Life’s Big Events Require a Budget — Here’s How to Prepare

A mother kisses her newborn on the forehead.
Getty Images

Certain events in life are so big, so momentous, you wouldn’t dream of confronting them unprepared.

It would be like going into war unarmed. Like setting sail without a life jacket.

But just as you wouldn’t cross the ocean without a flotation device on board, you wouldn’t buy a house without first budgeting for it, would you?

No, not you. 

Here are five life events no one should tackle without first creating a budget.

College: Your First Taste of Freedom — and Poverty

If the day you move into your dorm is the same day you take control of your money for the first time, child, you need a budget.

Being clueless about money management shouldn’t cause you to struggle to meet basic needs — or get you kicked out of school for coming up short on tuition payments. Plus, developing smart financial habits now is just as important as acing your history exam.

Read our guide to budgeting for college students. And yes, it includes a generous allotment for pizza.

Post-College: Real World, Real Money

College graduation marks the true beginning of adulting. Bye bye, student discounts. Hello, full-priced everything.

Really, it’s not that bad. Adulthood is fabulous — as long as you don’t screw it up from the start by succumbing to lifestyle inflation, forgetting the student loans that now must be repaid or paying too much for your first apartment.

Learn how to avoid all those traps and more by taking our crash course in budgeting for college grads

I Do (Not Want to Start Married Life in Debt)

You’re engaged! That’s so great! Now that’ll be $34,000, please.

Seriously, that’s how much the average American couple spends on their nuptials, and we think that’s seriously outrageous. 

There are many genius ways to save money on your wedding and still have a fabulous celebration. But before you start browsing tulip arrangements, you need to have an idea of what you can afford overall.

To keep a handle on your spending, here’s the first item on your wedding to-do list: Set a budget for the big day.

Your Little Bundle of Pricy, Pricy Joy

Babies are a lot of things. Cute. Sweet. Fussy. Hungry.

They also cost money, moms and dads. Prenatal care costs money. Formula costs money. Diapers cost — it’s too painful to talk about how much diapers cost.

There’s a lot to do to get ready for a baby. Budgeting is one of those things.

Welcome Home. Now Pay Up.

You’re ready to buy your first house. Browsing the listings, hitting up open houses, picturing your family in the living room of that adorable bungalow. Those are the fun parts of home buying.

Then there’s the whole financial aspect that is, shall we say, less fun. 

First, you have to realistically calculate how much house you can afford.

Have you heard of being house poor? That’s where you buy more house than you can afford and sit inside your empty rooms reading the phone book by candlelight because literally all of your money is going to your mortgage payment and there’s nothing left for electricity, let alone Netflix. Don’t let that be you.

Once you’ve set the budget, follow our nine-step guide to actually buying the thing.

Everything Else

Those are some of the biggies. We know, your life is uniquely yours and may not follow the college-marriage-baby-house trajectory. You do you. 

Regardless, life is expensive all the time. Before you spend without thinking, stop and consider budgeting for those smaller expenses you know are coming that will put a dent in your wallet. 

We’re talking about car maintenance and repairseverything you have to buy for back-to-school, taking a well-deserved vacation (on a budget, of course) and before you know it, holiday shopping

Molly Moorhead is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder.