RB Budgeting: The Basics {Part 1}

Way back … as in 2001, I graduated from undergrad with a finance degree. A degree that I hardly use outside of my personal budget and bookkeeping from the photography business. I don’t consider myself an expert in the field of finance nor do I hold any sort of certifications, but after years of being asked for help with budgeting/saving/getting out of debt by friends and coworkers when they discover (or remember) my undergraduate major, I thought I’d finally start a blog series on the budgeting … especially if you’re like me: single, have financial goals, want to get the best for as little as possible, want to travel regularly, and not have a mountain of debt in the process. I also realize that many of you popping by here are in your 20s, so any lessons I’ve learned (hard & easy) I can pass on, I’m more than glad to share.

Today I’m discussing a few simple to start with basics for those new to budgeting … plus including a spreadsheet I’ve tweaked that you can download to help you see all of your income and bills in one place


1. At the end of the day/week/month, the key is to spend less than you take home.

Debt is no bueno. No bueno at all. Just because AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, or Visa gave you a really nice credit limit doesn’t mean you should see how close you can come to maxing it out.

Step 1: Make a list of all your sources of income (work, side hustles, blogging income (if any), interest on bank accounts)
Step 2: Make a list of all of your bills/necessary expenses: loan payments, credit card payments, utilities, insurance, groceries, vehicle and home related expenses (non-payment/insurance), taxes you have to pay out separately from what’s deducted from your check (property taxes + self employment), medical bills/meds you take regularly.
Step 3: See what (if anything) is left after all the necessary expenses are subtracted. Aim to save as much as that as possible, apply the rest to any debt payoff that’s hanging over your head.

2. Make a list and stick to it when shopping.

Yes, I know that there’s so much tempting you as you stroll the aisles of Target for a single item. Resist, ladies, resist. And grocery shop after eating a meal, not before. Less impulse food purchases, especially unhealthy ones!

3. Stick to using real money when shopping.

I assure you, its much more painful to hand over cash or even write a check than it is to swipe a credit or debit card. And speaking of debit cards, if you don’t have checks, that is, make sure to write it in your checkbook register/hang on to the receipts. Way back when I was a cashier in a grocery store, so many customers would tell me to toss the receipt on their debit card purchases. Then they’d wonder why on the next visit their card was rejected … this was in the days before online banking btw …

I have much more to share (i.e. half a page of topics when I brainstormed recently!) in future installments …

Now for the spreadsheet … I took a Microsoft Excel 2013 spreadsheet template that contained most of what my thrown together one has + added additional expenses some to all of us have that weren’t included … including blogging expenses. The one I made for myself a couple years ago is slightly different … I have mine split up by paydays and an extra column to note when I make payments on expenses. Feel free to tweak this one as you need to …


Download spreadsheet from Google Drive

What’s hardest for you about budgeting? Sticking to a budget? Allocating enough for expenses that vary monthly (i.e. groceries, gasoline, electric/gas bills)? Something else?

Any particular budgeting topics you’d like to see for future posts? Leave suggestions in the comments or email me! 


  • Camila - August 22, 2014 - 9:19 am

    This is super helpful really! I’m kind of a newbie at budgeting! I worked for 1 year full time between my undergrad and postgrad, but I was so intent on my plan to move abroad that I ended up saving almost half my pay every month and so barely spent anything (staying with my parents helped obviously!). I tried to budget while I was living abroad, but since I was doing a masters I didn’t have money coming in, so whatever I was doing, my bank account was always getting lower. Now that I’m moving away again and starting a job, this time, I feel this is going to be very helpful to help me to keep track of my money! Thank you very much 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Christina - September 16, 2014 - 1:04 pm

      Thanks Camila 🙂 It sounds like you’re on the right track already with understanding about savings and cutting expenses, just keep it up!ReplyCancel

  • Jessa O - August 24, 2014 - 11:41 am

    We are about to rework our budget now that the season has ended. It’s tough because we both have a debt card. I think we are going to do Financial Peace.ReplyCancel

    • Christina - September 16, 2014 - 1:03 pm

      I only got a debit card a couple years ago and rarely use it Jessa — primarily when I need cash in an amount more than I can write a check for over the amount at WalMart! I’ve read some of Dave Ramsey’s stuff before and receive his e-newsletters. Financial Peace, from what I’ve heard, is a great program!ReplyCancel

  • Destiny - August 24, 2014 - 7:54 pm

    This is so helpful! I’m looking forward to seeing more of this series! I’m so terrible about staying in budget when I go out with friends. I’ve been pretty good so far about sticking to my budget here in Chicago, but it’s so hard!ReplyCancel

    • Christina - September 16, 2014 - 1:01 pm

      Thanks Destiny 🙂 The next installment is coming up later this week … and I hear you about sticking to a budget, its hard sometimes with all the things out there that tempt us!ReplyCancel

  • Ursula Antonia - August 25, 2014 - 11:58 am

    In my early twenties I was SUCH a reckless spender. I never made a budget because that’s what “grown ups” do. One day it got so bad I sat down and calculated all my expenses and was shocked to find that most of my money went to eating out at restaurants and useless junk. I’m much better now. Making a budget makes life so much easier!ReplyCancel

    • Christina - September 16, 2014 - 1:00 pm

      I understand Ursula — even with my finance degree I can’t say I’ve put all that knowledge to the right use all the time! And you’re right, making a budget does make life so much easier … or at least tame the anxiety a bit!ReplyCancel

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    […] List (as of August 2014) | RB Roadtripping: When Travel Plans Don’t Go As Planned | Park Avenue | RB Budgeting: The Basics {Part 1} | RB Dream Destinations: Wellington, New Zealand | Casey’s Favorite Road Trips {Wanderlust […]ReplyCancel

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  • Liz - September 15, 2014 - 9:47 am

    I need this blog post so badly I can’t even tell you. I look forward to reading more. I’ve got my regular bills and income mapped out well but have no idea how much to budget for things like groceries or gas or clothes (I’m changing sizes and need to adjust my wardrobe a little)ReplyCancel

    • Christina - September 16, 2014 - 11:36 am

      Glad the post was helpful Liz 🙂 I hear you about budgeting for expenses that fluctuate like food and gas. I’ll try to delve into my budget with the next installment later this week without giving away too much personal info!ReplyCancel

  • […] month, I began discussing the basics of budgeting and included a spreadsheet for download that would allow for seeing all one’s bills and […]ReplyCancel

  • Jana - September 24, 2014 - 2:50 am

    Thanks for the great budgeting tips! I just tried to download the file but it does not work. Is there anywhere you can share it again or is there a possibility to send it via email? Thanks a lot in advance for your help!!!ReplyCancel

    • Christina - October 2, 2014 - 12:58 pm

      You’re welcome Jana … I hope the file I sent you via email worked 🙂ReplyCancel

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