“Budget.”

What does that word mean to you?

A budget helps one person stay on track when buying groceries for their family. A budget means watching expenses in order to save up for retirement for another person. A budget helps someone else pay down their high-interest debt.

If you asked five different people this very same question about budgets, you’d likely get five different answers. Why? Because every budget has a unique story based on a person’s unique money values.

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO BE DIFFERENT

If you’re new to budgeting, you may look to your friends and family for guidance. What should I be setting aside for savings or investments every month? What about recreation and entertainment? Again, you’ll probably get a lot of different answers, depending on whom you ask. While their answers may give you an idea of where to start with your budget, you won’t really get any actionable advice. That’s because your budget will look different from other people’s; in fact, it should.

Think about it: would you ask someone else how much you should be spending on housing or utilities in your budget? You could, but the answers you get will vary wildly depending on a lot of factors! Rent payments vs. mortgage payments, living in the city vs. in a rural area, the size of their home, the number of people living in it, and so on, not to mention what the housing market is like where they live. The same goes for your other budget categories like personal spending and savings. They depend on your values, not anyone else’s.

CREATING A CUSTOMIZED BUDGET

Instead of getting overwhelmed by the experiences of others, create a budget that works for you and your story. And when we say “you,” we’re talking about everyone that is affected by your finances, whether that’s you alone, you and your partner, or you and your family. Rather than tell you what your budget should look like, we’re going to give you some gentle guidance on making a budget that meets your needs.

First, choose a budgeting system that you know you’ll stick with. If you’re not a pen-and-paper type of person and spreadsheets give you a headache, this is where our BudgetingBlocks™ system comes in handy. Using blocks to visualize where your money is going can give you a clear picture of your budget. Plus, you get to stack, move around, and play with blocks like a kid again. How’s that for a little nostalgia?

Once you have your budgeting system ready, it’s time to be honest about your spending. Look at what you’re making and what you’re spending. Be kind to yourself and leave the judgment out of it, but you have to remain grounded in reality in order for your budget to work.

Then, think about your goals. Where do you want to be personally, financially, and professionally in a few months or years? What about retirement age? How can you get there with your budget? Maybe you’ve been wanting to take a course that will teach you a valuable skill for your career, but you haven’t pulled the trigger because it “costs a lot of money.” But completing the course will strengthen your professional skills, and learning something new will be personally fulfilling and exciting. The investment is worth it according to your values, so look for ways to pare down costs in other areas of your budget to accommodate it.

COMMIT TO YOUR BUDGET AND YOUR PLAN

Now that you’ve decided where you want your money to go, and you’ve created a plan for how to get it there, you have to stick to it. Commit to checking in with your budget and being honest about your progress toward your goals. Make necessary changes when needed. After all, our values may change over time, so your budget will, too. And remember, your goals are part of your individual story. Try not to compare yourself to others and focus only on you.

Many people find it hard to stick to their budget, which in turn derails their financial plans. That’s why a creative, hands-on system like BudgetingBlocks™ works. Learn more about what makes our budgeting system unique and start budgeting on your own terms.