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Budgeting in 4 Easy Steps


No matter your financial situation in life, everyone needs a budget. With a budget, you can plan for needed expenses and prepare for the things you want!

In fact, the most simple budget only needs a couple of lists, a calculator, and some goals. Below are the main points our post will go over to help you set up your budget:

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Budgets are an important tool in anyone’s financial arsenal. Budgets can help you organize your needed expenses, like rent and bills, prepare for emergencies and get ready for whatever your future might hold. By knowing how to budget you can learn to stop living paycheck to paycheck and start building up your savings. it can help you save up for big expenses or future life events like a wedding, starting a family, buying a car or a house or moving to a new state.

Budgeting can also help you save for retirement, something else that even younger people just starting out on their own sometimes forget to think about but should. But most of all it can grant you financial power and freedom and help you provide for your wants and needs. But for those just starting out on their own especially, it can be hard to know where to begin.

There are several key elements you’ll need to include in your budget. You need to think about all your necessary expenses and plan them out accordingly so you are aware of how much of your monthly income you need to spend each month no matter what. Then you’ll have to think about unnecessary expenses. This is where you have the most freedom to plan out the numbers and make adjustments.


How to Budget

There are many ways to budget and there is a lot of advice out there in the financial spheres about how to do it. You can also choose to plan for certain events by making a specific wedding budget, or for major purchases like car payments. But if you’re making a simple budget for yourself, then the main thing you’ll want to decide first is whether you want to make a monthly or yearly budget. Most people like to create a yearly one to get a general big picture view of their financial goals and future plans. But, a monthly one is more helpful for everyday use. We’re going to try and condense all that down to the bare bones minimum of what every smart budget needs.

#1: List your monthly income

List out all your forms of income. This would include the paychecks from your job, but also any extra money you make from any of your side hustles. Here is also where you can decide whether you want to organize your finances for gross income or net income.

Gross income is simpler and easier to calculate. You just need to know how much you get paid and use that money for your calculations.

Net income isn’t as simple to figure out but there are advantages to using it. You figure out your net income by looking up what the income tax is in your state, and taking out that percentage from your gross income. Using net income instead of gross income is perhaps better because it more realistically reflects what you will actually receive from your paycheck.

#2: List your fixed expenses

After you have all your sources of income written down you’ll want to form another list for all your fixed expenses. Fixed expenses are the expenses you have each month that doesn’t fluctuate in amount. Everyone’s list is going to look different depending on what expenses do and don’t apply to you, but here is an example list of some fixed expenses:

  • Rent or Mortgage: A calculation you’ll want to do when looking at your housing expenses is to check that your total housing expenses aren’t over 28% of your monthly gross income.
  • Insurance
  • Debts: A calculation you’ll want to do when looking at your debts is to check that your total debts aren’t over 36% of your monthly gross income.
  • Loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit card payments
  • Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify
  • Phone bill
  • Medication you pay for each month
  • Child support
  • Education

After you’ve listed all your fixed expenses total the amount, subtract it from your monthly income, and that’s what you have left to spend on varied expenses . . .

#3: Set up your savings

Before we go into varied expenses though, let’s take a moment to think about your savings and retirement. Get a savings account if you don’t have one already, and set aside a portion of what’s leftover after fixed expenses. Any amount you can afford to put away into a savings account each month will set you up for success in the long term, even if it’s only 5 to 10 dollars a month.

Aside from general savings and saving for retirement, you also want to set money aside in an emergency fund. It’s recommended that you have at least 3 months’ worth of your fixed expenses put away into an emergency fund at all times.

Digit is a great app you can use to help you plan and organize all your savings.

#4: List and portion out your varied expenses

Everyone’s list of varied expenses is going to look different depending on what expenses do and don’t apply to you. Varied expenses are any expenses that are going to fluctuate in amount each month, or are considered more like luxury expenses than needed ones.

Varied expenses are a big reason to do a budget in the first place so that your varied expenses each month don’t overtake your more important fixed expenses and your savings. Here are some examples of varied expenses you might need to consider:

  • Groceries
  • Eating out
  • Entertainment
  • Gas and transportation
  • Recreation
  • Clothes
  • College textbooks

Another way to figure out the reality of what you’re spending on varied expenses is to look at your transaction history for the month and see 1) How much in total you were spending on varied expenses that month, and 2) What those varied expenses were on. Do this for a couple of months back to get a more realistic idea of what you are spending on varied expenses each month.

