So you want to get your finances together but you’d not sure about which budgeting process to follow? Say no more: I got you. In this article I’ll be diving into the wonderful world of personal finance – specifically, the art of budgeting. If you’ve ever felt like your money mysteriously disappears, leaving you scratching your head at the end of the month, fret not! A well-crafted budget can be your trusty compass, guiding you towards financial success and peace of mind. Join us as we explore the 8 steps of a budgeting process that will help you take charge of your financial journey.

Budgeting Process Best Practices

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty, let’s lay down some groundwork. Budgeting, in its essence, is not about not spending. Rather, it’s about aligning your spending with your financial goals. To set the stage for an effective budgeting process, consider these best practices:

  • Set clear goals: know what you’re aiming for – whether it’s building an emergency fund, paying off debts, or saving for that dream vacation. If you’re just starting out, start small: for example, a great first goal for anyone starting out is to save £1,000 for an emergency fund.
  • Be Realistic: while it’s great to aspire, your budget should reflect your actual income and expenses. Overestimating or underestimating can lead to frustration. Don’t aim to save £10,000 in a year if, realistically, all you can save is £150 per month.
  • Track everything: keep tabs on every single expense. Those daily coffee runs and spontaneous shopping sprees add up, often more than you’d expect. Make it a habit to track your actual expenditure regularly to keep on top of where you money goes.
  • Regular reviews: a budget isn’t carved in stone. Life changes, and so should your budget. Regularly review and adjust your plan to accommodate shifts in income, expenses, and goals.

What Makes an Effective Budgeting Process

An effective budgeting process goes beyond the mere act of crunching numbers; it’s a holistic journey that weaves together the threads of financial mindfulness and responsibility. Like a compass guiding a ship through uncharted waters, this process steers you toward a profound understanding of the intricate paths your money takes. It empowers you to make decisions that are not just financially informed but also deeply aligned with your aspirations. 

Imagine it as a roadmap, each line representing a conscious step towards your dreams – a new car, a debt-free existence, a comfortable retirement. With each expenditure accounted for and every financial goal strategically pursued, this journey becomes a tapestry of empowerment and fulfillment. By embracing this approach, you’re not just budgeting; you’re carving a well-lit path through the vast landscape of your financial possibilities.

8 Steps of the Budgeting Process

1) Determine Your Income

Picture this: you’re about to embark on a journey, and the first thing you need to know is how much fuel you have. Similarly, your financial journey begins with knowing your income – the fuel that propels your budgeting process. Calculate your monthly income meticulously by considering all sources, not just your nine-to-five job. Include income from side gigs, freelancing, rental properties, birthday gifts, interest, and any other revenue streams. 

The key is to have a complete and accurate picture of the money coming in. This information forms the foundation of your budget, allowing you to set realistic goals and allocate funds appropriately.

Income budgeting process

2) List Your Expenses

Just as a skilled architect plans every detail of a building, you need to construct a comprehensive list of your monthly expenses. To ensure no expense goes unnoticed, categorise them thoughtfully.

Start with Fixed Expenses: these are the ones that don’t change month on month, and are paid out usually on the same day every month. A few examples: rent or mortgage payments, phone and internet bills, subscriptions, and insurance payments.

Fixed expenses budgeting process

Then, list your Variable Expenses by dividing them into categories (I suggest not creating more than 6 or 7 categories to keep it simple. For example, the categories I use for my variable expenses are: Groceries, Transportation, Household and other items, Dog, Fun Money, Health, and Eating Out. The aim here is to capture every penny spent, giving you an unfiltered view of where your money goes. 

variable expenses budgeting process

This step is crucial in understanding your spending habits and making informed decisions about your financial priorities.

3) Set Priorities

Imagine you’re organising your to-do list for the day – there are tasks that need your immediate attention and others that can wait. Similarly, in your budgeting process, setting priorities is vital.

Start by budgeting your essential expenditure first: health, transportation and groceries, for example, should take precedence and should be met without fail. 

Next, consider your savings goals – whether it’s building an emergency fund, paying off debts, or saving for a future purchase. Set a monthly savings goal, which is the amount that should be left over after your fixed and variable expenses are spent.

Finally, allocate funds for all the other categories you selected. By assigning priority levels, you ensure that your money is channeled towards what truly matters to you.

4) Create a Spending Plan

Think of your budget as a roadmap, guiding you towards financial success. With your priorities in mind, it’s time to create a spending plan that aligns with your goals. 

Allocate a specific amount to each variable expense category based on your income. Be realistic and considerate while allotting funds. Remember, a budget isn’t about restriction; it’s about making intentional choices. 

Distribute your resources in a way that enables you to cover essentials, save for the future, and indulge in life’s pleasures. This is your chance to visualise the balance between responsible spending and personal enjoyment.

5) Monitor Closely

A diligent gardener tends to their plants regularly to ensure they flourish. Similarly, keep a watchful eye on your spending throughout the month. 

Regularly review your transactions to gauge your progress. There are various tools and apps available to help you track expenses effortlessly. Monitoring your spending serves two purposes: it keeps you accountable and allows you to identify any deviations from your spending plan. 

Actual transactions budgeting process

Monthly performance review budgeting process

If you notice a category is overspending, you can make adjustments before things get out of hand, ensuring you stay on track towards your financial goals.

6) Adjust as Necessary

Life has a way of surprising us – from unexpected car repairs to last-minute get-togethers. This is where the flexibility of your budget comes into play. If an unforeseen expense crops up, don’t fret. Your budgeting process should be adaptable enough to accommodate such situations. 

When faced with an unexpected cost, reassess your budget. Determine if you can shuffle funds from discretionary spending or if you need to temporarily adjust your savings goals. The key is to maintain a balance between staying on track and being prepared for life’s curveballs. As long as what you’re doing is intentional and thought through, you are on the right track.

7) Save, Save, Save

In the orchestra of personal finance, saving takes on the role of the conductor – it sets the tone for financial harmony. 

One of the cardinal rules of personal finance is to ‘pay yourself first.’ As you set aside a portion of your income for savings and investments, immediately transfer them over to a separate account and away from your current one. This prevents you from overspending, as the current bank account will already be net of your savings. It also helps you build a safety net for emergencies and empowers you to work towards long-term goals. 

Actual budget split budgeting process

Saving early and consistently lays the foundation for financial security and growth.

8) Review and Reflect

As each month draws to a close, take a moment to reflect on your budgeting journey. Review how well you stuck to your budget and assess your financial achievements. Celebrate the wins – whether it’s meeting a savings goal or successfully curbing unnecessary spending. Equally important, learn from any slip-ups. If you overspent in a category, understand the reasons behind it and identify strategies to avoid similar situations in the future. This process of reviewing and reflecting fine-tunes your budgeting skills, ensuring you continuously improve your financial habits.

Variable expenses split budgeting process

Conclusion on budgeting process steps

And there you have it – a comprehensive guide to the 8-step budgeting process! Remember, budgeting isn’t about restriction; it’s about empowering yourself to achieve your financial goals while enjoying life to the fullest. So go ahead, give these steps a try, and witness the transformation in your financial well-being. Happy budgeting!

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About the author : Susie Italiano

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