Around here, we love discovering new personal budgeting tips. And through all of our budgeting experience, we have learned a lot of them. In fact, looking back, there are a ton of things we wish we would have known early on that would have been extremely helpful. And that’s why we decided to write this post.
We know how hard it can be to start a budget, stay on budget, or stick with your budget. So, below, you will find 50 simple personal budgeting tips to help you improve your finances.
Personal Budgeting Tips For Beginners
As a beginner, budgeting can be overwhelming. You are not just forming a new habit, you are adopting a new way of life. But, if you understand how to make budgeting work to your advantage, you will be much more likely to stick with it.
Here are a few tips to help you quickly progress from a budgeting beginner, to a budgeting pro. Oh, and these tips might also make your new budgeting lifestyle enjoyable; not a constant struggle.
#1 – Save Money First
One of the key things to understand about budgeting is that the ultimate purpose is to help you keep more of your money. I’ve never heard of anybody starting a budget because they wanted to spend more money.
So, if the purpose of budgeting is to save more money, you should save money before you spend any. If you want to get the most out of your budget, determine a specific percentage of your income that will go to savings. Then, when you make any form of income, deposit that percentage of money into savings before you spend a dime on anything.
In other words, don’t spend money and save whatever is left over. Instead, save money first, and live off of whatever is left.
#2 – Budget For Fun
Many people view budgeting as a restriction on their way of life, but that is completely wrong. Your budget should always contain a category for fun and recreation.
If you restrict yourself too much, you will start to resent budgeting, and eventually develop an allergic reaction to it. You need to have some fun. So, set aside a reasonable amount of money each paycheck, and feel free to spend it on anything that brings you joy!
By operating within your fun money budget, you can spend money guilt-free, and be confident that you aren’t harming your financial future by doing so.
#3 – Set Financial Goals
If you want to stick with budgeting, you need to be chasing after something tangible. Setting vague and impersonal goals like “I want to save more money” will not get you anywhere. How much money? In what amount of time? It’s too vague.
Instead, set specific and inspiring goals that will keep you motivated with your budget. In fact, you should never be budgeting without at least one short-term goal, and one long-term goal.
For example, a good short term goal would be, “I want to save $50,000 for a down payment on a house in the next 24 months.”
A good long-term goal would be, “I want to have $2.4 million in retirement by the time I turn 50.”
Both goals are specific, measurable, and inspiring.
Setting goals like this will transform your budget, into a roadmap to achieve your financial dreams.
#4 – Budget Extra For Food
When anybody I have ever met–including myself–starts budgeting, they almost always under-budget for food in the beginning. The problem with this, is that your first month budgeting feels so restricted, and nearly impossible. I cannot emphasize enough, that hunger and budgeting are a terrible combination.
It is better to over budget, and have a little food money left over, than to under budget and quit. So, when you are starting out, allow yourself some wiggle room in your food budget. Your stomach, and your bank account will thank you.
#5 – Build An Emergency Fund
Here’s a fact of life: emergencies happen, and they can get expensive. And, whether you are financially prepared for them or not, they are going to happen. So, why not set yourself up for success, and save up an emergency fund.
So, do you have at least 3 months of living expenses built up and waiting to save the day? If not, putting money into an emergency fund each month should be one of your main budgeting priorities.
#6 – Separate Your Savings Account
If you pull money out of savings to buy something that doesn’t fit into your budget, you are essentially stealing from your future self. This is one of the most common mistakes for newbie budgeters.
The good news is that there is a pretty easy solution to this financial pitfall; just separate your savings account from your normal bank.
Keeping your checking and savings accounts in separate financial institutions, makes it inconvenient to steal from yourself. And a little inconvenience can be the difference between a secure and bright financial future, and a financial life of struggle.
#7 – Get Out Of Debt
Debt is a monster that feeds on the financial security of the human race.
Ok, so that might be a little extreme, but if you want to make the most out of your money, getting out of debt should be a priority in your budget.
Similar to saving, you should decide on a set amount of extra money you want to pay towards debt each month, and pay that first. Then, if you have any additional money left over each month, feel free to throw that at your debt as well.
