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Zero-Based Budget: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started
Here’s a crazy stat:
Two-thirds of Americans don’t have a budget.
That means that 218 million people are spending their money will-nilly with no game plan….
Two hundred and eighteen million people who are not financially successful.
Because let’s face it:
Without a budget, you cannot afford your dream life, pay down debt, and save money.
Don’t worry though:
Creating a budget for your money is hella easy.
And, when you create a zero-based budget, you’ll be able to:
- afford your lifestyle
- pay down debt (and stay out of debt)
- save more money
- free up money for personal use
Pretty sweet, huh?
Let’s dive in.
(But first! Make sure you sign up for our free 5-day budget course below to become a budget boss!)
- How To Start Budgeting (When You Don’t Know Where To Start)
- The 5 Best Budgeting Methods To Get Your Financial Sh!t Together
- How To Automate Your Budget So You Never Have To Budget Again
- Budget-By-Paycheck: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started
- The 50/30/20 Budget: How To Set Yours Up
- The Cash Envelope System: How To Stop Poor Spending Habits
- The Ultimate Guide To Frugal Living: 101 Ways To Save Money
- How To Cut Expenses When You’re Broke AF
> who is a zero-based budget good for?
Everybody can benefit from a
Simply put, a zero-based budget will:
- establish a plan for every dollar you earn
- make sure you’re living within your means
- help you pay off debt and save money
The pros of a zero-based budget include:
- being able to easily eliminate poor spending habits by not allocating money to that category of spending
- you’ll always have enough money for bills and other necessities
- you can quickly pay off debt by allocating more money to debt repayment efforts
- saving money is easy when allocating spare money to a high-interest savings account or investing
The cons of a zero-based budget are: None.
A zero-based budget is simple, straightforward, and doesn’t restrict your lifestyle in any way.
So, let’s dive into the deets.
> how to set up a zero-based budget
To set up a zero-based budget follow these steps:
- Determine Your Why Factor
- Collect Your Financial Information
- Calculate Your Income & Expenses
- Cut Costs (if necessary)
- Create Your Zero Based Budget
- Track Your Budget
And don’t miss this:
Sign up below to get your free zero based budget checklist and template!
step 1: determine your why factor
We’ve already established this:
Every single person needs a budget if they want to be financially successful.
This will be different for everybody, and you can determine your why factor by asking yourself these questions:
- What will budgeting help me do?
- How will budgeting make my life simpler?
You might want to start budgeting to stop living paycheck to paycheck, to pay off debt, or to save more money.
Knowing what your why is, is essential because it creates meaning for your purpose. Without it, you’d have no motivation to continue budgeting.
Because let’s be honest:
If you do not have a plan for your money, how are you going to afford your dream life?
Here’s a hint: You won’t’ be able to.
So, establish the reason you want to start budgeting and write it down as motivation for when budgeting gets tough.
Pro Tip: Need a spot to write down your motivation for budgeting? I highly recommend investing in a budgeting planner, like the Budget Boss Binder. Keeping all your financial information in one tidy spot makes budgeting a
step 2: collect your financial information
Want to know the best part about this step:
It’s hella simple and shouldn’t take you much time at all.
You’re simply going to gather up your financial information. (i.e., pay stubs and bills)
- a months worth of pay stubs (and your partners, if applicable)
- all the bills you currently pay, their individual costs, and when they’re due
- your personal spending habits
This is crazy, but:
Most people don’t actually know how much money they make or how much money they spend.
And, when you don’t know this information, it is impossible to budget.
So, to avoid playing guessing games, take the time to gather your financial information before you try to create a budget.
Helpful Hint: If you are unsure of your exact income and expenses, track your finances in a budgeting planner to find out!
step 3: calculate your income + expenses
Before you can assign your income to categories (i.e., create a zero based budget), you need to establish your average monthly income and expenses.
If you’ve never budgeted before, you probably don’t have a firm understanding of your finances.
Therefore, you’re probably spending more than you can afford (or not spending your money efficiently).
So, to determine if you need to cut back on expenses before you start budgeting (for better budgeting success) calculate your income and expenses now.
Using the information you gathered during step two, calculate your total monthly income (after taxes) from all sources.
Once you know exactly how much money you earn each month, you can determine if you are living within or beyond your means.
For the purposes of this post, let’s pretend your total monthly income is $4,500.
Next, you’ll want to calculate your total monthly expenses.
For the purposes of most budgets, break your expenses down into two categories:
1. Fixed Expenses
2. Variable Expenses
Fixed expenses are bills that you are required to pay monthly, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, cell phone, credit cards, insurance, etc.
