How To Create A Monthly Budget That You Can Finally Stick To: For Both Regular & Irregular Incomes

How to create a budget

Written by Agatha

June 24, 2021

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If you’re disciplined enough to consistently stick to your budget month over month, props to you! 

I should take you to Vegas.

For most people, sticking to their budgets is hard. When I asked The Wealth Tribe readers why they find it hard to stick to their budgets, I got several responses.

 

Why most people don’t stick to their budgets

 

1. Family Support

 

The other day, my friend and I were having a conversation about black tax, something we often talk about because…just take this cup of suffering from us already, dear Lord!

She shared that in one of her lectures in uni (she studied at a multicultural university), the lecturer asked if there were any students who often sent money back home for family support. All students from Africa and Asia raised their hands while all students from Europe and Americas just stared in shock.

Every time I tell my friends who are not from Africa or Asia that I send part of my salary back home for extended family support, they always innocently stare at me in confusion and ask ‘why?’ or ‘why do you do that?’ 

The term ‘Black Tax’ is commonly used in South Africa, where it refers to “the financial support that black professionals are expected to give their extended families.”

How much of your income should go towards extended family support?

 

2. Financial Emergencies

 

One of my financial coaching clients told me that she was in the supermarket shopping for a few things when her son called and informed her that they had run out of cooking gas. 

She immediately got a loan from one of the many mobile mobile loan apps and proceeded to send the money to her son. 

Such emergencies prevent her from sticking to her budget. 

Truth is, the above example is not a financial emergency, it’s an expected cost that can be planned for. We’ll learn how to later.

 

3. Having an irregular income

 

Freelancers, self-employed people, guys in the gig economy and other people who don’t earn a regular income struggle to create and stick to a budget because they can’t predict how much money they make. 

And sometimes say they can’t predict their expenditure.

 

4. Feeling too broke

 

Some people feel too broke, or feel they don’t have enough money that needs a budget. 

Their solution? Ignore budgeting altogether and hope that things will work out magically.

 

5. Lack of knowledge on how to make a budget

 

Do you do it on paper, a budgeting app or on excel? 

How detailed do you need to make the spending categories? 

How much should I spend on needs vs wants?

If you’re among the two-thirds of the world that’s financially illiterate, you lose in the following ways:

  • You pay higher interest rates for loans. 
  • You pay higher transaction costs while accessing financial services.
  • You risk being denied access to a loan if your credit score is low.
  • Financially illiterate people have bigger debts.
  • You risk retiring into poverty.

This is why The Wealth Tribe exists, to teach you everything you need to know about budgeting, saving, investing, passive income and everything in between! You’re in the right place.

 

6. I’ve got plenty of money left over at the end of the month…

 

The first time I heard this, I was shocked. Like that’s actually a thing?! In which world?

Yup, some people actually make more than enough money, they always have extra money left in their checking account at the end of the month. 

While that’s a great thing, which I wish for us all, not having a budget or plan could mean that this money could easily slip between your fingers. It’s also important to know how much you should have left in your account so that you maximize your investment returns.

 

7. Pride…budgeting is stupid!

 

I’ve heard people say that budgeting is for poor people.

You heard that right!

 

8. Fear of the skeletons in the closet

 

“Making a budget is scary. Scarier than it’s hard. I think if I start putting in those numbers I’ll break into tears. And that’s what I’m trying to avoid. The premium tears.” 

This is exactly what one of my consistent blog readers told me when I asked her why she doesn’t have a budget.

Finding out the real cost of your expensive habits is hard.Coming to terms with your financial reality is heart wrenching. No one wants to face cold hard facts; in this case, numbers. 

While we’re talking about fear, a lot of people are also scared that budgeting will lead to marital fights. Money fights are the second leading cause of divorce.

 

9. And then we have the free spirits!

 

Who think that budgets are for nerds! 

Budgeting is associated with being good with numbers. As I’ve said on this blog before, you only need grade 3 Math skills to be good with your money. 

So even if you’re free spirited, you can and should budget. Because that free spiritedness is likely a cause of your impulse buying habit. 

Budgeting won’t take that fun away from you, it’ll allow you to enjoy some level of impulsiveness without digging yourself into a deadly whole known as debt.

 

The biggest problem with typical budgeting advice

 

You know that feeling when you’ve read an inspiring blog post or watched a video about budgeting, got fired up and are ready to do a complete overhaul of your financial life…

…and then at the end of week, the motivation just leaves you and your life is back to normal just like before? 

It’s not you. It’s the advice. Most budgeting advice does that to a lot of people, it did that to me too. You’re welcome!

Typical budgeting advice is not personalized. It’s based on generally accepted numbers

Sure, the generalizations (like in the 50/30/20 budget) are a great place to start. But unless you’re Suzy Normal, your dreams, aspirations, responsibilities, hobbies, spending, likes, dislikes and your goals aren’t going to fit perfectly into the 50/30/20 system.

So after reading those articles, you’ll still be left with the big, nagging question…

How do I start budgeting though? 

Making a personalized budget is kind of like playing Tetris, but with your financial data. Tetris is a game where you have to pay attention in order to win.

And now we come to the juicy part!..

