If you’re expecting a financial expert to share the secret to budgeting, please stop reading here my friend. I am by no means a financial expert. I am, however, a (fairly) normal and intelligent person who has struggled with budgeting for most of her adult life. If you’d like encouragement and to hear my take on the secret to budgeting, please read on.
At the beginning of 2016, my one and only one (new) new years resolution was to budget. Very basic budgeting – tracking the money that comes in, noting the money that is going out for bills and food, and staying within a designated amount of money for the month. We were attempting to do a zero based budget – designating a job for every dollar that came in.
My husband and I had been good in the past about saving, paying down student loan debt, and paying off any credit card balance at the end of the month. We’re currently debt free except for our mortgage. We were not so good about knowing exactly how much we spent on any one category within our household budget. We knew rough estimates, but didn’t keep careful track of all the numbers.
2016 Budgeting in Review
I started using the free EveryDollar app on my phone and computer to set up a budget and track our household income and expenses in January 2016. It’s a great program that worked better for me than any other system I’ve tried in the past.
I liked having to enter every expense because it helped me to grow in awareness and to establish the habit of tracking expenses. I only completely neglected to track anything in October, so 11 months out of 12 isn’t so bad. There were several months where I started strong at the beginning of the month but ran out of steam at the end of the month.
As a budgeting newbie without the habit of tracking expenses firmly established, any little thing that was unusual threw me off my budgeting game:
- Extra money for the month?
- Not enough money for the month?
- An unexpected expense we hadn’t budgeted for?
- Birthdays? (I know we’re supposed to budget for these…)
- Christmas? (Ditto for this!)
- Changing phone service providers?
These were all circumstances we didn’t handle well in terms of budgeting for them, or sticking to the budget. Despite the challenges, however, we managed to stay out of debt and didn’t need to dip into our savings for monthly expenses in 2016.
Helpful Budgeting Tools
Through the year, these have been helpful tools to keep us on track budgeting:
- putting the EveryDollar app on both of our phones.
- putting our credit card app on both of our phones with notifications. This has helped because now I don’t have to log in to the credit card account to jot down the expenses. I can just scroll through the notifications on my phone.
- pen and paper. At the beginning of January, I went through all of our bills again and wrote down the day of the month that each bill is due. I’ve done this before, but some of our monthly providers had changed so I needed to do it again. It is helpful to have a list of our bills and the day they will be deducted from our bank account.
- my new inkWELL Press Planner. I love this thing – and carry it around with me everywhere I go. In the weekly format it has 3 boxes at the bottom that I use to plan dinner, track expenses and daily movement. Here’s a picture:
“So, what’s the Secret to Budgeting, Angela?”
The secret my friends, is perseverance. Perseverance is defined as “What is the #secret to #budgeting? Not what you'd expect! #money #budgets Click To Tweet
Budgeting takes perseverance. Getting in the habit of tracking expenses and figuring out what tools and systems are right for you takes time and continued effort.
- If you forget to track your spending one day, start again the next day.
- If you blow your budget on a spontaneous “want,” get back on track the next day.
- If you forget to budget for a month, start again the next month.
Persevering will make a difference in the long run. It will eventually become a habit. That’s what I’m telling myself, my friend, and that’s my encouragement to you as well.
What have you found to be the secret to budgeting? I would love to know in the comments!
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