How to Start a Budget from Scratch

Congratulations on starting your financial journey! Creating a budget and sticking to it is no easy feat, but it is the best way to manage your finances and ensure that your money is going toward the expenses that matters most to you and your family.

Start by determining why you want a budget. Deciding on a budget can help you make informed decisions. Budgeters are almost twice as likely to report no financial worries compared to spenders. Moreover, budgeters are less likely to struggle with finances. Common reasons to create a budget include: to save more money, to reduce overspending, to eliminate couple financial disputes, to get out of debt, to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, and to achieve goals.

After determining the reasons why, you want to create a budget, you must go deeper into your current spending habits. What are your spending habits as an individual and as a family? If your budget is not realistic, it is useless. Most experts recommend tracking your spending for about a month to get a clear picture of your spending habits.

The next step is to identify your financial goals. A great framework to use is the SMART method. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound. For instance, you want to save S$3,000 for home renovation within six months. You will need to save about S$500 per month. Thanks to your budget, you already know that you will have an excess of S$750 per month. This will help you with your goal!

Once you have your financial goals down, decide how much you need to save (per month or per year) for each goal. Bigger expenses such as home renovation and debt repayment can take a longer time to build. You can also incorporate building an emergency fund into your budget.

The basic phases are done, and it is time to make a budget. There are many types of budgets, so you will have to choose the one that suits you best. Options include zero-based budget and 50-30-20 budget.

A zero-based budget is an approach popularized by Dave Ramsey. It involves making income minus outflow equate to S$0. With a zero-sum budget, every dollar you have is assigned a task, with some of those going into savings or other spending categories. This type of budget can be restrictive, which is not ideal for everyone.

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The 50-30-20, on the other hand, divides your budget into different percentages. 50% of income is allocated toward needs, 30% to your wants, and 20% to your savings. Do your research to help you decide which budget method will make sense for you.

Sources: 1 & 2


Ways to stick to a monthly budget

a woman calculating her expenses

It’s not simple to stick to a budget and even the most diligent savers have trouble staying the course at times.

The fact of the matter is that making mistakes is an inevitable process of learning. You will have a greater awareness of your connection with money and more command over your expenses once you get a hold of it. There isn’t a magic button that will keep your budgeting on schedule, but there are a few suggestions that can assist.

Keep scrolling for ways to stick to a monthly budget.

Side incomes

Budgeting is only half of the story; boosting your income can help you achieve your financial goals. Look for ways to make additional money by working or by taking on a side hustle. Admittedly, nothing feels more comfortable than regular contributions to your bank account.

Track the transactions

We all spend money in various categories daily: food, petrol, eating out, and so on. It’s better to develop the practice of recording these transactions as soon as they occur. For instance, do not leave the supermarket until you have done recording the purchase amount on your phone.

Plan your weekly meals
a woman shopping with a grocery list

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The quickest method to protect your cash on hand is to plan your meals and follow a shopping list. You won’t overspend on products that will go stale fast in your refrigerator and then end up in the trash if you plan everything you need to cook for the week.

You will also most likely eat healthier if you avoid buying junk foods that don’t fit into your eating plan. Choose recipes that employ similar ingredients so that you will be able to make full use of them without letting them go to waste due to leftovers.

Say no when you need to

To be realistic, you do have to learn how to reject occasionally; it’s all a part of adulthood. You can’t just expect to acquire whatever you desire. It’s similar to declining social invitations to conserve your time and effort. Saying no to spending is the same—you don’t splurge to avoid draining your current account or your money for tomorrow.

Don’t be concerned about what everyone else claims to have on social networking sites. Some of them are heavily in debt to their luxury possessions, while others are struggling to gain control of their lives away from the camera. So put forth the attempt to protect your budget because being committed to it and your financial goals are more precious now than later.

It’s never a bad way to strictly adhere to your budget, maintain budgeting skills, and keep your save-spend proportion in check. While you may still do anything you want, whether it’s taking a quick trip during the holiday season or checking something off your wishlist from time to time, make sure you have a budget set up for each activity. And don’t forget to incorporate some of the abovementioned ways to help you stick to it.


6 Money Lessons To Avoid Being Broke

Nobody ever wakes up one morning and thinks, “I want to be broke.” A hefty loan here, a bad investment there, and a long credit card statement later – you have no idea how you landed in this state. You are living paycheck to paycheck without savings intact.

What can you do to turn the tide? Start by reading this article and applying these lessons into your life.


Goals mark your direction in life. If you do not have a clear destination to work towards, it can be difficult to find the passion or motivation to save. Whether you are eyeing on purchasing a flat or figuring out how to pay off your debts, crafting a plan can get you there.

As you set your financial goals, consider making them SMART. Financial goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. Creating goals using the SMART method can help you ensure that you are working on an achievable goal within the timeline that you set. Stay on course!


Spending less than you make and buying what you can afford seem like simple personal finance rules. However, these are easier said than done. You can get distracted with the consumer-driven society that tempts you to live beyond your means. When this happens, a good rule of thumb is to save at least 15% of your income.

If you find it hard to save money, try paying for groceries and clothes with cash instead of a credit card. Take it one step further by using a budget per month. Withdrawing a fixed amount every month can help you to become more aware of your spending choices.


The majority of personal finance lessons do not center around financial education, but on financial behavior. If you can modify your behavior with money, you can alter your financial future. Remember that you do not need to be a financial expert to prepare an emergency fund or to save for retirement. Start by building a solid financial plan and committing to it.


Search for part-time jobs such as freelancing or dog walking to grow your income. You can take on other positions in the same company too. If you feel like you have reached the glass ceiling in your field, consider looking for new career paths to generate more income. Increasing your income can help your financial future.


