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What is the best way to keep a budget?

I will soon be living on my own and I will have to do all of my own shopping. I need advice on how to keep to a budget and the best ways to find low prices. #budgeting

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Michael’s Answer

Hi Kennedee,

Certainly a question that everyone deals with at some point. My best piece of advice is to first come up with a monthly budget. Take what your monthly income will be and weigh that against your expenses (rent, utilities, gas, shopping, clothing, fun) and put those individual items in an Excel spreadsheet. This is called "bucketing" your expenses and will help you mitigate the variable costs (gas, groceries) with the fixed costs (rent). Keeping things in an Excel spreadsheet lets you visualize it monthly as well as provides tangible limitations to what you can and cannot spend.

For example, say you make Net (after-tax) $2,000 a month. Your rent is fixed at $1,000 a month and your utilities could run anywhere between $100-$200. That leaves $800-$900/month to spend on the other expenses in your life (groceries, clothing, gas, fun). I would recommend saving a minimum of 10% of Net and putting that into a Savings account. So, as long as you STICK TO the budget, you should be able to both save and live comfortably. Obviously these numbers are scalable to what you will be making, this is just a basic example.

For grocery shopping, there are several price-conscious chains our there that help accommodate tight budgets, such as Aldi or Wal-Mart. Check online sales for things you may need around the house, Amazon is typically cheaper than most stores. If you have a Nordstrom Rack in the area, they provide high-level clothing for a significantly reduced price.

Good luck!

Michael recommends the following next steps:

Create a budget spreadsheet.

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Stephanie’s Answer

There are also different applications that you can download on your device that can help you budget/manage your income. An app I have used is Mint, you link your bank account or credit cards to the app and set a budget for each need i.e. Food/Gas/Rent. When you spend money using your linked accounts, it will sort out your expenses and alert you if you are getting close to your budget limit. You'll also get notifications when you overspend. It's a great way to stay mindful of your budget without having to update a spreadsheet!

As far as finding low prices, you would want to do research. You'll start to get your weekly ads in the mail so going through sales BEFORE going to the grocery store is a great way to save.

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Danny’s Answer

Hey! So when I first moved out on my own, I was terrible with money! I was paycheck to paycheck and couldn’t get it through my head that I needed to live BELOW my means. The single most important thing that you’re going to need (and practice if you’re anything like me) is DISCIPLINE. Ask yourself questions like “Do I really need this right now?” Or “Will this make me happy?” If the answer is no, follow through and maybe add that thing to a list for later when you’re maybe more comfortable financially. Also, there are some super neat budgeting apps out there. I use Mint personally. It’s super pretty and gives you charts and graphs to help you visualize your budgets!

Danny recommends the following next steps:

Download Mint and check it out!

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Nathaniel’s Answer

  1. Step 1: Set Goals. There are two types of financial goals: immediate and long range. ... 
  2. Step 2: Calculate Your Income and Expenses, and what you want to pu aside for saving.
  3. Step 3: Analyze Your Spending
  4. Step 4: Revisit Your Original Budget
  5. Step 5: Commitment.
  6. Wants vs. Needs.