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Monthly Budgeting & Saving


Introduction

Allah is really generous and takes care of us in every way. Even if we tried we will not be able to thank Him for his countless blessings. It’s amazing how we live month after month spending away our resources and yet we have enough to survive/afford a luxurious lifestyle; even in this day and age when prices have gone higher than ever before. Whether you are single, married, employed, have a business or even unemployed, it is vital to write down your monthly income and expenses.

At the end of every month, you just need to add it all up and find out how much you saved or over-spent. In my Organising Chaos series on the blog, I had touched this topic previously called Finance and Asset Management. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to read it, here is its link.

Why

That’s the only way you can:
  • Know where you stand in terms of income and expenses
  • Plan to increase your savings
  • Save up for a rainy day
  • Avoid begging others at time of need
  • Be in charge of your financial situation
  • Protect yourself against fraud
  • Keep a record of what happens in your life


When did I start

The day I started my first job, I have been writing down my income and expenses as I saw my parents doing the same. Budgeting justifies my going to work everyday. If I had no idea about my income and expenses, what would be the point of all this hard work?
 

Different Methods

I have explained different methods you may use as follows. I have tried almost all of them and I want to recommend number 3, as its the simplest way.

1. Month-end Budgeting in columns

I have tried proper budgeting during my tenure in the UK where I would have different columns for Eat out, Bills, Groceries, travel, car expenses etc. You keep writing down individual expenses in each column. At the end of the month, you just add up each column and you’ll know exactly how much you have spent on what. However, this way, one needs a huge paper which you can’t fit in a bag and you need time at home to do it. So it didn’t work for me in the long run as I spend most of my days in office.

2. Excel sheet

My husband likes to do his budgeting in his Microsoft Excel sheet on his laptop. However, I feel that a lot of precious time is wasted while turning the laptop on every time for writing every little piece of expense. So honestly, I prefer the traditional paper and pen. My boss has also made me in charge of admin cash handling so for official purpose I use Monthly Excel sheet.

 

3. Diary in handbag

So I have a simplified solution to have a small Hisaab diary in my handbag with a pen. Every time I pay any one money, I make sure I get a receipt from them which I simply tuck into the receipts pocket of my wallet. In office, whenever I get a minute every few days, I take out the receipts and add them in the diary and destroy the receipts. Even when I give Zakat or Sadqa, its added there. Online purchases and bill payments need to be added too. At the end of the month, we just add up all expenses and then see how much we have saved during the month.
 

4. Generalised budgeting sheet

One simple solution for those who really can’t keep a diary with them at all times is to have a generalized budgeting sheet for their expenses every month. This way they will write income, fixed and variable costs limits and total saving ideal sheet for every month.
 

5. Cash in marked envelopes

I have seen days when there was really no money even for next weeks groceries. Having seen such hard times in my life, I learned a way to cope. At the start of the month, take 6 envelopes and mark them Groceries, Bills, Eat-outs, Gifts, Shopping and Travel. Now divide the cash and add it in the assigned envelope. Once all income is distributed to envelopes, we have to stay within the limit no matter what.

6. Using an App

One way which my ex colleague Madiha uses is an iOS app for monthly expenses. You keep on adding your expenses and at the end of the month, it will display pie charts showing how much of your income, you spent on groceries, bills, eat-outs and shopping. Sounds great but one will have to be sure to back it all up so in case your phone  crashes, you have your monthly budgeting lists safe.

Planning and saving

We should always live within our means (Chadar dekh k paoon phelanae chahiye). If we realize that we are spending more than our income, we are actually crossing danger zones. We should have a lifestyle in which we don’t ever live on our savings. They are only for emergencies. Also the rule for savings must be that in case we are jobless for a whole year, we should have enough to cater for our expenses for at least one whole year. We should all avoid lifestyles in which we get fancier cars, houses on lease than we can afford. Also stop using credit cards and use only the money which you have. Living on something which isn’t yours is a wrong concept to start with. I have always only been in favor of Debit cards and live and stay within my means. It is vital to save every month even if its only a little bit. Consuming every penny you earn every month is a really depressing place to be.

Reasons why people avoid budgeting

It surprises me how most of the people around me never check their bank statements, they never record their expenses nor do they have any idea of their account balances. We are all lucky enough to be educated and be able to take control of our lives. If we don’t care and don’t want to care about our resources, we won’t be much different from animals who just eat, drink and sleep their life away.
  1. One main reason most people don’t do monthly budgeting is because they think its too much of a hassle. It honestly used to be a big hassle to manage along with my 9-6 job and full-time house and outside chores after office. Now I have left all that. All you need for efficient budgeting is to keep a small diary and pen with you in your handbag/laptop bag and add entries every few days. It takes no time at all and is extremely simple. You can easily manage it with your busiest life schedule. You only need to have the system in place. Nothing else.

  2. Another reason people avoid budgeting is the desire to be care-free. Once I asked a shopkeeper to give me receipt, he was puzzled and asked why would you need a receipt for something so minor. I said ‘Allah hasn’t blessed us so we can just spend it all away. We must manage our resources well’. His reply was ‘Chorein baji! Awein hisab karne se tension hoti hai’. (If you write your expenses, you will get stressed out so better not to’. I don’t agree with such people at all. Its like saying, don’t learn about Islam. If you know, then you will have to act upon it. We must know the truth and be well informed. That’s the first key to leading a successful life.

Conclusion

Don’t you want to be in-charge of your life? You should not take your financial resources for granted. Everything can change in a split second, no income is guaranteed. The first step towards gratitude for what we have is to know what we have and be accountable for it.
I’m sure many of you are in control and do write it all down. All those who do write their debit/credit or income/expense, do comment here. Would love to know. Thanks for stopping by. I really hope it helps.
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Nadiya Najib

Nadiya Najib