Organizing your varied expenses is where you have the most control over your budget. Whatever is left over after your fixed expenses and your monthly payments to your savings account is what you have to spend on all your other spending for the month.

Here is where you will list out what all those varied expenses might be and portion what you have left in the budget into them. Remember that you don’t necessarily want to portion out 100% of what’s left into these categories so that you can accumulate a comfortable cushion in not just your savings account but your checking account as well.

Budgeting Tips


Making investments is a great way to beef up your financial portfolio. There are probably a trillion ways to invest, but the idea behind investments is that you put money into something that will give you more money in return later. This is called compounding interest.


A helpful tip to remember when going into any investment is the rule of 72. This rule means that if you take 72 divided by the interest rate you’ll figure out the estimated number of years it will take for your interest to double your initial investment.

Personal Capital and Acorns are some of the most helpful investing apps you can use to step up your investment game.

Where should I put my budget?

Figuring out where to even put your budget can get complicated. You can use excel or make your own table in Word or Google Docs or any note-taking program of your choice. There are also many free budget templates online that you can print out and use. Budget tools are all around if you take the time to look and decide on which ones best suit your needs.

Click here for a free budget worksheet from the Federal Trade Commission.

You can also use budgeting apps to keep track of all your bills, expenses, plans, and goals. Some of these apps even allow you to connect your budget to your financial accounts.

Control your spending

Sometimes it can be difficult to control your varied expenses throughout the month and track your spending. You can make controlling how much you spend each month easier by using a prepaid debit card. With a prepaid debit card, you put money on it like a gift card to yourself almost. You can also use a similar method of spending control by just taking money out and only using that cash for your varied expenses each week.

PocketGuard is an app that can help you track your purchases.

Get a Side Gig

Getting an extra source of income can really come in handy. There are a million different kinds of side hustles any ambitious person these days can get into. You can babysit, drive for uber, or sell your own products. The possibilities are endless and it never hurts to have a little extra money each month.

Plan to Decrease Debts

Debt can be a real financial weight on your shoulders, but it can also be a necessary evil in order to get a house, get a car, get through college, and much more. Decreasing the amount of debts you owe can still help alleviate some of that weight and provide more financial comfort and peace of mind.

So it’s important to budget with paying down your debts in mind. You can pay down debts quicker by planning to spend more on that fixed/necessary expenses each month, by spending less on varied expenses, or by getting another job to provide more income to put into your debts each month.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be hard. All you really need is 4 lists and a calculator! Everyone should practice using a budget now so that you can control your finances instead of your finances controlling you.


Check out some of other Check City articles on budgeting:
Budgeting for Dummies

What is a Budget?

Budgeting Tips You May Not Have Thought of Before

3 Simple Tips to Building a Budget

Ways to Keep Track of Your Spending

Learning to Budget Your Money

It is a concept that has been taught in schools and homes across the nation but, for whatever reason, creating and implementing an effective budget continues to be an underutilized aspect of responsible financial practices among a lot people. Those who have found how effective proper budgeting can be will never again try to “wing it” from paycheck to paycheck because they have been able to not only pay off bills and expenses but many have also been able to start saving more money every month.

When one considers all of the positives associated with planning and keeping a budget and all of the negatives that come form improper spending due to the lack of a budget, the only real excuse for individuals to not have and maintain an effective budget is because of ignorance on how to do it. Knowledge, as the old adage goes, is power. So the same is true when it comes to money and finances. By know how to appropriately budget incomes with expenditures, an individual and a family can begin to establish financial security within the home.

The first step in creating a budget is to know exactly how much money is coming into a home and how much is going out. Collect pay-stubs and bills to weigh how much of every paycheck must go towards paying essential bills and needs such as food and clothing cost. If there is a deficit or if there is little money left over after subtracting the income from the expenditures then some of the services represented on the bills will have to be cut. This may mean losing cable or internet service or even selling a car that cannot be afforded.

With money left over after paying bills and allocating food costs, a family can then explore saving options. These can be discuses with financial professionals who will help you to determine what types of plans would be most beneficial for your needs. By properly budgeting income a family can save otherwise wasted money.

5 Awesome Tips on How to Coupon

Coupons are a great way to find great deals and save money. When used correctly, coupons can save you a great deal, especially when used on a frequent basis. Due to the connected nature of the world that we live in, getting coupons for deals is easier than ever.

Today, people have a wide access to a lot of different coupon options when they are looking for a deal. Along with the coupons which might be found in the mail or in the paper, there are also a lot to be found on the Internet. Majority of businesses offer coupons because they are beneficial for both the retailer and for you. There are many ways to coupon, and here are some great tips on how to coupon!

