Stick to a Budget
Stick to a Budget

Budgeting can seem really hard, but it’s not as bad as you think. In fact, if you set yourself up for success, budgeting can be straightforward and totally worth it. Here is some advice for developing and keeping a budget in the year 2022. From setting SMART goals to diet-friendly and money-saving meal delivery services, we’ve got you covered.

The Purpose of a Budget

A household budget is essential. It’s a tool that can help you track your expenses, save money and achieve your financial goals. A budget can track your income and expenses, set spending limits and make sure you are saving enough money each month. Budgeting can also help you identify areas where you are spending too much money and make changes to your spending habits. By creating a household budget, you can take control of your finances and ensure that you are living within your means.

Step 1: Determine Your Income

Income is the money that comes into your household budget from all sources, including your job, side hustles, gigs and investments. This number should be what you take home after taxes. 

For example, if you have a job that pays $50,000 per year, after taxes and other deductions, your take-home pay may be closer to $35,000 to $40,000. So you’ll need to budget for this number when planning your household spending. 

Also, keep in mind any seasonal income that you might have. If you typically earn extra money from a side hustle or a seasonal job during the summer, be sure to include that income in your budget for the summer months only.

Lastly, suppose you have income from a revenue stream and it’s just wildly unpredictable. It could be from a hobby that you sometimes profit from or an income property that doesn’t get rented often. If this is the case, it may be best to leave it out entirely. For example, maybe you’re flipping furniture on the weekends, but it’s not your primary source of income. In that case, it’s probably best not to budget for that extra money each month. Instead, look at it as a bonus when it’s there. But when it’s not, you won’t miss it.

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Step 2: Track Your Expenses

The next step is to track your expenses. This can be done by creating a budget spreadsheet or budgeting app. Tracking your expenses will help you see where your money is going each month and identify areas where you can save. 

It’s essential to spend some quality time here and really dig deep. Review bank records, look at receipts and all the tough stuff you might not want to do. Don’t forget little things like monthly subscription services, entertainment expenses and the extras you grab with your weekly groceries. Five dollars here and $10 there adds up quickly.

Other potential expenses may include:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Vehicle loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit cards
  • Internet
  • Cell phone
  • Utilities (water, electricity)
  • Insurance (life, health, car, home)

Step 3: Set Financial Goals

Now that you have a solid idea of how much is coming in and how much is going out, it’s time to look into the near and distant future and set some financial goals. 

When it comes to financial goals, it’s important to be SMART about them. That means your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Based. So let’s break that down a little further.

  • Your financial goals should be specific. That means you need to know exactly what you want to achieve. For example, rather than just saying you want to save money, you might say you want to save $5,000 in the next year. You know you’ll need to save about $420 a month to make that happen.
  • Your goals should also be measurable. That means you need to be able to track your progress and know when you’ve reached your goal. For example, if your goal is to pay off your credit card debt, you can measure your progress by tracking your monthly payments.
  • Your goals should also be achievable. That means they shouldn’t be too lofty or impossible to reach. For example, saving $2,500 a month is probably not feasible on a yearly salary of $50,000. 
  • Your goals should also be relevant to your life. That means they should align with your values and what’s important to you. So, for example, if you’re trying to save money for a down payment on a house, that’s a relevant goal. 
  • Finally, your goals should be time-based. That means you should have a specific date by which you want to achieve your goal. 
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After you’ve set your financial goals, it’s time to create an action plan.

Step 4: Implement a Plan

There are a lot of different approaches to budgeting, and what works for one person may not work for another. Let’s check out three popular budgeting plans: the zero-based budget, the envelope system and the 50/30/20 budget.

Zero-based Budget

The zero-based budget is all about giving every dollar a job. You start by figuring out your income and then allocate money to cover your fixed expenses (like your mortgage or car payment) and your variable expenses (like groceries or gas). Any money that’s left over goes into savings. The goal is to have every penny accounted for so that you’re not spending more than you earn. 

Envelope System

The envelope system is all about separating your money into different categories. You can go old-school and use paper envelopes or a budgeting app to do the same thing. The idea is to allocate a specific amount of money to each category (like groceries, entertainment and transportation). When the money in that category is gone, it’s gone. This prevents you from overspending and helps you stay within your budget. 

50/30/20 Budget

The 50/30/20 budget is all about balancing your needs and wants. Fifty percent of your income goes towards necessities like rent, groceries and utilities. Thirty percent goes towards wants like dining out and entertainment. And 20 percent goes towards savings and debt repayment. This budget gives you some flexibility to indulge in your wants while staying responsible for your needs.

Food Tips for Making Your Budget Work

Now that you have a better picture of your income and expenses, have set goals and have a plan in place, it’s time to make your budget work. And there’s no better place to look than how much you’re spending — and potentially throwing away — on food.

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The rising cost of groceries is a worry as we saw grocery store food prices up 3.5 percent between 2020 and 2021. And given that about 25 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes towards eating-out services, there’s money to be saved there, too.

Fortunately, there are many ways to save money on food and groceries without sacrificing taste or nutrition. One way to do this is to use meal delivery services. Meal delivery services take the guesswork out of cooking by portioning out the ingredients and providing easy-to-follow recipes. They also help reduce food waste, since you only get the ingredients you need for each recipe. And for those on a gluten-free or Mediterranean diet, there are now specialized meal delivery services that cater to your specific dietary needs. 

Gluten-free meal delivery services are especially fantastic because you get all the ingredients you need. Most meals can be whipped up quicker than delivery takes to arrive. You also don’t have to worry about cross-contamination, which is always a concern for gluten-intolerant folks or those who have celiac disease. 

The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat. It’s based on the traditional foods that people eat in countries like Italy and Greece, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and olive oil. And while it may seem like a more expensive way to eat, there are Mediterranean diet meal delivery services to make it affordable. So if you’re interested in the number one ranked diet, then sign up for Mediterranean meal delivery ASAP. 

You Can Do This

Budgeting is all about making your money work for you. By tracking your expenses and setting financial goals, you can make a budget that works for your unique situation. And don’t forget to look out for tips for saving — like those food tweaks we mentioned — because they can add up to significant savings over time. 

So what are you waiting for? Start budgeting today and see how much closer you get to reaching your financial goals.