“Budgeting is not some horrible ploy to make you give up the stuff you love to do, like your fancy gym membership or your books. It’s just a step-by-step process to help you make sure you’re using your money to do as much of the things you want to do — short and long term — as you can, while still being all responsible and whatnot.” The Financial Diet

How to create a personalized budget that you can finally stick to

 

There are 2 main ingredients required in order to be a pro at budgeting…

 

How to create a budget

 

 

Let’s get to the step by step budgeting process…

 

Step 1: How much do you earn?

 

What you need to do: Pick a date, preferably at the beginning of the month to start tracking all your income sources. 

This is especially important for people who have irregular or multiple income sources.

You can record this either in a notebook or a simple excel sheet.

Track your income for a minimum of 3 months. A minimum of 3 months is a long enough period to act as a general reflection of your financial life. 

Always add the total income at the end of the month. After 3 months, calculate your average. You’ll end up with a figure that will show you how much you make, on average. 

Below is a screenshot of how this could look like:

How create a budget

Your budget SHOULD fit within your income.

 

Step 2: Make a list of your budget categories

 

What do you normally spend your money on? List your budget categories on an excel sheet. Do NOT complicate it. Keep things simple.

Budgeting is like peeling back an onion. You start with the highest level and keep going deeper into the core of the onion until you understand what works for you.

Below is how your excel sheet could look like:

How to create a budget

The truth is, a habit must be established before it can be improved. If you can’t learn the basic skill of showing up, then you have little hope of mastering the finer details. Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis. You have to standardize before you optimize.” – James Clear

 

Step 3: Track your expenses

 

What was the biggest problem with typical budgeting advice? It’s not personalized. It’s based on generally accepted numbers. 

That is what we’re going to solve for you in this step. We want to work with data, real data based on your expenditure.

We also want to do this for 3 months then do an average.

Ideally, if you’re a complete beginner in budgeting, use your notebook to record all your expenses. 

You can also use the Toshl Finance App, which is the app I use to record my expenses on a daily basis.

Do it immediately, as soon as the expense occurs.To be honest, the initial stages of the tracking process can be chaotic, which is why it’s hard to stick with it. But in the long run, it pays off. Isn’t this true for all good things in life anyway?

The most common dilemma most people face in their financial world it’s wondering “where did my money go?” at the end of the month.

Tracking will solve this problem.

 

Related read: How to track personal expenses, the easy way.

 

Step 4: Transfer the data to an excel sheet at the end of each month.

 

Below is how this should look like:

How to create a budget

 

Step 5: Date your money

 

After tracking your expenses for the first 30 days, have a financial accountability (or you can call it whichever fancy name you’d like) meeting.

You can go out of your way to make it fancy by pouring yourself a glass of wine or juice, playing some soothing music or having your favourite snack. Make it special so that you communicate to your subconscious mind that it’s something fun!

You might notice that there are key budget items that are missing from your initial list. 

Ask yourself a few questions that would help improve your budgeting process such as what’s missing in my budget? 

Which categories should I add?

Which categories should I separate?

Which expenses would you like to reduce? By how much?

Such questions will also help you to set personalized and attainable monthly financial goals.

How your simple excel sheet could look like after 2 months:

How to create a budget

 

How your simple excel sheet could look like after 3 months.

 

How to create a budget

 

Step 6: Calculate the average amount for each category and total monthly expenditure

 

For example, to calculate the average utility bills expenditure;

Add the bills for each of the months: 2,678+1,962+2,891=7,531

Then divide by 3: 7,531/3 = 2,510

2,510 is your utility bills average monthly expenditure.

These averages will be the final budget that you will work with moving forward. You can then relax and keep using an App such as the Toshl Finance App to make sure you always stick to you budget.

Below is how your final budget could look like:

 

How to create a budget

 

Congratulations 🥳 👏 🥂  You did it! You’re officially a pro at budgeting!

Ideally, you should stick with the expenditure tracking habit forever (oops! 😬 ) so that you’re always in control of your financial plan. There are many more benefits to this, I shared what I learnt from tracking my spending for a whole year.

A budget is not meant to be a jail term. Our spending habits and priorities change over time and so should our budgets.

Are you living below, within or above your means?

 

A budget will help you differentiate between how much you make and how much you spend. Without this, you’ll be living in a financial cloud.

This tracking process will also help you establish if you’re living below, within or above your means. All you need to do is subtract your expenditure from your income.

 

How do you know if your budget is working?

 

To know if your budget is working, you can use the following questions at the end of the month to review your budget:

1. Which of my purchases this month we impulsive?

2. Which of your purchases this month have long term value?

3. Which 3 purchases do I want to cut from my budget next month?

4. Of all the items I bought, have any of them gone on sale?

5. How much did I spend eating out?

6. Did I set a concrete savings or investment goal and did I meet it?

7. Going forward, what I’m I specifically saving up for?

8. How much do I need to save each month to meet this goal?

9. Which is the one tangible way I can increase my income in the next 6 months?

10. Did I put money towards something I genuinely care about?

Find the explanation of all the above questions in this article. 

Budgeting is liberating! How so? It takes away the fear of running out of money before you run out of month! 

Do you have questions about the above budgeting process? Leave your question in the comment section.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth

    Great content Agatha. Very informative and solution-oriented esp for freelancers with irregular income like me.

    You’ve also inspired me to blog differently and more uniquely. I’ve read about having a free e-book on western blogs but seeing you provide one proves that this is doable in Kenya.

    Reply
    • Agatha

      Hi Elizabeth, thank you for the kind words. It’s very doable! We have access to the same tech tools as they do. Use Canva to create one!

      Reply

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