Budgeting makes getting out of debt a much easier process, so use your new budget to your debt-free advantage!
If you are on a debt-free journey, be sure to check out our Debt Snowball Calculator to calculate your debt payoff timeline.
#8 – Pick A Budgeting Method
When you decide you want to start budgeting, you have a decision to make. Do you go with a traditional budgeting method, like an excel spreadsheet, or a handwritten budget? Or, do you pick a more modern method, like an app–for instance, EveryDollar or YNAB?
Whatever method you choose, stick to it for a long enough time to get in the habit of budgeting. Hopping from budgeting method to budgeting method will only make your life more difficult, and act against your success.
Just a side note: we highly recommend the EveryDollar app. It is intuitive, easy, and free. Though, you can upgrade to a paid account and connect it your bank account to make budgeting as seamless as possible.
#9 – Pick A Budgeting Philosophy
If you do a quick search online for different personal budgeting philosophies, you will probably discover two common methods. One, is called the 50/30/20 budgeting method, and the other, is called the zero-based budgeting method. Let’s break them down.
The 50/30/20 budget is the philosophy of budgeting 50% of your income for ‘needs’, 30% of your income to ‘wants’, and 20% of your income to savings and debt repayment. Needs include living expenses, utilities, food, and other necessary expenses. Wants include things like travel and recreation. And savings includes setting money aside for retirement, emergencies, and other investments.
The benefit of this philosophy, is that it doesn’t take much work to maintain your budget. However, the problem with the 50/30/20 budget, is that it lacks specificity. And without specificity, it is easier to make mistakes, and cheat a little bit.
Zero-based budgeting, on the other hand, is very specific. In fact, planning out a zero-based budget means giving every dollar of income a specific purpose. So, instead of budgeting 50% of your income on ‘needs’, you would break out your separate needs into categories.
While either method is better than nothing, at BeTheBudget, we recommend zero-based budgeting. It takes a little more work on the front end, but the specificity of the budget makes success, a much more likely result.
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Personal Budgeting Tips For Young Adults
If you are a young adult, and you find yourself reading this post, please listen closely, because youth is the greatest financial asset you can have. The following budgeting tips are meant to help you play your budgeting cards right. Because if you learn to budget properly early on, you can build some serious wealth!
#10 – Start Early
Like I said above, youth is the greatest financial asset available. The more time you have to let your money grow, the more wealth building potential you have. So, start budgeting early, and get in the habit of saving before you spend. You will build incredible wealth if you do this.
#11 – Emphasize Retirement
When you’re young, retirement seems so far away, but it is actually the most important time to start investing in it. If you are young and budgeting, be sure to emphasize retirement investing–especially employer-match and tax-free retirement accounts like a ROTH IRA, or a ROTH 401(K).
Let me provide you with a little motivation. If you put $11,000 into a ROTH IRA at the age of 18, and let it sit until you turned 65, it would grow to over $2,000,000 at a 12% average annual return. Additionally, if you put $11,000 every year into that same account for that same amount of time, it would grow to over $21,000,000. And, all that money would be tax free.
If that isn’t a reason to emphasize retirement early on, I don’t know how else to convince you. All I know is that I wish I had started emphasizing retirement at 18.
I hope you will learn from my mistake.
#12 – Save As Much As Possible
When you are young, your expenses are low. So take advantage of that fact and save as much money as you possibly can. It’s much easier to pile up savings when you don’t have a family to support and bills to pay.
Personal Budgeting Tips For Married Couples
I don’t think it’s any secret that marriage takes patience, compromise, and intentionality. And when you mix money into the picture, it takes even more of all three of those things.
Budgeting is no exception. So what are some things you can do as a married couple to make budgeting a smooth and fight-free process? Here are a few tips that my wife and I have personally found to be extremely critical.
#13 – Combine Finances
When you stood on that altar, and promised to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, til’ death do you part, you became one–and that includes money.
If you want to experience the wonderful benefits of budgeting in marriage, you need to have complete transparency, and accountability. And the only way to truly do that, is to combine your finances.
