Have you ever had the feeling of not understanding where your money drifts off to each month? Do you even know how much your lifestyle costs you? The best way to develop a better understanding or relationship with your money is to spend time learning more about it and yourself. When you schedule time with your money, you begin to actualize your commitment to becoming more money-wise.

A personal spending plan is a tool that allows you to control your financial life. Think about the first time that you actually jumped into your career or maybe you’re still in the process. Did you or have you considered earning first OR the amount of money that you needed to make in order to afford your current lifestyle-including but not limited to-rent/mortgage, utilities, transportation, debt, daycare, savings and more. So what is that magic number? Without a spending plan, you never know how much money you have, how much money you need, or where your money is going. As a result you rarely feel in control of your money.

To make things a bit easier, it’s always helpful to take a step back by identifying how much you really should be spending on expenses and savings each month. You may have heard of these concepts before and huffed at the fact that you live in a very expensive city or maybe you believe that your earnings won’t allow you to save on a consistent basis. I challenge you to give it a try even if that means tweaking a few areas that you do have control over.

The following is a guide (only), it is provided to help you better understand the flow of your money. Before you begin to review this, consider your thoughts before moving out on your own, before taking your job, before accruing debt, or even prior to having kids? Did you have a thought process or strategy around what it would take financially to live comfortably without financial strain? As you walk throughout this process be mindful that there will be some areas where your current percentage may be over what’s recommended. Keep your thoughts open to adjusting your spending plan. There’s always a way to make it work.

Use this in conjunction with your net monthly income (the income that you actually bring home, after taxes and insurance). As a quick example: “If I earn $4,500 per month, 30% of my earned monthly income is $1,350, which is the recommended amount that I should be spending on housing.

Housing: 30%

  • This includes mortgage/rent, taxes, insurance
  • If you live in a more expensive state/city, consider reducing areas that you have control over such as transportation, accruing debt, or personal expenses.

Utilities: 10%

  • Includes phone, cell phone, gas, water, cable or internet
  • Feeling the wrath of this? Scale back on cable, internet and cell phone usage. Some of these are nice to have items not need to haves.

Food: 10-20% (depending on the size of your family)

  • This expense includes groceries and eating out.
  • Keep an eye out for grocery shopping and when you eat out. Are you purchasing groceries but not cooking? Stay well balanced in this area.

Transportation: 10-15% (could be a little more if you pay for parking)

  • This can be a sticky one. Include car payments, mass transit, gas/oil, maintenance, insurance and parking for this expense.
  • Evaluate the cost of your car payment and research the costs of insurance. Be sure to get the maintenance done on your car when necessary to avoid expensive auto repair bills.

Clothing: 5% or less

  • How often do you actually need to purchase new clothing. Focus on shopping off season or choose a few times per year (with a clothing shopping budget).
  • If you’re on a tight budget, take pride in remixing your wardrobe. Classic pieces will carry you a very long way.

Medical: 5% (depending on necessary health treatments or prescriptions)

  • Remember this is only a guide. There are several variables associated with health expenses. Include medical and dental insurance, over the counter drugs healthcare premiums and specialty appointments in this expense.

Personal + Discretionary: 10%

  • How often do you budget for entertaining (out with your friends/ family, putting funds aside for vacations, etc.)?
  • To avoid burnout from work, be sure to set aside at least 10% each month for a nice outing or getaway. Don’t skip this.

Savings: 10% (increase this each year)

  • Saving money allows you to prepare for expected and unexpected expenses.
  • Prepare for the things in life that you enjoy and the experiences that you dream about.
  • It also helps you to establish financial security and reassurance.
  • I have placed this last, BUT do this first.

Remember, as you think about this list, consider where you are now and what can be done to get you closely aligned with a solid spending plan. In many cases there are no perfect scenarios because our lives vary. Take what you need and give it a shot.

How close are you to the plan mentioned above?

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The Finance Bar is a personal finance suite helping women and couples achieve financial wellness through coaching, education, and an innovative learning hub on wheels. Creator Marsha Barnes is a Certified Financial Social Worker, Official FICO Brand Ambassador, and was named the 2018 Best Money Expert in the Net-Worth Category.

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