How I Budget As A Broke Writer
Alright so I've wanted to make this post for a while now because evidently, it completely changed how I spend my money and how I save. It definitely took some trial and error, some tweaking, and some start-overs. But trust me, it is worth it. I got the original inspiration and tips for how I budget from this video by the amazing Jenna Moreci, so check that out for more of a visual guide to see where I learned!
I use this method for more than just writing expenses; school, things I want to eventually purchase, trips, etc. Its super easy for your average computer-user, and it can all be kept on your phone for budgeting on the go! I decided to use Google Sheets for this for a few reasons. 1. Its free 2. It has an easy to use phone app 3. It is similar to Microsoft Excel, which I previously used with a free subscription through school.
The first thing I did was figure out how much money I needed to save, and then how many months I wanted to have it saved by. So say I needed to save $500 in 3 months, that's roughly $167 saved per month and $84 per bi-weekly paycheck (I always round up to the nearest dollar to keep it easy). Narrowing it down to how much I need to put away each paycheck makes it really easy, making that large number much less daunting. (The second row is not necessary but I did want to add it for reference. I made this after determining my budget as I was job hunting around the time of creating this specific page, and I wanted to gauge how much I could save each month with different wages and hours. I added a few more rows for ease in case any of you have a similar hourly pay so you don't have to do all this work again!)
The next thing I do (on a new page) is figure out all of my monthly expenses, both necessity and luxury. And I put how much I need/want to spend in each category to create my budget for that month. So for example; I spend $50 on food, $60 on gas, and $30 on coffee each month and that makes up my expenses. That leaves me with a monthly budget of $140.
The very last thing that I did was create an area to track my spendings and savings for each month. This one was very simple, all it took was a few fancy cell creations to do the math for me! (I will be putting all cell shortcuts below)
When figuring out your expenses (Figure 4), separate them into categories to maintain organization. This will be different for each person. If you pay rent and bills, create a mass Utility column for those expenses. Don't forget to add things that are optional, these categories are the ones you will get to be tighter with if need be. I recommend creating a MISC column no matter what, because not everything will fit into a column and there will be things you will forget about. Your budget should come out to be less than or equal to the amount you are planning to save each month. If it's more, then maybe you'll have to adjust your luxury spending a bit. After creating your budget row, make a large space of Spending History (Figure 2) where you will be tracking all of your purchases for the month. At the bottom you will have 2 rows to make, a Total and Savings row. (See shortcut 1 for Total, Shortcut 2 for Savings) Now every time you add an expense to the Spending History, you will see your Total and Savings change at the bottom, as well as your Totals section that we made off to the side (Figure 3).
Here's how you make that Totals section I mentioned before (Figure 3). Create a row for Income, Budget, Total Spending, and Total Savings. Think of this as your resource key to keep track of and summarize everything up on the page at a quick glance. In the second column add your known income (if it fluctuates like mine, find the average from the last few months. To find the average; add up each paycheck and divide by the number of paychecks you added together), your fixed budget that you created earlier, and keep the second two blank. (Budget: Shortcut 3, Total Spending: Shortcut 4, Total Savings: Shortcut 5)
After this step, you are left to make it look how you want until it works best for you. Then duplicate each Budget Tracking Page for future months. A helpful tool is highlighting all cells that have to do with money and using the currency option in the top tool bar, this turns any number into a dollar amount for you to make tracking much easier. I also find color coding specific sections much easier for my eyes to find what I'm looking for while also being more pleasing to the eyes. Download the app onto your phone to easily add in expenses on the go so you can always keep track of how much you've saved or how you need to improve for next month!
The very last thing I did was create a Total Statistics page (Figure 5), where at the end of each month I would paste my Totals from that month onto this page to gauge how I was doing in six month and year long intervals, just to get the full picture. This is only really necessary if you have something you will be spending multiple years saving for, but I do highly recommend it! To make this page, I created a designated area for each months Totals. I then created Totals for the first 6 months, second 6 months, and whole year. To create the budgets for the first 6 months, I gathered the total from January-June (Shortcut 6). Repeat this step for Spending and Saving, as well as the July-December. To create the budget for the whole year, I got the totals from the first and second 6 months (Shortcut 7), repeat for Spendings and Savings.
This is how I have been budgeting my spending for the last couple of months and let me tell you, it has been a total game changer! I knew if I kept a budget journal like others, I would completely forget about it/not have the time for it. But this option is on the go and super easy, any time I buy something I take the total from my receipt and add it to my expenses in less than a minute. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me!
Shortcuts: (Quick video example below!) 1. =Sum(Highlight from first cell to last cell of spending history for EACH column)ENTER
2. =Sum Budget Cell -- Total Cell ENTER
3. =Sum(Highlight from first to last cell of your top budget row)ENTER
4. =Sum(Highlight from first to last cell of your total spending row)ENTER
5. =Sum(Highlight from first to last cell of Savings row)ENTER
6. =Sum(Highlight from January budget row to June)ENTER *Use required cells for the various sections
7. =Sum(Budget cell from First 6 Months + Second 6 Months)ENTER
A huge shout out to Jenna Moreci for her original video, which has helped me tons over the last few months! All credit for the initial idea goes to her.