How To: Create a Budget

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Every year you start a budget. And every year you give up after a few months. What's up with that? Let's see if we can develop a budget that actually works...

Losing weight is a popular New Year’s resolutions. And so is gaining control of the family finances by sticking to a budget. That’s why this is a particularly busy time for those on the front lines of the budget battle: professional debt counselors. So what do they say is the first secret to successful budgeting?

“Well it’s very important for people to have a goal in mind or sort of an end to the means.”
-Jessica Cecere, Consumer Credit Counseling Service

So having a goal is step one. It can be anything: buying a house, a college fund for the kids: even simply paying off your debts. It’s crucial to budgeting because it keeps you focused.

Step two? A plan. One that includes keeping track of every dime you spend. It’s not as hard as it may seem.

“It’s not hard at all, you just keep a box by the door or a place in your car or at the bottom of your purse. The deal is you have to go to it you just dump it in there. ”
-Jessica Cecere, Consumer Credit Counseling Service

Then write it all down in categories so you can see where your money’s going. Also crucial? Don’t be too rigid.

“The most important thing about having a budget or really successful budgeting is to remain flexible, a budget has to be flexible and it sort of has to be a living document or a living being if you will.”
-Jessica Cecere, Consumer Credit Counseling Service

And get help! There are tons of free tools out there. And free assistance from live humans as well.

“If somebody just can’t make ends meat, needs to have a budget established they can come in and see a counselor or they can go to our website.”
-Jessica Cecere, Consumer Credit Counseling Service

So if this is the year you resolved to make a budget and stick to it, remember those secrets: start with a goal. Make yourself a plan. Track your expenses. And if you need advice, get some.

Get downloadable budgeting spreadsheets.

Stacy Johnson

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Read Next: 8 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances — and Be Happier

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