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How Do I Make a Budget?

The first step to financial freedom is to spend less than you get paid. But that can be a lot harder than it sounds without a good budget.

Ever reached the end of the month (or even the middle) and said, "I'm flat broke! How did that happen!?" Maybe it happens so often that you've even started to think it’s normal. In a way, you’re right – borrowing money to make it to the end of the month has become the norm for most people these days. To avoid becoming “most people,” you should start a budget.

A budget is part plan, part summary that shows what you expect to earn (your income) against what you plan to spend (your expenses), usually for a month.

Where should I begin?

Firstly, your budget doesn’t have to win any financial awards. In fact, it can be quite simple. But it has to be honest, or you shouldn’t bother.

Knowing how much you earn each month is pretty easy to work out, especially if you get just one salary from one employer. Projecting your expenses could initially be a broad-ish thumb-suck, but what really makes a budget worth the effort is that it reveals the difference between what you think you're spending and what you're actually spending.  

When you can clearly see a mismatch, you can start finding ways to fix the problem like choosing to spend less, because it's actually much easier to spend R100 less than to earn R100 more.

Surely it can’t be that easy?

The hard part isn’t drawing up a budget – it’s having the willpower to stick to it despite setbacks. So don’t create a budget just because we say you should. Do it because it will help you achieve your goal of financial freedom. If you lose sight of that, you won’t keep it up.

Our top tip? Don’t try to change your spending habits too much too soon. Just as you wouldn’t try to transform yourself from a slow-moving couch potato into a Comrades champion overnight, you’ll need to practise budgeting to become financially fit.

If you’d like a step-by-step account of how to create a budget, we’ve taken the time to explain it all here.

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