Are you looking for tips on how to make budgeting easy?
I understand where you’re coming from. When you’re first starting out with budgeting, it can be difficult and time consuming. Between laying out all your expenses, getting in the habit of logging every purchase, and assessing your progress throughout the month, it’s understandable if you find it a little overwhelming.
The good news is that there are all sorts of ways to simplify the budgeting process. And that’s what we’re going to cover in this article.
What follows are 21 simple tips that make budgeting easy.
Let’s get right to it!
1. Go With A Zero-Based Budget
It might sound counterintuitive, but the less time you spend making your budget as specific as possible, the harder things can get. You see, specificity is critical when budgeting. It eliminates a lot of the room for error, which helps you to know exactly when and on what you can spend your money.
That’s why, if you want to make budgeting easy, you should use the zero-based budgeting method. If you’re unfamiliar with zero-based budgeting, it is basically just a budgeting process where you plan how you are going to spend every dollar of your income. As opposed to the method of grouping your spending into large, undefined categories, zero-based budgeting doesn’t leave any room for ambiguity.
And when you don’t have any questions about what you should be doing with your money, everything gets significantly easier.
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2. Reconcile Your Budget Daily
Since I was a little kid, my dad has always told me, “it’s easier to keep clean than to make clean”. And in the case of budgeting, this statement was never more true.
You see, part of budgeting is keeping track of your expenses. And if you get lazy and let days, or weeks go by without entering your expenses into your budget, it’s easy for things to get messy; which makes budgeting more difficult on you.
If you are going to be serious about your budget, then make an effort to reconcile your budget every single day. If you do this right, it should only take you a couple minutes every night. Beyond that, it will save you a lot of confusion and frustration.
3. Spend From One Account Only
If you want to take as much of the difficulty out of budgeting as possible, then you should only spend money from one account; preferably your checking account.
Here’s the thing, the more accounts you have to track, the more complicated the process of budgeting becomes. Think about it, if you only spend money using your debit card, then every night when you sit down to log your expenses into your budget, you only have to log into one account. All your expenses are in one place, which provides you with absolute financial clarity.
On the other hand, if you spend money using your debit card in addition to multiple credit cards, then everything becomes more complex. You have to log into multiple accounts, wait for transactions to post, and keep a mental record of which cards you used to make every purchase. Talk about difficult budgeting.
Honestly, above every other tip in this article, this one is my favorite.
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4. Clearly Define Your Goals
If you don’t know exactly why you are budgeting, and what goals you are trying to achieve, then you will lack clarity on your budget. And when you lack clarity, budgeting becomes harder than it has to be.
Therefore, if you want to make budgeting easier, you should take some time to clearly define not only your goals, but a specific timeline in which you would like to achieve them. Like I said earlier, specificity simplifies budgeting. So, get specific with your goals, and make them as clear as possible.
5. Know Your Spending Triggers
The more you spend money impulsively, the harder your budget will be to maintain. Like jamming a stick into the spoke of a moving bicycle wheel; when you spend money that you didn’t plan for in your budget, it can send you flying off-track.
For that reason, it’s important for you to identify your spending triggers.
For example, I know that when I walk into a store that sells power tools, I am endangering my budget. The thought of adding a power tool to my wood shop is a little too enticing for me to resist. But the fact that I know that about myself makes it easier for me to avoid situations where I will spend beyond my budget.
The less you put yourself in situations where you are more likely to blow your budget, the easier the whole process will be.
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6. Save Before You Spend
One of the most important habits you can get into when you start budgeting, is putting the money you have allocated for savings into your savings account before you spend money on anything else.
This is known as saving before you spend, or paying yourself first, and it makes budgeting a much easier process. You see, by doing this, you are making it slightly less convenient for you to spend beyond your budget, and therefore, you will be more likely to save money. And isn’t that the entire point of budgeting?
