7 Cash Flow Steps to a Healthy Budget

by : Andrew Bicknell

The word budget can strike fear into even the strongest of people. If there is one thing very few people are ready for when they leave the safety of home for the first time it is dealing with money. There are not too many people who even know how to balance their checkbook after they open their first checking account. So creating a budget can be a scary proposition for anyone who isn't good at keeping track of their money.

But if we look at a budget in a different light then maybe it will be easier to live with what it is. And all it is is a cash flow plan. All a budget does is track where the money is flowing from and where it is flowing to. Cash flow; it's what makes the world go around.

Here are 7 steps you can use to plan your cash flow and before you know it you'll have built a budget. Start with a piece of paper and a pencil; you can save those fancy budgeting software packages for later.

1. Write down your monthly income. If you are a salaried worker this should be easy. If your income is not that steady then add up the past three months worth of income and average it by dividing by three. This will give you a good starting point.

2. Start writing down all your monthly expenses. Mortgage, rent, car payment, credit card payments, utilities, groceries, eating out, entertainment, and anything else you spend money on. For those expenses that fluctuate, such as groceries and gas, use the three month average method to get an accurate amount.

3. Here's the scary part for most people. Subtract the expenses from the income and see what's left. You will either have a positive cash flow or negative cash flow. Unfortunately in this day of increasing debt most people have a negative cash flow.

4. Once you have your monthly cash flow laid out in front of you you can start assigning your money to your expenses. As you make those payments throughout the month write them down to see how your spending lines up with what you have budgeted for that particular item.

5. If you have a negative cash flow then you can start looking at everything you have written down and find areas where your spending may not be in the best interest of you financial goals. As you do this you can free up money for more important financial considerations.

6. The first time you do a cash flow plan it probably won't work out quite right. It normally takes about three months to get everything working right while you figure out where your money has been going every month. Be patient with your budget and before long it will start working and you will regain control of your money.

7. Once you are comfortable with your written budget and you have better control of where your money goes and what it does then consider investing in some budget software such as Quicken. It can make your cash flow plan much easier and with the added features like retirement and tax planning it can give you a solid financial future.

By using these 7 cash flow steps you can begin your budget quickly and easily. Only by taking back control of your money can you improve your financial future for you and your family.