Sitting down to create a budget is rarely at the top of my weekend agenda. But that doesn't make it any less important. No matter your financial situation, you are ultimately the expert in managing the day-to-day (and year-to-year) of your own money matters. And if creating a budget is part of your plan, there are some questions for a little budgeting introspection that just may help you sort through those spreadsheets with a little more ease. Here are a few to ask yourself before you get started.
What are my priorities?
Are you all about traveling? Or is your personal focus more settled on school or a home? Knowing what types of things matter to you right now will help you start creating plans for the future and save or spend accordingly, not to mention it will be a huge help in figuring out the rough outlines of your budget.
What are my goals?
Your goals can be anything from purchasing a new car to saving for retirement. Consider long-term and short-term goals here to create a more complete picture for your finances, and don't be afraid to get super specific. By clearly defining your goals, you'll give yourself more to work with—and towards.
What are my current circumstances?
Are you still paying off those student loans, or are you officially debt free? Your financial obligations are an essential consideration for your budget, and may even impact how much weight you can give your priorities and goals.
Who else is a decision maker in my finances?
Creating a budget for a single person looks different from creating a budget with a spouse. If you do have other decision makers to consider, it's a great idea to ask them these same questions. You never know when you'll come across a difference of opinion or an unexpected shared goal to work through or towards together.
How will I keep myself accountable?
This is where things get kind of fun. There are so many ways to keep yourself firmly in control of your budget. Mint and PocketGuard are two smartphone-friendly options for the tech savvy, while PearBudget touts its simple approach to budgeting via a web interface. Prefer to track your spending more simply? Try making your own, fully customized spreadsheet.
What's your best advice for making a budget?