How to Build a Simple Budget: 3 Tips and Free Template

I get it!  Budgets and the process of making them can be more than most of us want to think about.  Nothing about the word budget excites us and if we’re honest, it makes us think not of freedom, but control of what we can do with our money.  What if a budget equaled freedom though?  Have you ever overspent and missed out on a really special night with friends, or worse, a bill payment?  Have you ever bought something and had buyer’s remorse because you are no longer sure if you should have spent the money?  Ever dream of buying something, but never seem to have enough money to purchase it?  Then this blog might be for you.  Here are three simple steps to making and following a budget.

Pick a Layout

This may sound like a given, but the first step is really simple.  Pick a budget layout that catches your eye and looks good to you.  Do a search online and you will find many templates for budgeting that will allow you to plug in your information and go.  Personally, I use a template from Apple Pages.  My mom still writes everything down in a spiral notebook like she has the past 20+ years.  Don’t take too much time on this step, just find a method that works for you and run with it.

Writing out your Expenses

This next step is important and the meat and potatoes of the whole process: What you spend and why.  Before you begin, grab a notepad and pen and login to your online bank statement.  What are your recurring expenses each month?  These could be things like tithing, rent, utilities, cell phone bill, video streaming services, coffee shops, etc.  Whatever it is, write it down and what the expense is.  If it changes month to month, write down an average.  Once you’ve written everything down it is important to highlight necessary expenses.  For example, your tithe, rent, and monthly phone bill (if you’re in a contract).  It’s good to know what you HAVE to spend on each month and what is OPTIONAL…like your daily coffee run.  Sorry, caffeine addicts!

Now, how much are you paid each month?  For some of us that may fluctuate if we’re not on a salary.  That’s okay, just make sure you’re conservative and average out your total over the past three months of paychecks/deposits.  Ready to write it out?  Below I have provided an example for you to follow.

Monthly Income: $2,000

Tithe: $200

Housing: $650

Utilities: $100

Car Insurance: $75

Cell Phone: $75

Gas: $100

Groceries: $200

Total: $1,400

The great news is that according to the necessary expenses of each month, this budget still allows $600 a month for other expenses.  As a tip, I would suggest saving at least 5-10% (remember that thing you’ve always wanted that you can never afford or that flat tire you had to put on the credit card?)  The fun part is “giving a name” to the remaining money.  Maybe $10 for Netflix?  Maybe $50 a month for coffee runs?  It’s up to you.  Remember though, everything we have is from the Lord and it is important to submit our finances to him.  It would be wise to pray and ask the Lord how he would have you budget your money.  One thing I know is this, when you have covered your budget in prayer and given every dollar a name, buyer’s remorse goes away.  You can’t feel guilty for buying a mocha when you know it’s a budgeted item and not an impulse buy.

Stick to it!

The last, but most crucial part to a budget is just to stick to it.  It amazes me how many people spend the time making a budget and then forget to fill it out every month.  Easy trick, you make a purchase, you write it down and subtract it from your budget.  Don’t wait until you have a pile of receipts and then lose the motivation to enter them all in.  If you have $50 for coffee, don’t spend $52.  Don’t compromise.  It’s better to be $2 under budget than $2 over.  Stick to your budget and you’ll find freedom in paying things on time, putting money in the bank, and spending freely.  If you don’t have a $2,000 a month budget don’t panic, the same easy steps can be applied to any budget and situation.  You just make it serve you.

Rob pays close attention to detail and is fond of exhorting others with analogies from mountain climbing or his military training. As a father and husband, he is humble and always tries his best to lead his family to lean on God’s strength. If you know him, you know that he has walked (and is currently walking) through tough seasons. Yet, he always finds reasons to be joyful.

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