A budding romance, with Budgets
I love Budgets. Love them! However, this was not always so. My love for budgets was not a love at first sight, glance across the cafe, and then swooning on a whim and riding around Paris on the back of Budget's vespa. Budgets aren't really a spring fling type of relationship.
Instead, my love for Budgets has developed over time, more like Mr. Darcy.
Budgets can seem grouchy, and strict, and less fun. They can even seem too hard or unyielding. However, a good budget will never lie to you and will help you build a very happy life. There is amazing power in a Budget. Budgets are what enabled us to pay off my debt, save money, and even visit Hawaii.
(Me, in Maui, thanks Budgets!)
Still following my personifications of budgets? Great.
So how do you fall in love with Budgets? Well, it takes time and practice. Many people take to budgets right off the bat, others it takes a while. I recommend starting a budget first. There are a LOT of ways to write a budget.
Personally, I use a blank Excel or Numbers sheet. I have our income a the top and have our expenses below. I then use the Sum function to see how much money is left over. It's basically just subtraction. I use the right column to label what time period the income is for and what are my deductions.
Here is a snap shot of a sample budget:
Don't get too caught up on what is in this budget just yet. This is pretty much as simple of a format as you can use, besides a paper and pen. I have also used that for budgets and it works great. I like Excel/Numbers formatting because it is easy to email, print in small scale, and upate. Mostly, it's free. I don't want to spend too much time or money on my budget. If I need to access it on the go, I email it to myself or print it out in small font and literally put it in my pocket. I keep my budget pretty streamlined and have done it enough that it's pretty easy to remember what I have spent, and what I haven't.
However, if you are in the habit of spending frequently, or have multiple people on your budget and need a live update, there are some solutions.
1. Use a live Google document
2. Write down your expenditures and update your budget daily.
3. Use an online tool that does this for you:
- Every Dollar - Dave Ramsey - Free
- Mint - Free, but they ask for personal account access (optional)
- YNAB aka You Need a Budget - $5 per month or $50 per year to use, and there is a free trial for 34 days, but they ask for personal account access (optional)
- Budget Tracker - Free, no personal experience with this one
As you can see there are a lot of tools and resources out there that enable you to create/track your budget. I have tried a few and a simple spreadsheet is easiest and best for me. However, some of the visuals offered from online programs may be a better fit for you.
I recommend trying different ways of tracking your budget. When I first started, it took me months to stick to a budget or come under budget. If you are struggling, I strongly suggest taking your receipts and bank statement and categorizing where you are spending money. If you update your budget as you go, it will become apparent what areas you are overspending. You then need to either say 'No' and spend less in that area, or adjust your budget if it is simply not possible.
Try not to get frustrated. Just tracking your spending and having a budget is a MAJOR accomplishment and the first step towards being in control of your finances. Budgeting can be therapeutic because you know where you are able to spend money and you don't have to stress over every purchase or worry about not being able to pay your bills.
If you have a working budget, life is a lot easier.