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The word “budget” tends to deter people. I get it. Who wants to feel limited in their spending? Plus, some find it overwhelming to find out how much of their money is being allocated in certain areas. Ignorance is bliss, right? Wrong. In actuality, a budget will empower you because you will gain complete control over your finances. I hope to convince you why you need a budget badly.
Crawl, Walk, Run
The easiest way to begin is writing down on a piece of paper all the expenses that you incur on a monthly basis. Then, you can start creating a budget. Here is a quick and easy budget that you can utilize to start writing down all of your expenses. There are many great budgets, but the one that I like the most is the zero-based budget, which is very simple to use. Each month, you determine where to allocate the money that you make into the various budget categories that you create. If you have a paycheck that does not fluctuate, this means at the end of the month, you should not have any leftover money. Each dollar should be allocated to a designated purpose. If you are in sales or receive a paycheck that varies each month, this is a great budget for irregular income.
If you are married or thinking about it one day, I highly encourage that BOTH spouses are involved with the budget conversation. I can’t emphasize this enough. Talk to your spouse. The number one thing couples fight about is money. Breakdown these barriers, and start the conversation TODAY.
Ways to Track Expenses
Using Free Online Tools
The easiest way to budget is utilizing a free website online like Personal Capital or Mint. These are two of the more popular websites, and I personally can vouch for both. Both have very simple interfaces and are very intuitive to use. The biggest problem with these websites when using them for a budget is you have to manually enter when you pay something in cash. Overall, though, both of these websites are great to use. In a future post, I plan to break down the advantages and disadvantages of both of these websites along with YNAB, which costs $5 per month. Although I have heard great things about this website, I have not had personal experience with it yet, but stay tuned.
Cash Envelope System
For those who don’t use credit cards, the cash envelope system is a great budgeting method. This is one of the methods that Dave Ramsey teaches in his courses with great results. The science behind it is that you are more likely to feel the pain of the purchase if you pay in cash versus paying with a credit card. Thus, you are less likely to overspend using cash. To utilize the envelope system, each month you will take out the budgeted amount of cash for the various expenses and place into the appropriate envelope. It’s super easy. When you use up all the cash in your envelope for the category, you are done for the month.
Excel or Google Spreadsheet
Finally, you can go 90’s old school using an Excel or Google spreadsheet. If you are familiar with spreadsheets, these are both easy options and will allow you to have more control while you enter your expenses manually. The nicest option about Google Spreadsheets is the ability to share your spreadsheet with other Google users. This comes in handy if you have a spouse that will share in the responsibility to track expenses.
With that said, these tools are only as good as the users that utilize them. Budgeting is like dieting, if you don’t follow the program, don’t expect great results.