7. Prepare For Seasonal Expenses
Seasonal expenses, kind of like impulse purchases can throw a serious wrench in your monthly budget. So, whenever a new season comes rolling around, it’s a good idea to make a list of expenses you expect to come your way.
In spring, that might mean landscaping expenses, or a new mower. In fall, it might mean having your sprinklers blown-out. In Winter it might mean holiday expenses.
With every season comes a few unique expenses, and it’s in your best interest to prepare for them.
8. Set Up Sinking Funds
One of the most important roles a budget can play is helping you save for large expenses. And in order to do this well, you should set up a few sinking funds.
Sinking funds are basically portions of savings that you set aside for specific, planned expenses. For example, if you know you are going to buy a car in the next two years, you could allocate a portion of your savings to a car fund in your budget. Or, since you know Christmas happens every December, you could set up a sinking fund for all the expenses that come with the holiday season.
Sinking funds can make your financial life, and budgeting significantly easier if you get in the habit of contributing to them.
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9. Get On The Same Page With Your Spouse
If you are married and trying to budget on your own, then you are in for a seriously difficult task. Truthfully, even if you and your spouse have differing views on how you should handle your money, or structure your budget, things aren’t going to be easy.
So, if you want to make budgeting easier, then sit down with your spouse, and come up with a budget you can both agree on. In many situations this is easier said than done. But, if you don’t get on the same page with your spouse, I can almost guarantee that budgeting won’t be easy for you.
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10. Pick A Better Budgeting Method
One of the things I have learned about budgeting, is that you need to use a budgeting method that works for you. If you try to use a budget that is inconvenient for you to use, then you will end up avoiding it, and that’s not a recipe for success.
So, if you are the kind of person that likes a hand-written budget, then go with that. There is no rule that says you need to use an app or a spreadsheet to be successful at budgeting.
On the other hand, if you like using spreadsheets, then don’t force yourself to use an app or a hand-written budget.
If you are a techie kind of person that takes your phone with you wherever you go, and spends a ton of time on apps, then go sign up for the EveryDollar app and get to it.
If you want to make budgeting easier, then you need to pick a method that works best for you.
11. Use The Envelope System
If you are really struggling to stay on budget, or stick with your budget throughout the month, then you might want to try the envelope system. For those of you that are unfamiliar with it, allow me to explain.
The envelope system is an all cash budgeting system where you actually withdraw your budgeted money from the bank, and physically group it into envelopes. Many people use this method of budgeting, because it eliminates a lot of the temptation to spend money on a credit or debit card.
The thing I like about this system is that it brings your budget to life. As opposed to just working with numbers in your bank account, the envelope system requires you to physically handle your money. For instance, if your weekly grocery budget is $200, then you actually have to pull the money out of your grocery envelope, and bring it to the store.
This restricts your spending to the cash you bring with you, and keeps you from going over-budget. Plus, every time you look in your envelopes, you will know exactly how much money you have left for the month.
That’s why when you live on a cash budget and use the envelope system, it can make budgeting significantly easier.
12. Increase Your Income
Let’s be honest, when you earn more money, personal finance tends to get a little easier; and budgeting is no exception to that rule.
When you have more money to work with, you can get out of debt faster, save more money, invest more, and even spend a little more money on fun. So, if you are really struggling to stay on budget, or just stick with your budget every month, you should take it upon yourself to get out there and make more money.
You could start a business, get a second job, or just do a little freelance work here and there. Whatever you decide, if you increase your income, it adds a little extra cushion to your financial life, which can help make budgeting easy for you.
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13. Minimize Your Transactions
If you struggle to enter your expenses into your budget every single night, then one of the simplest solutions you can implement is to just buy fewer things. This is what I would refer to as the minimalist approach to budgeting, and it is one of the best ways to make budgeting easier.
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14. Know Your Fixed Expenses
In every budget, there are fixed, periodic, and variable expenses. Now, I’ll admit that the periodic and variable expenses can sneak up on you from time to time, but you should know your fixed expenses down to the cent. Seriously, they should never, ever surprise you.
