You’d never set out on a cross-country road trip without consulting a map. Likewise, you can’t expect to reach your financial goals without developing a plan for spending and saving.Budgets play a critical role in helping consumers pay off debt, build their nest egg and make the most of their hard-earned dollars.Yet, despite their best intentions, many Americans lack the money-management skills necessary to get their bank accounts under control. Why? Often, it’s because they don’t know where they stand, says Jim Tehan, a spokesman for Myvesta Foundation, a self-help consumer education website.

“People write out budgets all the time without knowing where their money is really going,” he says. “What they’ve created is a wish list of how they’d like to spend their money, but it’s not realistic. It’s a page of lies.”

If this sounds like you, then look no further! This is The Hello Mamma’s guide to basic budgeting.

Let’s take a minute to talk about something that is never easy, no matter who you are. Money. More specifically- being in control of the money you are spending. No one knows better than I do that if left unchecked, impulse spending can be a real problem. That’s why I decided to make a basic budgeting template for beginners to start entering the world of a balanced budget. You can find the link for download at the end of the article. This template is simple and easy to use. It’s great for beginners to be able to wet their toes in the budgeting world. It has spots for two incomes, and then empty expense slots so you can input your own bills (whatever they may be!)

But, you need more than just a budget template! Here are some steps to get your REAL budget on track.

1. Track your spending The first step to developing a budget is to track your expenses for at least a month, using a smartphone app computer program, or old-fashioned pen and paper. Be sure to record every purchase, no matter how small.Once you know where your money is going, you can make an educated decision about how best to allocate your money.

2. Contribute to savings There are a lot of different ways to save! Need a quick guide to saving? See my Hello.Savings blog article about starting a basic savings habit.

3. Define your spending and priorities 35% of your income should be going towards utilities and housing. Although, if you are a homeowner, that should be more like 45-50%.

4. Spend cash for non-necessities, buy gift cards for things you often buy By having things like a food budget (get a gift card to Safeway, Albertson’s, or you local grocery outlet) you can eliminate alot of unneccessary spending. For everything that is non-essential, pay only with cash. This way when you run out-you are out.

5. Remember- spend within your budget Learning to live within your means is a simple matter of spending less than you make. For most consumers, that means cutting back. It does not mean doing without.

If you follow these basic steps you will be on your way to having a budget! When in doubt, talk to a professional! You can always find someone at your bank to help create some guidelines for you! When you are ready to tackle the more complicated steps, like eliminating debt, I HIGHLY recommend speaking with someone who really knows the financial world.

Another great way to help with your budget is with a checkbook tracker. Take a look at my article talking about it!

Update: The Hello Mamma Shop is now open! You can get printables for organizing, family, fitness, blogging, and more! Check it out!

Until then, happy budgeting!