There are hundreds of ways to create a budget. Finding one that works for you is the challenge. As a single mom, keeping track of my expenses is a top priority, I literally track every dollar that comes in and out. There is a very small margin for error or emotional spending, so keeping an effective budget is essential.
When I first started budgeting I tried different apps and worksheets . Some of them were good, but had nothing to do with my type of lifestyle and would only end up being too complicated to keep up with. Here is a list of my personal budget categories. I hope this helps bring some clarity to your budgeting process.
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if -Keep your budget simple, and realistic.
-Track every expense, regardless of how small the expense may seem. Even coffee every morning for $2.00 may feel like a small expense, and unnecessary to track, but small expenses add up and can make the difference between taking an extra vacation with your family every year.
- Clothing & Personal Care
My income goes at the top of the list. Why? Because I need to know how much I have coming in every month to create an effective budget.
In the income area I add my base pay. Under that I add my bonus, overtime pay, and side business income, which varies from month to month.
Note: I budget my bills and necessities using my base pay only. I never know how much a bonus, overtime or any other funds will be until I get it. Therefore, I never base my necessities on it. Once I receive those funds I use them towards saving, giving, or entertainment.
Bonus & OT
Giving is something that I added as part of my budget in the last couple of years. I enjoy giving, and I enjoy helping. However, making it part of my budget as a monthly commitment is a recent addition. In this category I include
- Money to my local church
- Charity (teen choice)
For my saving category I try to keep it very simple. I have previously tried a complicated system and I completely failed at keeping up with it. For my savings I have two categories. Why only two? Well, some of my savings come out of my checks automatically, such as my 401k. Therefore, I only keep two other categories.
- Emergency fund
- Rainy day savings
I have seen many budgets that keep “eating out” as part of entertainment, however I decided to keep it under the food category. My teen and I mostly cook at home and prep meals, so the percentage we use to eat out is small.
- School lunch
- Eating out
My housing costs are rent only. But if you pay HOA or have home repairs this might be a good place to add those expenses.
I’ve seen budgets that list cell phone and internet under entertainment. I add it under bills as a necessity, since I use them for my business and my blog.
- Cell Phone
Transportation has been a big part of my expenses. Dropping of my teen at school every morning, driving to work, going to church and running errands all quickly add up.
- Auto gas
- Oil change
- Tags & Registration
We don’t get sick too often. (Knock on wood), but if we do and I have to buy medicine or pay for doctor visits, it is added under the health category.
I have medical insurance deducted from my checks. However, if that is an expense you have separately, you may add it under this category.
- Renter insurance
- Auto insurance
- Life Insurance
Clothing & Personal Care
My family is a family of two. My teen and I. So this expense is usually small. Therefore I decided to combine them.
- Uniforms & back to school
- Haircuts, shampoo, moisturizer etc…
Lifestyle is the category I keep for non necessities. The “wants vs the needs”, these are bills I know I can cut back in case of an emergency.
- Entertainment or fun category: movies, drinks with friends, Playstation membership for teen.
- Gym Memberships: even though I consider staying active important, I keep this as a want since there are many ways to stay active.
- Teen allowance
- Personal Development: books, courses and seminars
Because it is nearly impossible to plan for everything that can happen, I have found this category extremely helpful to have for one time expenses. This month I had to buy batteries for our scale. That is not a recurring expense so I added it under misc.
- Gift category is only added on the months it is needed.
I currently have no outstanding debt. However, a couple of years ago I would add my credit cards, medical bills and collections to this category.
These are my personal budget categories as a single mom. Some categories I have seen other moms add are; day care, formula, pampers etc. You can definitely adjust your categories depending on your needs.
Some of the main tips to creating an effective budget are:
-Keep your budget simple, and realistic.
-Create a new budget before the month begins.
-Review your previous month’s budget, before creating the new one. This will help you find ways to cut back on unnecessary expenses and save more money.