These are things like your rent, mortgage, internet bill, car insurance, subscriptions, and any other expenses that occur every month for a consistent amount of money.
By knowing your fixed expenses you are reducing the likelihood of an expense slipping through the cracks, and sneaking up on you.
15. Prepare For Unexpected Expenses and Emergencies
If you are unprepared for them, unexpected expenses have the unique ability to wreck your monthly budget. From emergency medical bills to an unexpected car or home repair, if you don’t have a decent amount of savings to cover you in the event of an unpredictable expense, you are putting your budget in serious danger, and setting yourself up for financial difficulty in the future.
In general, we recommend that you build an emergency fund big enough to cover anywhere from 3 to 6 months worth of your living expenses.
16. Be Realistic
One of the most common reasons people struggle with budgeting, is that they set unrealistic expectations for their budget. Listen, budgeting is not a get rich quick scheme. It is a way to take control of your financial life, live within your means, and achieve long-term financial goals.
So, if you make $5,000 per month, don’t be unrealistic and set an annual savings goal of $60,000. That’s your entire salary, and it’s just not going to happen. Rather, a realistic goal would be to save $10,000 – $15,000 in a year.
It’s ok to stretch your goals a little bit, but there is a big difference between a good goal and a pipedream. Setting unrealistic goals will just end up making you resent your budget when you come to terms with reality.
17. Implement A Miscellaneous Budgeting Category
Even with all the time I have spent budgeting, every month, I still run into expenses for which I didn’t plan or expect. And that’s why my wife and I allocate a portion of our budget to a miscellaneous category.
This is a great way to help you cover random expenses that would normally disrupt your budget, without having to pull from your sinking funds or emergency savings. Plus, it gives you a nice, neat place to log those expenses that don’t fit anywhere else.
18. Stick With It
There’s no doubt, the first few months of budgeting are the hardest. That’s when you are cutting the most from your spending, and learning to get in the habit of budgeting. This is also the time period when many people are getting out of debt, or just trying to turn their financial life around.
To put it plainly, the first few months of budgeting can be a financially stressful time. But I am telling you the truth when I say, it all gets easier.
In other words, if you stick with budgeting long enough, you will both get better at it, and your financial situation will improve; two things which make budgeting significantly easier.
19. Get Out Of Debt
You know earlier when I said you should try to minimize your expenses? Well, a great way to do that is to get out of debt. You see, every monthly payment you have to make complicates your finances, which in turn, complicates budgeting.
I mean, can you imagine how much easier your financial life would be if you didn’t have to make a single monthly debt payment? Let me tell ya, much easier!
Seriously, the original reason my wife and I started budgeting was to get out of debt. You see, between the two of us, we were making multiple different payments each month, and spending way more money than we should have been. But, thanks to our budget, we were able to get completely out of debt. And thanks to getting out of debt, our budget and our financial life became much easier.
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20. Group Your Expenses Into Smaller Categories
I know I have mentioned specificity a couple times in this article, but I swear, this is the last. If you are struggling with your budget, then you should try breaking your expenses into smaller, more specific categories.
For example, instead of allocating $500 to your food budget each month, you could break that out into $350 for groceries, and $150 for restaurants.
Breaking your budget into smaller categories will provide you with more clarity, and help you make better financial decisions.
21. Allow Yourself Some Fun Money
Here at Be The Budget, we believe that every dollar you earn should be split into four categories: giving, saving, living, and fun. In other words, you should give a little bit, save a little bit, pay for your living expenses, and allow yourself to enjoy some of your money by spending it on some fun.
I mean, what’s the point of having money if you never get to have any fun?
If possible, you should allocate between 5% and 10% of your take home pay to fun money. This will allow you to satisfy your desire to spend some money, without going overboard. Plus, it will keep your budget from getting boring and dry, which will increase your likelihood of sticking with it.
What do you do to make budgeting easy? If you use any of these tips, or you have some of your own, be sure to comment below.