your bank does to your advantage. Separate your checking and savings account so your savings account is high interest. Get a debit/atm card and get rid of your credit cards. Open a ‘rainy day’ account if you want. Have your paychecks directly deposited to your bank and in your accounts in the correct amounts. Once you have all of this set up, the rest of your budget is a breeze given the fact most banks have budgetary systems in place specifically for you!
The final step is to launch your budget. Once you have figured out where all your money is going, stick to your spending plan. If you don’t over spend, you will start to see your goals take shape as you save money.