Budgeting is an important part of your STEM journey. STEM purchases can be expensive, especially when equipment like 3D printers and CNC machines are on the list, but by keeping close tabs on your budget, the process doesn’t have to be stressful. This post will explore some helpful basics for budgeting.
The article “5 Tips for Easy Budgeting” by Amanda Rae Koslow in the NACA magazine outlines some very helpful yet simple methods to utilize in any of your budgeting strategies.
1. Create a Spreadsheet
Koslow puts this as the first piece of advice, no doubt because a spreadsheet allows you to clearly see the foundation of your budget. Some great programs to use are Excel or Google Sheets, which allow for multiple tabs in the event that you have more than one budget to keep track of. These programs also allow sharing between colleagues and updates the document to the latest change made to the spreadsheet.
2. Budgeted Amounts and Actual Amounts May Vary
The amount budgeted often differs from the actual cost. It is always a good idea to keep track of any expenses so you can compare them with the budget, ensuring next year’s budgets are more accurate and preventing severe overspending and a more efficient allocation of funds.
3. Frequent Updates
Updating your budget once a week can help you stay on track with the budget. Although it may seem excessive, the thought of compiling a year’s worth of expenses all at once makes it all worth it. By updating the budget on everything from facility costs, supplies, contracts, etc. you ensure that not a single expense is unaccounted for—which will prevent you from overspending in the long run and keep the budget aligned for subsequent years.
4. Keep Labeling Detailed
Seems like a small thing to worry about, doesn’t it? But Koslow includes it in her top five for a few reasons. By being careful to label items accurately, such as by vendor, event, and purpose, then anyone else who may be using your document—either a collaborator or a future user—will have a clear idea of where you’re coming from and will be able to jump right in. Nothing makes a budget more useless than a lack of clarity in its contents.
5. Budgeting is Learnable
Lastly, the author makes it a point to include that budgeting is something that can be learned. It can seem daunting at first, but once you get into it, you’ll realize it’s not as complicated as it seems. There’s not as much math as you may think, and you can get by with learning only a couple of spreadsheet formulas. With only a small bit of experience and by utilizing these tips, you’ll come to see budgeting as a tool instead of something to be dreaded.
Want more tips? Check out these 3 Tips for Creating the Perfect STEM Lesson!