How To Budget In Your Twenties

Money is weird.

Getting money is even weirder. And by weird, I mean oxymoronically frustrating and annoying. You want it, you need it, and yet you hate it for holding you back, keeping you from doing the things you love, or landing you with no food to eat. That’s your first problem, and mine too. I was thinking about money all wrong. The constant pressure I felt from my finances left me with a hatred towards the very thing I wanted to get more of, and it created a really confusing, negative mindset.

How many of you get sick when you think of your debt? How many of you live from paycheck to paycheck, counting everything you buy to make sure you’ll have enough to afford the necessities? Ick. That’s no way to live. In this post I am going to share with you my tips and tricks on how to get your money issues under control so you can stop worrying about the financial debt monster.

Money is weird. But you don’t have to hate it!

So where should we begin?

Step 1 | The first thing you need to do is sit down and have a long talk with yourself.

Get honest about your relationship with your finances. If you can’t admit that you have a problem, you can’t work towards improving your situation. If you know you overspend, acknowledge it! If you aren’t good with prioritizing funds, that’s ok! By realizing that something needs to change, you can begin taking the first steps to getting into a better financial position in life.

After having this pragmatic intervention with yourself, you are going to need some tools.


Collect the following:

  1. Paper
  2. Pen
  3. Colored highlighters or markers (At least 6)
  4. Your bank statement from the last three months
  5. Your cellphone
  6. A calculator
  7. A yummy beverage

Once all of the supplies are gathered, proceed to step 2


Step 2 | Tally your spending

Go through your bank statement a write down all the withdrawals made from your account within the last three months. Exclude transfers and deposits. Neither will count for this step. Only focus on money that has left your possession in exchange for goods or services. Write these all down in a neat little list with three columns. One will be for the date of the withdrawal. The second column will be for the name of the item. And the last column will be for the amount spent. I know this step can be scary, but it’s like pulling off a band aid. You just gotta do it! After you have all the things written down, add them up with a calculator and write down the total. For the example below I made up a mock spread just to give you an idea of how it should look.

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Step 3 | Tally your earnings

Next, go through your bank statement and write down all of the deposits made into your account in the last three months. This means money that came into your possession. It could be from allowance, a paycheck, odd jobs, or questionable sexual favors performed for money which is probably definitely qualified as prostitution but you don’t want to talk about it because everything is fine and you feel fine and he gave you fifty bucks to bounce on a big blue ball and you’d have to be crazy not to accept that kind of check! Ahem…no matter the source of the deposit, tally these all together and just like before, write down the total underneath or around the total from expenditures.

Step 4 | Find the difference

Maaaath! Yep, more math. Don’t worry, we’re not done with the calculator yet either. Subtract the amount of the withdrawals from step one from the amount of deposits in step two. This will let you see how much of your income you spend in a three month span. Depending on how good or bad you are with your finances, this could be a relieving number, or a terrifying number. And if you clicked this post, chances are it’s more on the terrifying end. I did this step and ended up with a negative number. It’s ok. That’s why you’re here. Take a sip of your delicious beverage. Continue to step five.

Step 5 | Categorize the expenditures

Go back to the first list you made. This is where you get to have fun with your highlighters. This is by far the best step. Go through and highlight with one color all your food expenditures. With another color highlight all your car expenditures. Another color for rent. Another for phone. Another for fun/entertainment. Another for subscriptions. You can separate this step into as many categories you want. The point is that you learn where most of your money is going. Do you spend it all on eating out with friends? Do you have too many subscriptions? More than you thought you did?! Take a sip. Continue to step six.

Step 6 | Tally each color

Add up all the pink costs and put them into a category. Then tally all the other pretty colors into separate categories. For this step I color coded the name of the category with the color I used to highlight the costs. This will really give you the big picture of where most of your money is going. For me, my biggest category was bills. Obviously. We all spend a fortune on bills. That’s inevitable. But where are your other high categories? Did you spend $1000 on eating out at restaurants within three months? Maybe that’s a bit too high for your salary range. Maybe you need to cut back on that. So after you have each color coded category totaled, add all the categories together. It should match the number from step 1. If it doesn’t, you did the math wrong. Go back and recount. If it does match, move on to step 7. As you can see below, I am bad at math, and only human. I hope your calculations look neater than mine.

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Step 7 | Cry a lot

Just kidding.

Step 7 | Designate funds

How much do you want to spend in each category? This is where the budgeting part comes into play. Make a hypothetical spending allotment for the coming month. Want to spend only $60 eating out next month? Allot it. Want to save $200? Allot it. Once money is allotted to savings it cannot be touched. It is spoken for. That money hypothetically does not exist anymore. That’s the point of savings. Likewise, if you have money in your account but know it will be used for your new car you need to buy, your next months rent, or any other big expense, it is untouchable. So just because your savings account says $5600 doesn’t mean you have $5600 of usable money. That money is spoken for. It is up to you how to divide and designate your money. For example, I have money set aside for a new car, travel, apartment spending, an emergency fund, etc.

Step 8 | Create your envelopes

The last step, and another fun one, is creating your envelopes. You can do this as a bullet journal spread or just jot it down on a piece of spare paper. Draw an envelope for every category you have a color for. Write down the name of the category along with the allotment you created in step 7. As you spend that allotment, fill in the envelope. Example:

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For example, if you want to keep your entertainment/fun spending below $100 for the month, make an envelope with ten markings on the side like a ruler. As you spend that money, fill in each row with the color you chose. When the envelope is fully colored, that means you are out of money for that category and are cut off from spending more.

You can, however, take money from one category and apply it to another. So if you ran out of money for monthly food, you can take money off your entertainment/fun envelope. To do this, simply color in the rows in the entertainment/fun envelope with the colors of the food envelope. That way you will know you spend that extra money in another category.

Also, if you have extra funds at the end of a month, you can roll that over into the next month or save it, depending on how you’re feeling. So if you have a $100 allotment for entertainment/fun and only spend $60, you can roll over the $40 to the next month so you can spend $140 total, or you can save the $40 and put it towards one of your larger payments like bills or a new car. When you have system down, transfer the final draft into your planner of choice. In the example below I have shown what the budget envelopes would look like as well as what the saving envelopes would look like as you continue to save money and fill in the envelopes.

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Budgeting is sort of like babysitting yourself. When you think about it, you have to keep your eye on yourself at all times or else you’ll end up drawing on the walls with crayons, or in this case, spending all your money on candy. A good babysitter wouldn’t allow either to happen. So this is really a lesson in discipline. It is about being intentional with every expenditure, of being aware of where your money is going and how often. If the babysitter analogy didn’t resonate with you, consider it like a boss running a business. A good boss knows what each of his employees is doing and at what time. An unsuccessful boss has no idea what is going on in his business and acts surprised when the company loses money. You have to own this shit, and reign yourself in when you know you’re running off budget.


Was this post helpful? Would you like to see more finance posts in the future? Let me know in the comments down below, and also let me know if you have any other tips and tricks for budgeting!

Take care, and don’t forget to take your medication!

3 thoughts on “How To Budget In Your Twenties

    1. Thanks for the comment! I’m glad you liked the tips. Listing everything out can definitely be time consuming, but so worth it. I really only do this when my finances become tight. It’s a great little coping exercise!

      Liked by 1 person

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