What is the Best Way to Make a Budget?

Sheri Cyprus

In personal finance, budget making is crucial as it's necessary for managing your income, savings and investments. The best way to make a budget is to start by listing your expenses. In doing so, you should separate your fixed from your flexible expenses. Fixed expenses are set amounts such as rent or a mortgage as well as loan payments. Flexible expenses are those that may change each month such as food costs and utility bills.

Someone on a budget should prioritize their needs.
Someone on a budget should prioritize their needs.

It may take a few list making sessions to make sure you've recorded all your expenses. You won't be able to make a budget that's helpful for you unless all of your expenses are taken into consideration. In addition to all the costs necessary to run your home, also consider transportation, groceries, clothing, pet care, gifts and insurance as well as any other expenses you may have. The next step in preparing a workable budget is is to subtract the amount of your expenses against your total after taxes, or net, income.

Budgeting software can help people manage their finances.
Budgeting software can help people manage their finances.

If the difference is negative, it means you don't have enough income to cover your basic expenses or for savings or investments. In that case, you'll need to trim your flexible expenses and hopefully be able to earn additional income to better meet the fixed costs. If you can find a part-time job in addition to your regular work, this may not only help you fill the income gap, but also give you another money making position in case the worst happens and you lose your main source of earnings. When you make a budget and consider your expenses as well as your income, you should also plan for the worst case financial scenario as much as possible.

An emergency savings fund should be the first thing you add to your budget if the difference between your income and expenses is positive. Ideally, a savings of six months to a year of what it costs you to live should form your emergency fund. By setting aside savings from each paycheck, the emergency fund can be gradually built up. Only when you're able to create a good savings base should you even consider investing any money.

Other than expenses and savings, as well as good investments if your finances allow, a spending allowance should also be established. If you give yourself a fair allowance to spend on whatever you want, it can help you find it easier to set aside money for your savings. The important thing is to always put your savings money aside first, then pay yourself your budgeted allowance. Trying to make a budget without allowing yourself any cash to spend isn't realistic and may drive you to spend money that belongs in your emergency savings.

Some budgeting software is geared toward varying needs and skill levels and can be downloaded for free.
Some budgeting software is geared toward varying needs and skill levels and can be downloaded for free.

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Discussion Comments


I just made a budget for the first time. I just lined up all my income and all of my expenses separately and then subtracted the expenses from the income. I'm in the minus, but just by little. So I will have to trim some of my spending on things like clothes and makeup, which is fine. I'm glad I did this. It's good to know this beforehand.


I make a monthly budget too. It really helps me keep on track with all my payments. I like to be on the safe side when I prepare my budget ahead of time. I overestimate some of my non-fixed expenses just to see what things will be like in a worst-case scenario. The good part about this is that I sometimes have extra money left over at the end of the month even after having accounted for everything. Then I feel comfortable about spending that money on myself for entertainment or fine dining.


As of 2010-2014, the world economy and the national economy are both not doing too well. I read an article the other day about how the income of young Americans have been shrinking.

In this situation, it's all the more important to make a budget to make sure that all vital expenses are covered for. But at the same time, many people are seeing "savings" completely eliminated from their budget as they just don't make enough to save anything.

It's all very disappointing. An ideal America is when everyone has extra money left in their budget to put aside as savings for emergency, education, health care, retirement or to buy a home. But more and more of us are barely making ends meet. I sure hope things turn around in the near future.

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