#14 – Use One Spending Account
The more accounts you have to keep track of, the more complicated budgeting becomes. So, when you are married, and each of you have multiple credit cards and debit cards, budgeting can become a complete mess.
If you really want to maximize your budget, spend from one debit card account. This is what we refer to as our ‘Marriage Budgeting Ninja Tip’.
Keeping track of your marital spending habits is super easy when you only have to check one account. Operating from one account allows either one of you to add expenses to your budget at any time. Which means fewer budget meetings, and a lower likelihood of expenses slipping through the cracks.
#15 – Budget For Dates
I actually heard this tip from an unlikely source; The Samurai Carpenter on YouTube. He and his wife posted a video where they talked about making weekly dates a priority. They jokingly said they would rather spend money on weekly dinners and babysitters than pay for marriage counseling. And while a little harsh, it is a powerful statement.
So, be sure to make your marriage a priority in your budget, and earmark money for weekly or biweekly dates.
#16 – Stay On The Same Page
Throughout the course of life, it is easy to lose sight of your financial goals as a couple. To keep this from happening, be sure to discuss your budget and your financial goals often. There are few things more powerful than a married couple sharing one vision and are working to achieve it.
Budgeting For Vacations
Wouldn’t it be nice to save up enough money to take one–or multiple–great vacations every year? Budgeting can make that possible.
#17 – Decide On A Savings Number
Deciding you want to go on a vacation is the very first step in the vacation budgeting process. Step two, is deciding on a target savings number.
Do a little research and determine where you would like to travel, and then figure out the approximate cost and set a savings goal. Once you have saved your target amount, you can book a vacation that fits your budget; not the other way around.
#18 – Determine A Timeline
Impulse vacations might sound fun, but they are not easy on your finances or your budget. So, decide on a timeline for your vacation budget, and work backwards to figure out how much you need to save each month.
That’s what you call, putting your budget to work!
#19 – Pay Cash
After all the saving and budgeting we have already talked about in regard to your vacation budget, this might go without saying, but you should always plan to pay cash for your vacations. After all, what is the point of a budget, if you circumvent the system and pay for a vacation on a credit card?
Personal Budgeting Tips For Parents
Kids are a wonderful blessing, but they can definitely complicate budgeting in a variety of ways. Between sports, school expenses doctor visits and many other expenses, if you haven’t prepared your budget for the expenses of parenthood, now is the time.
So, to make sure your budget doesn’t fail under the pressures of raising children, here are a few budgeting tips for you parents out there.
#20 – Pack Lunches
School lunches add up, and this sneaky little expense can blow your monthly food budget. Be sure to protect your monthly food budget by buying your children’s lunches at the store instead of the cafeteria.
#21 – Budget For School Expenses
The beginning of the school year should not sneak up on you. It happens every year, and you should be preparing for it in your budget. If you are sure to set aside a little money every month, school supplies, extra-curricular activities and field trips will no longer be a threat to your budget.
#22 – Set Spending Limits On Sports
If you haven’t noticed, parents can go a little overboard on their kids sports. It’s not uncommon for a kid to play five or six sports in a year, and that can add up to a big chunk of change. So, set a sports budget for your kids, and stick to it. You don’t want to sacrifice your kids college fund for the sake of competitive tee-ball.
#23 – Take Advantage Of Secondhand Opportunities
Whether you are shopping for clothes, sporting goods, or anything else for your kids, one of the biggest budget savers for parents is hand-me-downs. But hand-me-downs don’t just have to come from older siblings, secondhand opportunities like Play It Again Sports, Facebook Marketplace, or neighborhood garage sales can save your budget big time!
Don’t just assume you need to buy everything new. Take advantage of secondhand opportunities.
#24 – Start Saving For College
As early as possible, you should start putting money into a college savings account for your child. The more time you give yourself, the more growth potential you will have. If you are looking for a good college savings plan, we recommend a 529 Plan. They are a tax advantaged account, and a phenomenal option for a college fund.
Budgeting For A Baby
Whether you are trying for a baby, or you just found out you are pregnant, it is never too early to prepare your finances. I would know, because at the time of writing this post, I am smack dab in the middle of budgeting for a new baby. So, this section of the post really hits home for me.
