How do I actually make a budget?

It has been really hard to stop just buying things when I “need” them and to really think about each purchase that I make. There have been times in the past where I knew that I was spending way too frivolously and that I was getting in debt (ahem, spur of the moment trip to Greece), but most of my spending really always felt pretty justified. “My jeans ripped so I really did need a new pair.” “I need a caramel macchiato from Starbucks if I am going to function at all today!” I knew I was making a decent, stable living, so it didn’t seem like I was being irresponsible by spending my money this way.

That is really the hardest habit to change right now. No new jeans. No Starbucks. And especially no trips to other side of the country so my boyfriend can watch his favorite football team play at home. I’m getting the hang of cutting out the spending I know is frivolous, but I still can’t seem to actual make a budget that includes everything. I have no idea what is realistic to budget for the things that change every month. My electric bill can be $40 or $70. If only drive to work and back, I really only need about $100 for gas every month. If I make a few trips over to see a friend or drive farther than normal for any reason, I could need $200 for gas. How do I account for things that just ‘pop up’ in the middle of the month? I just got invitations to two bridal showers and a bachelorette party dinner for this month. I didn’t account for buying gifts, but these are fairly good friends.

I know that having a budget is going to be key to really getting done with my debt snowball (baby step 2), but I just don’t feel like my spending at the end of the month is even close to my budget at the beginning. Dave says to spend every dollar at the beginning of the month on paper and on purpose. I’m trying, but so far I’m really struggling.

Does anyone have advice on what has worked for them?


  1. I feel your pain. I have all of my bills written down for this month and now I just have to see how that translates to my actual spending. My power bill is usually between 80-100 so I always budget for 100. If it is less than I have extra money. The thing that always sends me over is gas because my brother will need rides to and from work and my friends car just broke down so i have to pick her up too and sometimes drop her off. I know how much a power bill can change. Good luck with following your written budget. It can be hard.

  2. Dave says, "there's too much month at the end of the money!"

    Be sure when you make your budget it is realistic. When I first started it wasn't realistic. I didn't allow myself to even eat out once in the month. And it really was too stringent of a budget. So be sure to give yourself some cash for an occasion or two....but don't justify yourself again.

    Also, try having a stay at home day once or twice a week, where you can't drive anywhere or go out or spend ANY money. It's really quite helpful. And I've learned that I don't get behind on stuff around the house.

    Blessings on you!

  3. A budget is always changing. If I have to spend more money on gifts, then I lower the grocery budget by a few bucks, take some from blow money, and make sure you have a gift budget for every month even if you don't need it that month.

  4. This is the budget I use and its helps.
    TITHES .10
    SAVINGS .10
    HOUSING .33
    FOOD .08
    CLOTHES .04
    MEDICAL .05
    MISC .07
    EXTRA .05

    House includes electric, phone, cable, rent, etc.
    Transportation is car note and gas.
    You can change the categories and percentages to meet your needs. Just make sure it equals 100% at the end. Everyone doesnt go to church so tithes maybe need to be a bill. Like extra maybe your student loans and Misc maybe your credit card.

  5. I used to have all the same problems, never any money for the surprise things like Bridal showers or weddings. I started putting this in my budget by first figuring out who I bought presents for and how much I planned or could spend on each person. Then I divided the total by 12 months and saved that much each month, even if I didn't use it in that month, I kept it in my checking account. The first year I forgot about the extra's. I kept track of how much I did spend on shower and wedding gifts, graduation cards and sympathy cards. The next year I included those $'s in the total amount and divided them by 12 months. Now, I have a balance in by "Birthday Fund" that never runs dry. The first year you might have to just send a card or small $ amount. People may think your cheap, but if you don't have the money and are on a budget it works. Also, if you know you have showers or weddings coming up, start looking for bargains. I bought several things for under $10 for weddings last year, but they looked like more.