What is a Budget?
A budget is a detailed plan of how you use your income for a specific time period (eg: each month). To create a budget, you need to know how much money you bring in and where your money goes.
Why Make a Budget?
A budget is a tool that allows you to become more aware of your spending and expenses, and make financial goals. It is meant to ensure you have control of your money to achieve your goals, all while living within your means. Also, budgets are helpful when applying for funding like tuition waivers, rental assistance, or bursaries, because the application will likely have a budget section.
How to Make a Budget
Community Financial Counselling Services (CFCS) uses six main steps in creating a successful budget:
- Calculate income by adding up all the money you receive each month
- Determine expenses such as rent, bills, groceries, transportation, clothes, debt payments, and take-out/ delivery
- Start tracking income and expenses by keeping receipts and reviewing your bank/credit card statements.
- Review and revise if you notice differences after you tracked your expenses or if your income/expenses have changed.
- Plan for the future This could include a plan to pay off debt, purchase furniture, go to school, or save money for emergencies.
- Maintain your plan by reviewing it regularly, adjusting as needed, and staying motivated!
Needs versus Wants
A need is something that is necessary for survival. For example, food, shelter, warmth, and human interaction.
A want is something not necessary for survival that you might still desire. For example, new shoes/clothes when you already have an adequate amount, the latest technology, or going out to eat at a restaurant.
How to be Realistic About Needs and Wants
Determining which expenses are needs and which are wants is a very important part of your finances because when your income decreases or unexpected expenses come up, your needs are more important than your wants. For example, you might feel pressure to buy certain brands of clothes, go out to eat at restaurants often, own the latest cell phone, or purchase gifts for a variety of occasions. While you might want brand-name clothes, go out to eat, or travel; it’s important to figure out how realistic those wants are with your current income while avoiding going into debt.
Ultimately, budgeting comes down to how much money you bring in and how much is left over, after paying for your basic needs. It also depends on what is most important to you and your goals. If you have money left over after paying for your basic needs, it is up to you to decide what responsibilities, goals and wants you to have and how you will divide up your remaining money.