Variable expenses are those that vary in cost each month and could be decreased or eliminated if needed. These expenses include things like groceries, transportation, entertainment, and more.
If you aren’t sure what your monthly variable expenses are, begin tracking your spending in a financial planner to calculate an average at the end of the month.
For the purposes of this post, let’s pretend our total fixed expenses equal $2970 and our total variable expenses equal $730.
step 4: cut costs
Once you’ve calculated your monthly income and expenses, you can quickly decipher if you’re living within or above your means.
To do this, simply subtract your total expenses from your total income.
If the number is a positive number:
You’re in the green and should be able to afford your lifestyle with ease each month and can easily move onto setting up your zero based budget.
If the number you calculated is a negative number:
You’re in the red and cannot afford your current lifestyle, meaning you will have to decrease your expenses if you want to successfully start budgeting.
These are the best resources to save $1,000+ every month:
1. Use BillBargain
This is a fantastic resource that will help you lower your monthly expenses. BillBargain has successfully negotiated over 85% of the bills they receive for cell phone bills, Wi-Fi, cable, and more. The best part? BillBargain is 100% risk-free. If they don’t successfully negotiate a lower price for your bills, you don’t owe them a dime.
2. Pay Off Your Debt
Credit card debt will suck you dry every month if you don’t work hard now to pay off what you owe. I highly recommend consolidating your credit card debt into a low-interest personal loan to save tons of money and pay off your debt in half the time. (Doing this helped me pay off $15,000 in debt in only 12 months!)
3. Sign Up For Trim
Referred to as a financial health service, Trim securely connects to your bank account(s) to analyze spending, subscriptions, and recurring bill pay. Then, Trim will help you cancel unused subscriptions, negotiate lower bill prices, and more. In the last month alone, they’ve helped their users save over $1,000,000!!
101 Ways To Save Money: Read our ultimate guide to frugal living to discover 95 more ways to save thousands of dollars a year!
step 5: create your zero-based budget
To get started you’ll need to:
- Download your zero-based budget printables for $1 (or get them free when you sign up for our free ecourse!)
- Have your total monthly income handy
- Grab your list of fixed and variable expenses
Next, follow these steps:
1. Add up your monthly income (after taxes): $4,500
2. Total your monthly fixed expenses: $2,970
3. Total your monthly variable expenses: $730
4. Subtract your total monthly expenses from your total monthly income to see how much money you have left to budget: $4500 – $3700 = $800
5. Assign the rest of the money ($800) to debt repayment, savings, retirement, vacation fund, and more.
6. Subtract steps 2-4 from step 1 to get ZERO.
The goal is to reach zero at the end of your budget planning and calculations, meaning that every dollar you earn has a job each month.
This is great because you’ll be able to easily budget for your lifestyle while also affording to pay off debt and save money.
And, the best part:
step 6: tracking your budget
Most people forget this crucial part of budgeting and end up wondering why their budget failed a month after implementing it.
If you have a budget, then you need to track it.
Because, here’s the deal:
If you do not track your budget, you cannot make sure that you are sticking to your budget. And, if you aren’t making sure that you’re sticking to your budget, your budget will fail.
You might be wondering:
How do you track your budget?
With these budget tracking resources, duh!
1. The Budget Boss Binder – $9 ($27 value)
A printable and digital budgeting planner designed to help you create & stick to a budget, pay off debt, save money, and more. The Budget Boss Binder is un-dated so you only have to purchase once to use this planner forever.
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When you act fast, you can download our best-selling Budget Boss Binder for only $9! But, quick! This deal ends tonight at midnight!
2. Honey Money ($50 value)
An online resource to track your budget. Honey Money is the internet’s version of a printable financial planner. Within your dashboard, you can create your budget, track your budget, create debt repayment and savings goals, and more. If you aren’t a pen and paper kinda person, I highly recommend this budget tracking resource.
Again, when you track your budget, you ensure that the system you put into place is working correctly.
Don’t let the time you spent creating a budget go to waste by avoiding this simple step!
>> wrapping up
A zero based budget is the ultimate way to take control of your money (and your life).
A zero based budget is the exact budgeting method we used to pay off over $6,000 in debt in under a year.
And, I want the same things for you.
So, take action:
Gather your financial information, implement your
And, don’t forget your budget by paycheck printables by signing up below!
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2020 Budget Boss Binder (40+ Pages)
Zero Based Budget Monthly Template (2 Pages)
Budget By Paycheck Calendar Template (2 Pages)
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