How To Make A Budget

Making a monthly budget is one of the best strategies to help you get your financial house in order. A budget will also help you better manage your finances, and then find areas to reduce spending.

Let’s start with how to make a budget.

Step 1: Create a new spreadsheet with columns for the next 12 months

Step 2: Start by including your income.

You should include all sources of income, including your salary, bonuses, commissions, or other earned sources of income. Income may also include investment income, dividends, cash gifts and any other source of money inflows. Your salary may be paid every 2 weeks, but your bonus may be paid annually. Be sure to list the income in the month it is received so you can best approximate the timing of your cash flow.

Step 3: Write down each and every expense category in your life today.

Your first expense can be student loans. Then, it may be helpful to categorize as follows. You can add, subtract or modify these categories as you see fit. This is a general construct.

  • Rent / Mortgage
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Restaurants
  • Drinks
  • Morning coffees
  • Travel
  • Shopping
  • Hobbies
  • Other

Step 4: Sum all your income. Sum all your expenses. Subtract Income less expenses.

Step 5: The difference represents how much cash is left over at the end of the month.

Now, let’s work to make this number as high as possible.

Step 6: Take action.

Now that you are staring at your financial self and can clearly articulate and see your income and expenses, it is time to create more money for yourself.

There are two ways to make more money: (1) you can earn it; or (2) you can cut costs. You can also win the lottery, strike gold, or inherit grandma’s oil fortune. But, let’s put those aside for you.

Now, where can you cut your budget and find more money to apply toward your student loans? We bet there are thousands of dollars in a given year that you can extract from your life and apply toward your student loan.

Step 7: Evaluate each category and break it down to its component parts.


Lemonade Tip: As you evaluate each category, think about why each number is so high.


Let’s break down each category.

Rent / Mortgage

  • Can you downsize your current apartment or home?
  • Can you move in with a roommate to save costs?
  • Can you refinance your mortgage?

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