How To Build a Kick Ass Budget in 15 Minutes

Note: This post is for people that make enough to cover their expenses monthly. If you are still in debt, living over your means, or still a student with little or no income, please read on as you may find some tips, however, if you want to use this strategy, you need to have a maximum threshold for spending.
2009 was the first year I ever used a budget. It will not be the last as I am planning on modifying it up for 2010. I was shocked at the simplicity of creating the “ever daunting” budget. Today I will talk about how I set up my personal budget last year, and how I will be doing so this year.  If you feel I forgot something, feel free to leave a comment.  Let’s get to it.
Step 1: Write down infrequent expenses. These things can creep up on you and throw you off your budget plan, so be smart, list them first.  This may include gym memberships billed quarterly, car insurance billed twice a year, etc. (2 minutes)
Step 2: Know what you make. If you have a clear picture of your income this process will be easy. If you aren’t 100% certain, a ballpark estimate will suffice. Note: this is Net income, not gross. (2 minutes)
Step 3: Know what you want to spend. If you make a decent income and want to spend and save, you could probably live off of 90% of your income. Either way, if you net $30K, set your budget for $29K. If you can afford more savings make the gap between the number in step 2 and step 3 as big as possible. (1 minute)
Step 4: Subtract the infrequent expenses from step 1 from the number in step 3. This will get you your total habitual spending forthe year I bet you can guess what is the next step. (1 minute)
Step 5: Divide by 12. This number (step 4 divided by 12) is the number we are going to work with. (1 minute)
Step 6: Create categories. This gets a bit harder here, but don’t stress. To give you a start, my categories for my budget are: Rent, Utilities, groceries, entertainment, student loans, car payment, going out money, and then a miscellaneous category (for random expenses, dates, etc.). These categories are flexible, so treat them as such an do what works for you. (2 minutes)
Step 7: The dirty work. Subtract your fixed expenses from the number we got in step 5. If that number was $2000 and you have $800 in rent $200 in loans and $200 in a car payment you will have $800 to work with. (2 minutes)
Step 8: Dont be frightened, break it down. If you have $800 start breaking it down to where you want to spend. If you like to go out, allocate the most you feel you can there. Here is where you get to make priorities and decide where you want your spending to go. (3 minutes)
Step 9: Write it down. This process is an act of futility if you don’t wrote down how much you want to spend in each category. This should be an easy guide to stick to your budget. (1 minute)
Optional Step 1: If you have enough income and want to create a seperate yearly budget for something like shopping sprees, feel free to keep a note of how much you are giving yourself to spend. If you are someone that goes on a shoe buying frenzy, you won’t be able to keep to the monthly budget without this category, so implement it (this will be the biggest change for my budget this year).
Optional Step 2: Budget your savings. Is your goal in 2010 to max out your Roth? Then budget out $416.66 a month to make it happen and reach the $5000 max. This will work with any savings goal.
It ain’t so hard and this is the method that works for me. Some people are really strict with their categories. I don’t feel i can be. Some months I eat out a lot and go over budget, but that likely means I am well under my grocery budget. I just slide that money over for that month. The key is to stay under your monthly number from step 5, not for you to stress that you can spend $50 in entertainment the last week of the month but spend -$12 on groceries.
Best of luck. An honest attempt with the 15 minute budget can really set your finances up for success in 2010.
Note: This post is for people that make enough to cover their expenses monthly. If you are still in debt, living over your means, or still a student with little or no income, please read on as you may find some tips, however, if you want to use this strategy, you need to have a maximum threshold for your spending.

2009 was the first year I ever used a budget. It will not be the last as I am planning on modifying it up for 2010.  I was shocked at the simplicity of creating the “ever daunting” budget. Today I will talk about how I set up my personal budget last year, and how I will be doing so this year.  If you feel I forgot something, feel free to leave a comment.  Let’s get to it.