Here are some things my wife and I are doing to maintain a solid budget while preparing for our little bundle of joy.
#25 – Determine A Monthly Baby Spending Limit
As daunting as it might seem, early on in pregnancy it is a great idea to estimate the actual cost of a new baby. This will vary from situation to situation, but knowing an approximate total cost makes it easy to determine a monthly spending limit.
Once you have that limit, stick to it.
#26 – Take Advantage of Freebies and Coupons
With how expensive new babies can be, any freebies and coupons you can find will be a major benefit to your budget.
So, keep your eye out for deals at baby stores, and take advantage of baby furniture and accessories that friends and family might be discarding.
#27 – Take Advantage Of the Full 9 Months
Prepare yourself, because this might be one of the hardest, but crucial tips in this whole article. When you are expecting a baby, do your best to slow down and spread any spending over the course of the full nine months of pregnancy. It is easy to let your excitement take over and go spend like crazy on everything ever invented for new babies. But that would defeat the whole purpose of budgeting.
Budgeting is about consistency over time, and discipline. You shouldn’t go buy everything for your new baby in your first trimester. But you also don’t want to wait until your water breaks to go crib shopping.
Spreading your spending evenly across the full nine months will help you keep your head and maintain a good financial situation throughout this crazy time.
#28 – Plan Your Maternity Leave
Maternity leave can be a stressful financial time. Especially if you are unprepared. So, shortly after you find out you are pregnant, go talk to your employer about what kind of benefits they offer.
No matter what they offer, we recommend piling up as much cash as you can before you have your baby. So, add a baby fund to your budget, and throw as much money as you can at it while you’re pregnant.
#29 – Be Frugal With Maternity Clothes
One of the biggest budget savers my wife has found during pregnancy is to find alternatives to expensive maternity clothes. Instead of shopping at maternity specific retailers, you will find her shopping on Amazon or walking the aisles of Target.
Remember, you don’t have to sacrifice your style during pregnancy, but you also don’t have to pay through the nose for clothes you will only wear for a few months.
Side Note: one of my wife’s greatest sources of info on pregnancy, and more specifically, maternity clothes, has been Instagram influencers. These women can offer a wealth of information, and you should definitely seek them out.
Budgeting Tips For The Self-Employed
Running your own business can be one of the most freeing, yet stressful and at times, downright chaotic adventures you can experience. That is exactly why you need to be diligent and religious about budgeting. Hopefully these budgeting tips for the self-employed will keep your finances clean and free of stress.
#30 – Taxes Aren’t Optional, Budget For Them
As painful as taxes are to pay, not paying them is worse, and illegal. When you start making money running your own business, talk to your accountant and determine what percentage of money you should allocate for taxes. Then, create a category for taxes in your company budget. You will likely be paying them each quarter as a business owner, so have the money set aside and ready to go.
#31 – Determine Your Profit Before Your Expenses
This might sound a little backwards, but just like saving before you spend in your personal budget, you should set aside profit first in your company budget.
The goal of every business is to make a profit. And the good news is, you just have to determine how much profit your company makes. Whether your company makes 5%, 10% or 50% profit, determine a percentage and then operate on the remaining income.
For more on this business budgeting methodology, check out Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. This book might just blow your mind!
#32 – Use The 90% Income Rule
The only thing predictable about running your own business, is that cash flow can be unpredictable at times. Some months your cash flow will be perfect and everybody will pay on time. Then one month, it will be as if every one of your clients decided to pay you late. This is why your company budget should operate on 90% of its income.
This is really just the concept of living on less than you make applied to business. Operating on less than your full income gives you a cushion on months where cash flow it tight, and it will make your company a lean, mean, fighting machine.
Budgeting For A Wedding
Hey, congratulations, on the engagement! Now, it’s time to figure out your budget and get to work. Here are a few budgeting tips my wife and I wish we would have been given early on in our engagement.
