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.
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. 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.
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 “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc.,especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”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.
RELATED: Ways I Cheated…on my Budget
What have you found to be the secret to budgeting? I would love to know in the comments!
This post will be shared at these link ups.
Abby @ WinsteadWandering says
Yes to this! As someone who is currently working to lose weight and become healthier, your advice makes me think of that. I guess perseverance is the key to just about any tough lifestyle change.
You’re absolutely right Abby. Any new habit or lifestyle change DOES take perseverance. Good for you for persevering in becoming healthier! 🙂
Mary @ 120 Spring Street says
Okay, I’ m going to give it a try. I have been a hopeless failure at trying to budget in the past, but I want to … so badly. Thanks for the information!
I’ll be cheering you on Mary! I’m excited to try You Need a Budget (YNAB) since I have a free 4 month trial. I’ve been watching the set up videos and I think it’s set up to help me with some of the challenges that I’ve had in the past.
Angela Howard says
I’m going to check out the every dollar app. I think my secret, after years of budgeting, is the willingness to be intentional and set aside the time to track the money. I’ve tried various ways of doing this and am always willing to try something new that might be more effective. Thank you for your ideas. Visiting from #overthemoon today 🙂
Hi Angela! That’s a great secret! I’m establishing that habit and I think I’m finally getting the hang of it!
Peg Laramee says
Hi, Angela and Angela,
Ditto for me, for establishing the habit (of daily or near-daily money tracking). Sometimes lifestyle-change efforts dovetail! I’m trying to eliminate any screen-time, esp computer writing projects, after dinner b/c it just gets my mind in such high gear that it’s harder for me to go to sleep at a good time.
So I’ve started looking at my money tracker in the late morning or early afternoon. I’m retired so I have more flexibility.
The awesome new idea I got from Every Dollar (which I have NOT yet implemented) is setting up some budget categories as a FUND, if it’s something that comes around as a big occasional expense…sort of like mini-savings accounts! tucked right into the budget. An example for me is traveling and road trips; another, some health expenses (pharmaceuticals).
My husband and I are very similar – our only debt is our mortgage and we’re not crazy spenders, but we should probably have a better handle on where exactly our dollars go every month. Thanks for sharing your tips and the app you use – I’m going to check this out! Thanks for linking up with Merry Monday this week.
Hi Emily! My husband and I have just started having weekly meetings and it’s usually eye opening for one or both of us regarding how much we’re spending on a category. It’s a good way to make changes in the next week!
Katy - Hot Pink Wellingtons says
I used to be great at budgeting, but things have definitely slipped lately and we don’t seem to be able to save anywhere near what we used to be able to. I think I need to take on some of these tips and get a better handle on things! Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove
It’s so easy to slip on budgeting, like other habits, isn’t it Katy? I find it a struggle to focus on more than one habit, especially if it’s a newer habit that isn’t established. Good luck on getting back to saving!
Angela @marathonsandmotivation.com says
This is very informative! I love all the tips. Thanks for sharing at Sunday Fitness & Food.A
No problem! Thanks for reading Angela!
Jess Powell (Babi a Fi) says
Some great tips here! I’ve been trying to get into better budgeting and recording, but I’ve not been very consistent at it. We had a really good run last summer when we were on top of everything, but then Christmas came and we’re still not back in the swing of it. It will get there though, I’m sure! 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing over at Friday Frivolity!
Hi Jess! Yes, Christmas is a trip up for us too in terms of budgeting habits. The thing I like to remember is – there’s always next month to start over again!