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The basics of building a budget.

There’s a new series you want to watch, but it’s only available on the one streaming service you’ve yet to subscribe to. The monthly fee seems minimal, so you sign up with the intention of cancelling after you’ve binged the series over a two-day period. You forget to cancel, and a charge appears on your bill every month. 

Canadians love their streaming services! But monthly subscription fees can add up over time. By creating a budget, you’ll have a better view of where your money is going and how it can help you reach your goals. No dollar will be spared in your detailed tracking.

Step 1: Set your goals.

Before building your budget, it’s important to define your short- and long-term goals. If you’re not sure what those goals are, it might help to start with a pen and paper. Expanding your motivational mug collection would go into the short-term goals column, while things like saving for a home or car would fall under the long-term goals column.

Step 2: Figure out what’s coming in, and what’s going out.

Your budget should include categories for your monthly income and expenses. An easy way to get a picture of these numbers is to look at account activity in your online banking. Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll get a better idea of how much you can set aside for savings.

Step 3: Pick your tool.

There are plenty of budgeting tools you can use to help you manage your money. You might get satisfaction from punching numbers into your phone, or you may find beauty in the task of logging expenses into a notebook (I’m talking to you, bullet journalers). Whichever method you choose is a matter of preference.

Tip: Credit card features can help you stick to your budget. 

For example, if you have a Capital One credit card, you can access a detailed list of your transactions through online banking. This comes in handy when you’re tracking last month’s expenses. Here’s how to view your transactions in online banking.

The hardest part of building a budget is getting started. It takes time to set goals, gather information and create new habits, but with a little effort, budgeting can become as oddly satisfying as popping bubble wrap.