#33 – Have “The Money Talk” Early
Most people will tell you that the first thing you need to do when planning your wedding is pick a date and a venue. They’re wrong. The actual first thing you need to do is figure out how much money you have to work with, and where it is coming from. So, put your adult pants on and get ready for a few awkward conversations with your parents and in-laws.
Are your parents paying for the whole thing? Will both your parents be contributing? Or, will you be paying for the wedding yourself? Also, it is important to nail down exactly how much money each party will be contributing. As uncomfortable as it is to figure this stuff out, it has to be done. And the more thorough job you do at this stage, the easier the rest of your wedding planning will be.
Also, how are you supposed to set up a wedding budget if you don’t know how much money you have to work with in the first place? Get those numbers nailed down as soon as possible.
#34 – Consider All Dates
Wedding season is a wonderful time! (Just ask Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) But if you are looking for areas of your budget to cut costs, one of the best ways to stay in budget is to get married off-season. The other option is to avoid a Saturday wedding. My wife and I got married on a Friday instead of a Saturday, which cost us $3,000 less.
So, when you are checking out venues for your big day, try to be flexible on dates. It might just save your wedding budget.
#35 – Beware Of The Little Things
If you are engaged, you will be amazed at the cost of all the little things. Little things like, centerpieces, table numbers, and champagne flutes might seem like small purchases, but they add up.
So, create a category and a spending limit in your budget for small wedding items, and stick to it.
#36 – Slow Down
When it comes to personal finance–and especially big life events–one of the best things you can do is force yourself to slow down.
Divide your wedding budget by the amount of months remaining in your engagement, and spread as much of your spending out as possible. It’s easy to blow your budget early on in wedding planning, but you will be glad you didn’t when it’s the week of your wedding and you still have money left to spend.
#37 – Factor In Gratuity
When you hire wedding vendors like, wedding coordinators, photographers, videographers, caterers, DJs, and anything else, you need to factor in a gratuity of 15% to 25%.
In fact, we recommend budgeting for a 25% gratuity across the board. You don’t have to tip a full 25%, but it’s nice to have the money available if a vendor goes above and beyond!
Budgeting For A Car
Cars are pretty much a necessity for most people these days. But that in no way means you need to buy a brand new car that you can’t afford. If you are budgeting for a car, here are a few tips to help you through the process.
#38 – Save Up Before You Shop
Car salespeople tend to be very good at their job, and the new car smell is almost too enticing to ignore. So if you go shopping for a car before you have saved up enough money to buy it outright, you are stepping into a dangerous financial situation. This is why we recommend completely saving for a car before you ever step foot in a dealership, or go for a test drive.
Set a car savings goal and a timeline, and use your budget to ensure you achieve it. Then, and only then, should you start car shopping.
#39 – Buy Used
New cars may look cool, but let’s be real, they are one of the worst ways to spend your money. They are extraordinarily expensive, and their value drops like a rock every year.
So, if you are going to buy a car, look for something that is 3 or more years old. Their value will still diminish, but it won’t drop at such a dramatic rate.
#40 – Focus On Function Over Form
When you buy a used car, it’s a fact that you are not going to get the latest and greatest technology. And that is ok! Your financial future is more important than spending $2,500 extra on a car because it has a navigation system and bluetooth.
When you budget for a car, stay focused on function and reliability. Technology can always be added later if you really want it. Just be sure to budget for that too.
Budgeting For Food
Food can make or break your budget, plain and simple. In fact, being diligent with our food budget enables us to save an extra $6,000 every year. So, how can you make the most of budgeting for food each month? Here are a couple useful tips to help you.
#41 – Meal Planning Is Essential
Dust off those old recipe books, and unleash your inner cook, because meal planning is an essential skill for budgeters.
Pick a night every week to sit down, and plan out your breakfasts lunches and dinners for the next seven days. Then, list all the ingredients and hit the grocery store. (Bonus points if you eat leftovers for lunch every day to save some extra money!)
The whole meal planning process shouldn’t take you more than one hour once you get into a routine, and it can save you hundreds of dollars per week.
#42 – Budget A Realistic Amount Each Month
Ok, if you are a budgeting beginner, and have never planned your food spending each month, this tip is extremely important: budget a realistic amount of money for food each month.
