How I did it: On excel, I have several columns, in this order:
My overall budget as of now is for 2013, so I can get the big picture of how my money can be used. I entered in my paycheck for every other Friday. I located all of my bills (rent/utilities, phone, insurance, credit card, savings account transfer [~10% of my monthly income], student loans***) and entered in their costs on their respective due dates. This gives me a good picture of how much money I have right before my next pay check, and how much I would be able to spend on other items.
Next, I approximated how much money I needed for the essentials: gas and food. I have allotted myself $100/mo on gas, and $150/mo for food. To be honest, this may fluctuate as I get a better picture of my average spending. So I've been TRACKING MY BANK ACCOUNT to get a better idea of what this may change to.
Because we all need to get out, I know I need to consider money for "fun" items. However, I have decided to make credit card payments largely above the minimum, which helps quickly eliminate accrued interest. My fun endeavors (bowling, night out on the town, movies, etc.) are filed under "credit card" at the moment. Again, this may change.
Additionally, I have considered big costs (upcoming oral surgery, hope to buy a puppy, live-in boyfriend's birthday present) and added them to my spreadsheet.
All the above should generally cover the year's worth of expenses, with some expected fluctuation.
***My biggest struggle right now are my student loans. Interest on my few private loans are obscene (8.25-10.625%) so paying the minimum monthly bill barely tackles the principal loan. Additionally, payments are scheduled to make the payments last anywhere from 8-20 years, depending on which loan I'm looking at. If I paid only minimum payments, I would end up paying $40,000 in interest alone; this is ADDITIONAL money I'm being charged just because I had to borrow large sums for an education.
Once I saw how much money I would accumulate after ALL my aforementioned costs, I was able to up how much money went to student loans (~$590 to $1000). The snowball will be applied to the loan with the highest interest, and work its way down as everything gets paid off. I used a Vertex excel spreadsheet
to figure this out. Whether or not a loan is paid off, I will still apply $1000 to my loans each month.
The spreadsheet can work this out for you.
With my higher payments, the total amount of interest I'll end up paying is now ~$7,000, and my first loan will disappear by August. This has been reflected in my budget overview. Read how I did it… 4 months ago