Investing is a good way to protect and grow your assets. However, the talent of wise investing does not come to us all. You may be succumbing to emotions and invest impulsively, hence you win big or lose big.

As a precaution, have an advisor who is trustworthy and credible. Research on your part is vital as well. It will give you the knowledge and confidence you need to make smart investments.


It is understood that budgeting plays an essential role in controlling your spending, paying off debts, and staying on track with your financial goals. Creating a budget starts with adding up all your expenses for the month and subtracting that amount from your total income.

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Set monthly and daily spending limits to adjust and make up for any oversights. You can create a budget using a notebook, a spreadsheet, or a budgeting app. Use a tool with which you are most comfortable.

Sources: 1 & 2


Make A Personal Budget In 6 Easy Steps

A personal budget is a financial summary that tracks your income and expenses for a certain period, which is typically a month. The word “budget” is often associated with limited spending, but a budget does not have to be restrictive to be effective.

Having a personal budget that you can review on a regular basis enables you to prevent overspending. Start with these six simple steps.


Get a bird’s-eye view of your financial situation by gathering all your financial statements. Include your bank statements, investment accounts, recent utility bills, credit card statements, receipts from the previous months, loan statements, and other receipts. The more information you can retrieve, the better.


Determine how much you make in a month. If you have a fixed salary, you will find information in your pay slip. If you get paid bi-monthly, you simply need to multiply your pay slip into two.

If you have more than one job or you are self-employed, you must determine your net income differently. Calculate your net income by examining your two most recently filed tax accounts. Add the two figures of your net profit together. Then, divide the total by twenty-four. The definitive answer is your average monthly income.


There are two types of monthly expenses – fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are expenses that you encounter every month such as rent, car payments, and utility bills. While variable expenses change from month to month. Variable expenses include groceries, gifts, and shopping.

Write down a list of all the expenses you expect to have during a month. Do not forget about the childcare, transportation, and entertainment costs.


Get the total of your monthly income and monthly expenses. If your income is higher than your expenses, you are off to a good start. You will have extra funds that you can put aside for retirement savings or debt repayments.

If your expenses are higher than your income, you need to make some changes. Find out which categories you are overspending on.


Add up your total spending per expense category. Which category do you overspend on? You can get the percentages per category to understand how much of your income is going where.


After covering steps one to five, you will be able to highlight the spending areas that you need to eliminate or reduce. For instance, you can cancel your gym membership or lower your handphone’s postpaid plan.

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Amend your budget and align these changes to your financial goals.

Sources: 1 & 2


4 Challenges of Budgeting in 2021

Stating that “2020 has been a tough year” is an understatement. Words cannot describe how much we have been affected by the past year. I, for one, was tasked to let go of employees due to financial constraints. It was not easy! It was one of the hardest decisions that I had to tackle because I have seen these people grow. Moreover, I felt responsible for their well-beings too. However, downsizing was essential for the company to survive.

Our stories may vary, but one thing remains the same. We have all endured the physical, mental, and financial toll that came with the pandemic. As we adapt to the “new normal”, we come to realize how challenging it is to keep a budget. You not only have to fight the urge of spending money, but you also must follow the budget despite unforeseen hurdles.

On that note, here are some of the common challenges that you may experience as you establish your budget.


The cost of living in Singapore is one of the external factors that you have consider when making your budget. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) survey conducted in 2020, Singapore ranked fourth in the global list of the most expensive cities. The WCOL is a bi-annual survey that compares more than 400 individual prices across 138 products and services in over 130 cities worldwide. Zurich, Paris, and Hong Kong preceded Singapore.

Whether you are a young working adult or a foreign migrant worker, you must set a realistic amount for your spending each month. Take each financial category into consideration. For instance, you should have at least S$700 to S$1,500 a month if you are renting a space. If you are eligible to purchase an HDB property, you should set aside at least S$1,500 to S$3,000 a month. Your daily expenses and your overall lifestyle may change to fit your budget.


Many people are afraid of establishing a budget due to the labor-intensive tracking system. Tracking your spending and income may seem like a chore at first, but you will be more comfortable as time passes. Start by tracking your receipts and other spending through a notebook or a spreadsheet. The rise of apps paved way for computer programs that are dedicated to tracking your spending. Find an app that works for you!

Being diligent with noting down your expenses takes practice. If you forget to write down important receipts, inaccuracies in your budget may occur. You may notice that your savings account depleted without knowing where your money went.


The means of getting your income can affect your budget. What is the frequency of your paycheck? The first company I worked for paid us every end of the month. In contrast, the last company I worked for paid its employees every two weeks. Getting your paycheck once a month can entail different issues.

For some people, they experience stress as they wait for the next paycheck to come. It is hard for them to make ends meet because they see their money disappear in the first two weeks alone. These scenarios highlight an issue of cash flow management.

Waiting for your next paycheck can cause stress and anxiety. If you are paid once a month, consider dividing your income per week. Allocate enough money for the remaining weeks by keeping them in your savings account. Doing this will enable you to create a system that resembles being paid on a weekly basis.


Many families have been painfully affected with job loss, reduced income, and prolonged unemployment in the past year. Recovery takes time. However, our bills remain the same. The effects of pandemic and the limitations in our income will greatly affect how we budget our money in the year 2021.

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As I leave my full-time job this month, I will need to take serious lifestyle changes at heart. The first step is to eliminate all unnecessary spending. It is important to focus on the necessary expenses such as rent, food, healthcare, and transportation. The next step is to carefully track my expenses with budgeting tools. Lastly, it is important to become flexible when it comes to budgeting and to adjust my spending depending on my needs and income streams.

Cutting down one’s expenses is a sensible solution for the time being. Finding a permanent solution to this…is the challenge.

Sources: 1, 2, & 3