Step 1: Note your net income. The first step in creating a budget is to identify the amount of money you have coming in. Keep in mind, however, that it's easy to overestimate what you can afford if you think of your total salary as what you have to spend. Remember to subtract your deductions for Social Security, taxes, 401(k) and flexible spending account allocations when creating a budget worksheet. Your final take_home pay is called net income, and that is the number you should use when creating a budget.Tip: If you have a hobby or a talent, you may be able to find a way to supplement your income. Having an extra source of income can also be helpful if you ever lose your job.
By listing all of your sources of income against all of your monthly expenditures (from required expenses like mortgage or rent payments to discretionary spending like eating out or going to the movies), you get a true picture of your personal cash flow, which will allow you to make better and more informed financial decisions. An accurate budget will also help you to answer that ever elusive question, "Can I afford it?"