Updated: May 19
I suppose the first question that most people ask is ‘What is a Zero Dollar budget?’
The simplest answer to that question is - A zero dollar budget is a budget in which the total amount of your expenses is equal to the total amount of your income.
Does that mean you are spending ALL of your income every month? ..... Nope.
A budget (any budget) at the most basic level is a ‘plan’ for your money.
You begin a budget with an estimate of your expected income. For salaried employees, this is probably a dependable amount, however, for most hourly employees, it would be an estimate using your average income from the last 2-3 months.
Then you list ALL of your expected expenses for the upcoming month. On my first budget, I had to use my bank’s transaction history to help me calculate estimates for my utilities as well as get totals that I didn’t even think of, like fast food and other miscellaneous expenses.
The first time I did this, I was SHOCKED! My list of expenses FAR exceeded my expected income. 😲😲
And then, ….. dun dun duuuun…..
Realization hit full force 🤦🏽♀️ …… this was why I was living paycheck to paycheck… this was why I felt like I could never get ahead of my bills.
Some of you may say.. Well duh! Of course that’s why 🙄… Just like everyone else, I needed more money. - we’ll come back to that.
But this is the first problem and I am here to give you SOLUTIONS!
The next step in creating a Zero Dollar Budget is to adjust your expenses so that it is equal to your income.
I know what you’re thinking…….. You’re thinking 💭💭 ‘I just wasted a whole two minutes of my life reading this blog if that’s the only solution she has to offer.’😆😆
If that were true, you would be correct. But I am going to give you a few tips to help you “find” some places in your budget where you may be able to decrease your expenses.
No. 1. Fast Food - This was the first expense and one of the easiest to change as I was the one in control of how much I spent.
On that note, you may not need to increase your budget for groceries; with a few useful apps, like Ibotta and Checkout 51 I am able to earn cash back with digital rebates (I don't have time to organize coupons 🤷🏽♀️)
**Based on each app's terms and conditions
No. 2 - Cellphones - I changed our plan (we had an old one) to an updated one that gave me a lot of the same features for a lower price….. To be continued …….
I’m going to pause here and say that at this point, you’re going to have to become VERY familiar with the concept of SACRIFICE.
Ask yourself these LIFE-CHANGING questions:
#1. On a scale of 1- 10 (with 1 being I am ok with where I am and 10 being Let’s Do This!)
How ready am I to take control of my financial situation, instead of letting my finances control me? Hint: Your answer should be 10! If it isn’t, what comes next is going to be a lot harder.
#2 On a scale of 1- 10 (with 1 being ‘not even my morning coffee’ and 10 being ‘whatever I can to reach my goals because I understand it will be worth it in the long run and my future self will thank me’)
How much am I willing to sacrifice to achieve my goal of financial freedom? Hint: This should also be 10!
Well, hopefully your answer was 10 to both of those questions and the rest of this information will be a smaller pill to swallow.
No. 2 Continued - Most people have a WiFi hotspot available everywhere they go. A data plan is mostly for convenience. I’m not saying cancel your data plan, but I am saying to take a look at your usage and determine if a lower plan (with some boundaries) could help you find a few extra dollars for more important expenses.
No. 3 - Beauty Expenses - Oh no she didn’t just go there ….. Oh yes I did!….. I am currently wearing press-on nails 💅🏾 from Walgreens and they look Awesome! (if I don’t say so myself 😉). One of my monthly expenses was getting my nails done at a very nice nail salon (read very expensive also). Before, you automatically say ‘Absolutely Not!’, go back to Life-Changing question #2…
No. 4 - Home Entertainment - Examine your cable and internet bill… do you really watch all those channels? Would an internet only subscription and 1-2 other Netflix/Hulu/Disney+/Shudder subscriptions help me save money? - Just an FYI, most local libraries have DVD collections that are free to borrow as well as digital subscriptions that you can access from home free of charge. Before, you automatically say ‘Absolutely Not!’, go back to Life-Changing question #2…
No. 5 - Gym Membership - There are sooooo many free at-home workouts on the internet on any and every social media platform from Pinterest Boards to YouTube videos to Facebook Groups. Before, you automatically say ‘Absolutely Not!’, go back to Life-Changing question #2…
I could go on and on with a even more, but the short version is to really dig deep into your budget and find any way you can save even if its only $5, because those dollars are going to start adding up and your budget is going to get closer to Zero, rather than negative $200 or more.
Here is the most important part of your budget : PAY YOURSELF!! - You must include a ‘savings expense’ to start building your emergency fund. Read more on The Importance of Having an Emergency Fund.
And lastly, LIFE HAPPENS! When it does, don’t just figuratively or literally 🤦🏾 throw your budget out the window. Take a few minutes, review your budget and figure out where you can move around your expenses to accommodate life’s curveball (whatever that may be).
Now for the tools and resources to help you along the way.
Click on the link to download my free Budget Template to help you get started on this process.
If you would prefer an app, there are many free budget apps available. I use a budget app in addition to my budget template, because I like to have different views of my budget when I am planning and adjusting where necessary. **I mostly use my budget template to keep track of due dates and paid dates.**
Of course, this is only one small step toward your goal of Financial Freedom. Hopefully, you’ve also checked out my other posts on The Modern 'Envelope System' for Your Budget and Make Overdraft Fees a Thing of The Past for some other steps.
Now let’s get back to that whole needing more income idea - 🗣️ "Side Hustles" are a must for anyone currently living paycheck to paycheck, and as such, the idea is deserving of it’s own post - Using a “Side Hustle” to Achieve Financial Freedom.
As an independent, licensed representative of Primerica Life, I can provide a complimentary, personal, confidential analysis of your financial situation using our Financial Needs Analysis tool. Schedule your appointment now. **Appointments will be held via Zoom.
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