The key to budgeting is being honest with yourself about what you’re spending money on. Before you create a budget, keep a spending log for a month or two and record every penny you spend.
A budgeting worksheet is one way to document what you're spending and the money you have coming in. Start by listing your monthly income. Include what you’re earning from your job or Federal Work-Study, your allowance, financial aid, and scholarships. Then list your expenses based on your spending log. It’s helpful to separate your expenses into categories like housing, food, entertainment, education, etc.
After totaling your income and expenses, determine how much you can spend on your needs. If you have money left over, deposit it in your account to boost your savings! If it looks like you’ll run out of money, look at areas where you can cut back. For instance, instead of spending money on dinners out, make more meals at home instead.
As expenses and income change – say, your landlord raises your rent, or you receive a grant from your school to help with tuition – it’s time to revisit and adjust your budget. Remembering to do so will make sure you stay on track.
And, although it seems a long way off, you should be saving for retirement. The average person should start saving for retirement between the ages of 18 and 21, when basic education is complete and you have full-time income. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the less you'll have to sacrifice during your working years and the more your nest egg will grow. That's right — save LESS each year AND end up with MORE when you retire. That's the beauty of starting early!
When you're in your 20s and 30s, you have a lot of major financial decisions on your plate. Remember to live below your means — spend less than you actually can. This will allow you to accumulate savings—and over a period of time, this can pay off big time.
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