Sunday Paper

If you grab the Sunday Newspaper, you can usually find an entire coupon section. You can sort through the coupons you are most likely to use. You can cut them out and take them to your supermarket on your next visit. If you prefer having the physical coupon, then this is a great way to learn how to coupon.

Coupon Software

In today’s world, you no longer have to wait for the Sunday paper. Many websites now allow you to print your coupons. With these sites, you can stay current on the latest offerings. All you need to use these sites are a computer and a printer!

Get the App!

Today, everyone is most likely carrying a smartphone that offers apps. There are many apps that offer great coupon opportunities and help you how to coupon. The best part about it is, you don’t even have to print anything out. They are all electronic and at your fingertips.

In the Mail

Often, you can receive the Sunday paper coupons in the mail. If you have a Post Office Box, you can go to the counter and ask for the local coupon ads and receive very beneficial coupons.

Make sure when you are couponing that you buy necessary items you need and you will use in the future. Couponing can be challenging when you buy unnecessary items that you will end up throwing out and wasting your time and money on. It is often hard to “say no” to a great deal that is being offered, but if you’re not going to use it, then you aren’t saving any money.

Rewards Programs

Chances are most of your favorite restaurants, grocers and stores offer a rewards program or a punch card. When you go to purchase your items, always make sure to ask the employee if their store offers rewards programs. Rewards programs are a great way to save money and receive great incentives and free items. They are also a great way to find coupons. You want to be able to save while making the purchases that you need. Make the effort and enjoy the rewards which follow right after!

We hope you have learned a lot on how to coupon. Thank you for reading!

Save Money by Couponing with These 5 Tips

Save Money with Coupons!

Coupons are a great way to find great deals and save money. If properly used, coupons can really help you save a lot of money. I know you may be thinking, “Couponing is such a hassle.” But in this interconnected world we live in, couponing is actually easier than ever.

Today, you have access to many different couponing options. Yes, we just said that. You can find coupons outside of your local newspaper! How, you may ask? We are here to show you. Here are some great tips to help you save money by couponing.

Sunday Paper

The good old paper will always be there for your couponing needs. If you take the Sunday Newspaper, you can usually find an entire coupon section. You can sort through the coupons you are most likely to use and cut them out.

Get the App!

In today’s world, you no longer have to wait for the Sunday paper. For most people, coupon apps are the most convenient way to coupon. There are dozens of great coupon apps out there to choose from. Research and find one that best fits your needs!

Your phone is most likely with you at all times, so the convenience is already there. Don’t wait, save money by couponing today!

Coupon Software

Although apps are very convenient, some people prefer a physical copy of their coupon. No worries, we have you covered. Many websites now allow you to print your coupons. With these sites, you can stay current on the latest offerings. All you need is a computer and a printer!

In the Mail

Don’t worry, there is another great couponing method! The mail! That’s right, you can have your coupons delivered in the mail. Don’t search for your coupons, have them find you. Have your coupons delivered to you in the mail and save money by couponing today!

The Extreme Couponer

Learning how to extreme coupon isn’t hard. The extreme couponer will plan for their shopping trip like they are heading into battle, with a well thought-out battle strategy. If you have this level of commitment, you can save some serious money!

Therefore, it is a good idea for people who want to save money to make a habit of using coupons from several different sources in order to get the best results overall. We recommend you try out multiple couponing methods, so you can find different deals to different stores. We hope you have learned how to do extreme couponing!

Always remember, just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you need the item! It’s important to look for items that you need and use. If you don’t coupon properly, it can possibly have a negative impact. As you learn the tricks of the savvy couponer community, you can save even more than expected. Don’t wait, save money by couponing today!

Getting Rewards through Your Bank

If you are looking for a good way to get a little extra out of the money you spend on things, check with your bank to see if they have a rewards program. Rewards programs are there to ensure that the consumer gets tangible benefits for using that particular bank or account type. These programs are commonplace now, and offer good incentive to spend responsibly while still being able to get perks out of the experience.

Rewards programs typically will offer you the choice between getting cash back on your purchases (based on a percentage decided ahead of time) in order to offer money over the course of time, or they will have some kind of actual rewards set up with businesses in order to get your merchandise and discounts and other opportunities.

Both of these perks have their benefits, and some programs will offer the ability to utilize both in order to get even better perks out of the experience. This arrangement is one that is good for both the banks and for you. Obviously, you benefit when you qualify for the rewards which are offered through these programs, because it allows you to get cash back and earn things like flight miles and other great options.

