Creating a budget is easier than you might think, and you don’t even need to put pen to paper to get started. Even basic reflection about your financial situation allows you to make the most of your money, prioritize your spending, and make sure you’re not in a position where you don’t have enough money left to make ends meet before your next payday. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Stay on top of your disposable income
If you only have $500 available to you before your next payday, make sure you know that. It’s ok to include savings, side hustle income, or money you get from your parents - just make sure you know what your number is on a regular basis. Fizz’s daily Autopay feature makes this easy, as you won’t be building up a balance that you have to pay off later like you would with a credit card.
Remember the constants
Every month, there are expenses that don’t change. Rent, subscriptions, and utilities typically fall into this category. Similarly, stay on top of your income. If you work a part time job with set hours, odds are you know when you get paid and how much you get paid. This is an easy way to keep track of your money. If you know you get paid $300 on the last day of every month but you also have to pay $150 in rent and subscriptions, it’s easy to wrap your head around the fact that you’ll have $150 in net income coming in at the end of the month.
Keep an eye on your excess spending
We all have wants. Whether it’s drinks at the bar, movie tickets, or new clothes, we should all be able to spend money on things that we want. Just make sure that you’re not overdoing it. Too many people close their eyes while they hit the “purchase” button. Don’t feel bad about buying that pair of shoes, just make sure that you have enough money to get by after you purchase them.
You don’t ever have to track your money in a spreadsheet if you don’t want to. But staying on top of your spending won’t ever hurt you, so you shouldn’t be afraid to explore budgeting apps and websites if they’re interesting to you. Once you’ve started thinking more presently about your spending habits, you can start to think about things like saving, investing, and donations if you’d like to. A few dollars here and there can help put you on the track towards financial freedom - long before most college students think about it.
Of course, if you want to go big right off the bat, that’s a great idea too. Financial health comes down to being thoughtful about your relationship with money. For some, this involves making spreadsheets and using apps that keep track of your spending. If you’re interested in doing this, try playing around with an Excel spreadsheet. Take note of your income and your expenses, and then break each down by category. You can also keep track of when payday is and when you owe money to different entities. Get as detailed as you like - there’s no wrong way to budget as long as you’re being thoughtful about it.
Sam is a Kenyon College alum and is head of content at Fizz. He's been a go to personal finance resource among his peers since getting his first credit card during his sophomore year of college. He hails from Washington, DC, loves all things aviation, and currently lives in Los Angeles.