One of the not-nonsense bits of advice that the otherwise blithering idiot gave in the article about how to manage inflation was starting to budget.
Granted, said lettered twatwaffle gave absolutely no advice on "how to," so I thought I would.
Building a budget is simple.
You start with your monthly income. Your budget HAS to fit into that. It's not a "would be nice if," it's a must. You are not the federal government. You are not your state's government.* You are not your county's government. Nor yet your city's. YOUR budget MUST work.
Next, pull together everything that must come out of your budget: your housing costs, your utilities (electricity, gas/propane, water/sewer/trash), your communications (phone service and/or cell phones, internet). Those go at the top. Those are the "must cover." Next comes food. I'll have a paragraph or ten covering that a little later. After food comes debts--and if you have any, you're going to have to work hard to dump those as fast as possible. TRUST me. Then, and only then, comes extras: entertainment, fun stuff, stuff you don't need but do want.
Note that I didn't mention retirement--a lot of people with full-time jobs have their options of investing in a retirement account to come out before they ever see that paycheck. That is a good idea, but if you have debt, that's going to need to wait. So will saving for your kids' follow-up education. Those are nice, but right now, our economy is pushing "niceties" off to the point of potential impossibilities. If the wheels don't come entirely off, you might be able to catch up after we dump the dead weight on the economy.
Why did I put housing, utilities, and communications first? You need shelter. Which includes cover (housing), warmth, and water (both in utilities). You need communications in case of emergency and for your ability to keep bringing in your income (a lot of modern jobs require both a means to contact you and a secure, fast internet connection, given the rise of the work-from-home jobs).
Food...is an absolute. I don't need to tell most of you that. However, a lot of people are wasting a lot of money within their food budget: some of y'all eat out. That's stupid, right there. You have a kitchen--equip it (with second-hand pots and pans, if you must), and use it.
Those who do cook still tend to waste a lot of money--through buying nothing but brand name ingredients, buying (and forgetting) a lot of fresh produce, not using menu-planning, using bad shopping habits...all sorts of issues.
I don't skimp on name brands where there's a qualitative difference. I get Veg-All when I make pot-pie filling. I get Rotel rather than off-brand diced tomatoes and chilis. Those are non-negotiable, because the qualitative differences make up for the difference in cost. That said. There's little to no qualitative difference between brand name and store brand dried pastas, and the store brands in other canned veggies are often higher quality than some of the name brands: more veggies, less water. Same with frozen veggies. I like Walmart's brand of deli sliced meats and cheeses better than I like a lot of the name brands. And we recently found out that Walmart's brand of refried beans beat Old El Paso's refried black beans (my previous preference) flat where taste is concerned...for less than half the cost.
I do cook with a lot of meat, but I also cook with planned leftovers a few times a week--leftovers from chili feed my other half lunch at work for several days to a week; same with leftovers from tacos (either as tacos, or as taco casserole), pasta bake, or beef or pork roast (sandwiches, anyone?).
Whole roasting chickens are cheaper than boneless, skinless chicken breast; leg quarters are cheaper still by unit cost (and tastier than chicken breast, with a higher vitamin/mineral load).
Least processed ingredients are often cheaper than more processed: I can make biscuits from scratch a lot cheaper than I can buy canned biscuits, or already-made frozen ones. I can make a whole lot of other things from that bag of flour, too--cookies, cakes, muffins, gravy...the list goes on. A bag of cornmeal's a good thing to keep on hand, just like flour is. A bag of cornmeal costs about the same as four good cornbread mixes, and makes a hell of a lot more cornbread.
Eggs are going up, but they're still one of the cheapest sources of animal proteins out there. Best price, if you can store them, is to buy the boxes of five dozen eggs rather than go a dozen at a time. You'll use them. Trust me--once you start cooking at home, you'll use more eggs than you ever thought you would.
Dried beans are cheaper than canned ones, and you can make them taste pretty decent with the application of spices and bouillon. All it takes is planning. But do plan to also serve rice or cornbread with the beans--they don't contain complete proteins.
And you are going to need to start buying a little extra, here and there. Build up a pantry so that you can cook, and that you don't have to shop for everything all the time. Canned and dry goods are awesome for building a pantry, especially if you don't have/don't have room for a freezer.
I feed my family of four fairly cheaply, buying as little processed as possible, planning, and cooking from scratch. Your location's going to influence your specific food budget--my location's in the middle of farm country.
I'll be talking specifics on paying off debt--and making recommendations--in another post. But it's as important as keeping a tight reign on your food budget. Interest rates have nowhere to go but up, at this point; so, too, will your debt payments. Pay them off.
Your fun-budget is going to be shrinking. Let it. Your needs come before your wants, and there's lots of fun stuff to do that don't cost, or don't cost much.
Shelter (housing and utilities), communications (the ability to keep the income coming), and food are going to have to be your main worries. Needs before wants. Always.
Building a budget is fairly easy. It's the sticking to it that's hard.
*The various levels of government--almost all of them--are flat fucking broke because they don't keep their outgo below their income...which they steal from us without providing even the bare minimum of services promised.