Your goal isn’t to starve yourself or live off of ramen and hot dogs. Your goal is to stay within budget and control where your money goes. It’s better to plan to budget a little extra each month on groceries and feel empowered because you stayed within your limit, than to under-budget for food and feel restricted and defeated when you can’t make it work.
If you are wondering how much you should realistically plan to spend on food each month, read our related post: How Much Should I Budget For Food?
Personal Budgeting Tips For Holidays and Birthdays
Once you start budgeting, you will be amazed how many holidays and birthdays you celebrate throughout the year. So, in order to make sure they don’t blow up your budget, here are a few key tips.
#43 – Save For 12 Months
Believe it or not, birthdays and holidays happen every year, so there is no reason they should sneak up on you.
Add up you approximate cost for all birthdays and holidays throughout the year, and save one-twelfth of that amount each month.
We call this our gift and party fund. And the best part about it is, even if an upcoming birthday or holiday does ‘sneak up on us’, it will not be a financial surprise.
#44 – Stick To An Individualized Budget
If you don’t know how much you want to spend on each birthday and holiday, how are you supposed to budget for them?
Don’t just guess when it comes to birthdays and holidays. Create a list of every person you want to buy gifts for each year, and budget a specific amount of money for each person.
#45 – Don’t Forget Food And Alcohol In Your Budget
It’s uncool to show up to a party empty-handed. So don’t forget to add a little extra into your birthday and holiday budget for food and alcohol. This is a sneaky little expense that can slip through the budgeting cracks if you aren’t careful.
Personal Budgeting Tips For Homeowners
If you own a home, and keep a monthly budget, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. From preparing for unexpected expenses to planning for seasonal expenses, here are a few budgeting tips for homeowners.
#46 – Save For Unexpected Expenses
If your furnace, air conditioner, or water-heater quit working tomorrow, would you have enough cash on hand to cover the cost of a new one? If not, you should create a category in your budget and start building a homeowner’s emergency fund.
Unexpected expenses are painful enough when you have the money to pay for them. Don’t find your way into debt, all because of a home expense you could have easily prepared for.
#47 – Budget For Updates and Renovations
Whether you are into home renovations or not, every home eventually needs some updating. Your roof won’t last forever. Your shower might need new tiling, and your backyard might need to be re-sodded. So, consider setting aside a little money each month for these occasional expenses.
#48 – Budget For Seasonal Expenses
One of the coolest parts of owning a home, is the freedom and opportunity to decorate and update it for each new season.
For example, spring-time is the start of gardening and landscaping season. So, budget for some flowers and any other yard-work you want to do. Then, in winter, you get to decorate for the holidays and you might also need a new snow blower. So, you guessed it, start budgeting for winter expenses!
Every season brings new, fun aspects of homeownership. Just be sure to budget for them.
Budgeting Tips For Getting Out Of Debt
Just in case you couldn’t tell, getting out of debt is one of our favorite things to talk about at BeTheBudget. So, we saved the best for last. Here are two final budgeting tips for anybody trying to get out of debt!
#49 – Set A Debt Payoff Timeline
If you are going to get out of debt, you need a payoff timeline. It doesn’t matter if you are paying off high interest debt first, or lowest principal debt first. It is extremely important to have an end in sight–even if it’s a long way off.
Your budget is the step by step guide to help you pay off your debt in a timely manner. Use it properly, and you can kiss your debt goodbye!
#50 – Constantly Adjust Your Budget To Emphasize Debt Payoff
Your spending will fluctuate each month. That’s a fact. Some months your utilities will be a little lower than usual, then some months you might get hit with an unexpected expense. So, in the months you experience a lighter financial load, move money around in your budget to emphasize your debt payoff. This adds up over time, and can help you get out of debt much quicker than expected.
With so many expenses waiting to sneak up and take your money, your first line of financial defense is your budget. And, no matter what stage of life you are in, budgeting should play a large role in your finances.
Whether you are single, married, living in an apartment, a homeowner, early in your career, or nearing retirement, hopefully these budgeting tips will help you get the most out of your money.