The banks get to have your continued support and investment of funds into their accounts, meaning that these programs are mutually beneficial to both parties. As such, it is a nice aside to have in exchange for being a good customer of the bank. When it all comes down to it, the little things that we are able to get make a big difference on the experience that we have overall.

Check with your bank to see how you can start saving and getting nice perks when banking with them on a regular basis!

Using Social Media to Save

Social media is not only a great resource that can connect you with people and the things that you like. It also is a great way to find out about the products you want to buy, as well as how to save on them. Following companies on social media sites is a great way to be able to save.

In order to connect with their target demographics, companies will often run specials and promotions on their product through their social media accounts. It is a simple trade off, because the point of their efforts is to get more attention and more interested people looking at what they are doing. All individuals have to do is follow them on their accounts, and they will be eligible for the special offers that are being put forward.

For the company, getting better numbers and getting people talking about their products and services is the ultimate goal of these efforts. As such, special offers and promotions are an investment being made in drawing in more consumers. It also is a good thing for both the business and the consumer alike because social media sites will instantly transmit the information to those that are following.

There are no delays, and there is no need to hope for people to stumble across the offer. It is focused and direct, essentially becoming an immediate offer of a deal or information. The advertising capacity of social media also allows the companies to target their ads directly to those whoa re going to be interested, further amplifying their potential revenue.

When it all comes down to it, the relationship between consumer, business,and social media is one that is beneficial for all parties. You can grab some great deals and get great information by following the organizations that interest you on social media sites!

Follow Check City Social Media accounts for prizes, cash and financial services tips!

5 Super Simple Frugal Living Tips

If you are looking to save money over time or simply want to get in better financial habits, there are some things that you can do in order to get to a better place. These are simple things which can be done every day, which can make a big difference for you over time. Indeed, one of the msot important things to remember is that savings will stack over time, even if it doesn’t seem like it is too impressive in the moment.

Fiscal responsibility requires discipline on the part of the person. While there are no magical shortcuts that will yield good results, building up an effective habit set will let you get the most out of the experience.

1: Distinguish between Luxury and Necessary Spending

First of all, it is essential that you are able to understand the difference between necessary spending and luxury spending. Many people feel that there is overlap between these two concepts, or that one trumps the other one. Essential expenditures should always be prioritized and taken care of first, so that people can figure out what to do with the rest of their funds. Necessary expenditures include rent or mortgage payments, car payments, taking care of paydays loans or cash advances, food, gas, clothing, utilities, and any costs that are associated with taking care of children.

Everything else in the spectrum is going to be optional, and should be treated as such. Being aware of fiscal responsibilities and knowing how to prioritize is the first big things that you should address when you are trying to save. Mandatory payments will need to be taken care of, but the rest needs to be carefully gone over.

2: Make Cuts in Your Spending

Next, you should try to figure out what you can do without, or what you can substitute in order to get similar results. For example, if your family goes to the moves a few times a month and racks up extensive costs that way, getting Netflix may be a good way to save. You will be able to view more movies for much less of a cost.

Likewise, a daily cup of coffee from a shop or restaurant is a daily expense may not seem very wasteful, but the costs rapidly stack. By buying more generic brands and making them at home, you could save a couple thousand dollars a year on drinks alone. The same concept also applies to grocery shopping. A common example is cereal, and the generic alternatives. One can get much more generic brand cereal for the same price as a name brand box, even though they are functionally identical in every way.

3: Cap Your Spending

Instituting spending caps is another wise way to keep money within the budget which has been given. Using a prepaid debit card puts a defined limit on spending. Other alternatives include using a supply of cash to pay for luxury expenses, so that there is a physical reminder of how much there is in a given month. For some people, the visual is able to give context in a very real way.

4: Keep Receipts and Track Spending

Another thing to consider is to hold onto receipts and track expenses, and then uses professional tax services during tax season to handle your returns. Those that make the effort to hold onto the information governing their finances should be able to get a better return than those who do not. All you have to do is place your receipts and returns somewhere that you can easily store them.

5: Think Twice Before Buying

Use common sense for every transaction. If you don’t need something or really gain anything from it, then it may need to be passed on for the sake of financial pragmatism.
By following these simple guidelines, you too should be able to create an effective set of habits that will save you money. As long as you are willing to stick with progress and be disciplined about it, you should be able to notice a real difference when it comes to your finances!


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