Step 1: Write down infrequent expenses. These things can creep up on you and throw you off your budget plan, so be smart, list them first.  This may include gym memberships billed quarterly, car insurance billed twice a year, etc. (2 minutes)

Step 2: Know what you make. If you have a clear picture of your income this process will be easy. If you aren’t 100% certain, a ballpark estimate will suffice. Note: this is Net income, not gross. (2 minutes)

Step 3: Know what you want to spend. If you make a decent income and want to spend and save, you could probably live off of 90% of your income. Either way, if you net $30K, set your budget for $29K. If you can afford more savings make the gap between the number in step 2 and step 3 as big as possible. (1 minute)

Step 4: Subtract. Subtract the infrequent expenses from step 1 from the number in step 3. This will get you your total habitual spending forthe year I bet you can guess what is the next step. (1 minute)

Step 5: Divide by 12. This number (step 4 divided by 12) is the number we are going to work with. (1 minute)

Step 6: Create categories. This gets a bit harder here, but don’t stress. To give you a start, my categories for my budget are:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Groceries
  • Other Food
  • Hockey Expenses
  • Going Out Money
  • Entertainment
  • Student Loans
  • Car Payment
  • Transportation
  • Cell Phone
  • Miscellaneous Expenses (for random expenses, dates, etc.).

These categories are flexible, so treat them as such an do what works for you. (2 minutes)

Step 7: The dirty work. Subtract your fixed expenses from the number we got in step 5.  If that number was $2000 and you have $800 in rent $200 in loans and $200 in a car payment you will have $800 to work with. (2 minutes)

Step 8: Don’t be frightened, break it down. If you have $800 start breaking it down to where you want to spend. If you like to go out, allocate the most you feel you can there.  Here is where you get to make priorities and decide where you want your spending to go. (3 minutes)

Step 9: Write it down. This process is an act of futility if you don’t wrote down how much you want to spend in each category. This should be an easy guide to stick to your budget. (1 minute)

Optional Step 1: If you have enough income and want to create a seperate yearly budget for something like shopping sprees, feel free to keep a note of how much you are giving yourself to spend. If you are someone that goes on a shoe buying frenzy, you won’t be able to keep to the monthly budget without this category, so implement it (this will be the biggest change for my budget this year).

Optional Step 2: Budget your savings. Is your goal in 2010 to max out your Roth? Then budget out $416.66 a month to make it happen and reach the $5000 max.  This will work with any savings goal.

It ain’t so hard and this is the method that works for me.  Some people are really strict with their categories. I don’t feel i can be.  Some months I eat out a lot and go over budget, but that likely means I am well under my grocery budget.  I just slide that money over for that month. The key is to stay under your monthly number from step 5, not for you to stress that you can spend $50 in entertainment the last week of the month but spend -$12 on groceries.

Best of luck.  An honest attempt with the 15 minute budget can really set your finances up for success in 2010.

9 Responses to How To Build a Kick Ass Budget in 15 Minutes
  1. J. Money
    December 14, 2009 | 7:53 am

    Are you trying to turn me on, sir?

  2. Brian
    December 14, 2009 | 7:59 am

    I think it was the blonde that just walked by your cube mate.

  3. Jeff
    December 14, 2009 | 8:44 am

    I must be a little slow, mine took 20 minutes. Oh course I have a spouse to work with so that might be why :-)

    This year was my first year too. I’m never NOT going to have one. It makes life soooo easy. There are no more money fights, only money talks. We both know what we can spend and that’s it. Works great.

    J. Money – post a pic of the blonde haha

  4. Wojciech Kulicki
    December 14, 2009 | 11:38 am

    Great post–I found it very unique that you did the infrequent stuff up front, which makes a lot more sense than the “traditional” approach of trying to average it out over 12 months.

    I think everyone should do this, even if it’s a one-time thing and you don’t even track your budget throughout the year. At least you have SOME idea of what the heck you’re going to be spending and if you’re off the mark.

  5. Stephen P
    December 14, 2009 | 12:07 pm

    Or you can use the GetRichSlowly Budget WorkBook, designed by ME! It’s excel, so its easy!

    http://www.getrichslowly.org/files/GRS%20Budget%20Sheet%202.0.xls

    Yeah,I just pimped a link. Sue me.

  6. Jeff
    December 14, 2009 | 12:18 pm

    @Stephen Holy cow I was just blinded by all the bright colors in your spreadsheet. Looks like it would take more than 15 minutes to enter everything into. Definitely an all encompassing budgetsheet, nice job.

  7. Craig
    December 14, 2009 | 12:52 pm

    It doesn’t take long, just takes patience to follow it.

  8. Ken
    December 14, 2009 | 7:00 pm

    The mention of infrequent expenses is very important. These are the ones that bust budgets for young couples. Car repairs, home repairs, yard maintenance etc are all going to happen but folks often overlook because they don’t occur monthly.

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