Creating a Weekly Budget

Most budgets are done on a monthly basis but a weekly budget is a bit simpler to keep up. This is also an effect way to remind yourself that you’re budgeting and what you’re saving up for. It will take some work but you will see terrific savings in the long run.

The first step is to track your expenses. You can use a computer money program (Money, Quicken), create a computer spreadsheet, or keep track of your expenses in a notebook. Include everything, that morning coffee on the way to work, a candy bar, gas, and groceries you might purchase on your way home. You’ll want to track expenses for about a month to get a real feeling of where your money is going. Everyone in the family should participate but it’s easiest if just one person keeps up the actual inputting of expenses.

Next, take your monthly fixed (rent/mortgage) and flexible but regular (ie: utilities, gas bills), total up all 12 months and divide by 52 (weeks in a year). That gives you the weekly cost (or approximate) cost for each category. Now, add a category for savings – you always want to pay yourself first. Now, take your paychecks and all other family income and total that up, divide by 52 and this is your weekly income.

Get your figures from tracking your expenses and formulate a spreadsheet (or notebook or computer program) and enter the weekly (average) figures under the proper categories. Your categories will be specific to you but will probably look a little like this –

Rent/mortgage, Utilities, Car(s) payment, Gas, Car Upkeep, Water/Garbage, Food, Clothes, Entertainment, etc. The more detail, the easier it is to see where you can save and when and where you can splurge.

It’s time to determine what you need (house & car payment, gas, food, basic clothing, etc.) versus what you want (designer jeans, lunch out every day, movies twice a week, etc. A need is something you must have or do but a want is not a need. If you normally buy a soda every afternoon, take them from home and keep them in the office fridge for some savings. Instead of going to the movies twice a week, go out once a month and rent a movie the other times for additional savings. Participate in potluck suppers with friends instead of going out to eat with them every week. You get the idea here – for some people, cable TV might save money by not going out to movies, etc. while for others it’s something they don’t really need.

Have a family meeting to choose some specific things to save for – a summer vacation, a new sport/activity you’d all like to engage in. Brainstorm how you can 1, save money by using generic brands instead of brand name groceries (try them, they’re not all good so you need to do some experimenting here), bring lunch from home, etc. and 2, bring more money in – get the kids to mow neighbor’s lawn for more money, a parent could get a second part time job, sell on Ebay, etc. Then earmark this money – I’d suggest a separate bank account – to go toward this new activity/item. Bank some of the increased/saved funds every week and continue to meet monthly to see how the money grows and to tweak your plan more fully.

It’s a little work but imagine how nice it will be to take a family vacation, pay for it in cash with no credit card bills when you get home. Or, planning for Christmas expenses and not facing those cc bills the next January.

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