I remember the first time I sat down to make a budget. Me, the girl who doesn’t like math and doesn’t like too many details. The girl who had made it close to 30 years of her life without ever making a budget. The girl who would rather do just about anything besides go through my bank statements line by line to get an accurate picture of how much money is coming in and where it is all going.
Sound familiar? If you are someone who has never made a budget, or you’ve made one but haven’t stuck to it, how would creating a simple, easy to follow budget feel? Budgeting is just you telling your money where to go but there’s a simple way to do it or a complicated way. Kind of like if I ask for directions and someone starts talking about 3.2 miles Northwest when I just need to know if I need to turn at the McDonald’s or the Pizza Hut.
So let’s talk ways I have simplified things to set myself up for success so I don’t shut down and call it quits.
Set it and forget it… sort of
Using a free or inexpensive budgeting app is a great way to get a system in place for your budget. If you’re a spreadsheet person and it’s working for you, great! But if you’re finding yourself overwhelmed at creating one, there are lots of great apps that will do the work for you if you plug in your numbers.
Spend the time on the front end going through your bank statements to see where you spend your money and after you’ve decided if there’s categories you can eliminate or reduce, plug those numbers into an app. But you can’t forget it entirely. Once you set it up you won’t have to put in so much time each month on your budget but you will want to check it every so often to make sure everything is on track, and I like to do a once a month review to see what went well and what adjustments I may need to make for the next month.
Anticipate what extra expenses may arise
There are certainly things that can be unexpected. Unexpected home repairs or emergency room trips happen. But Christmas comes every year at the same time my friends. It’s not a surprise. When you are reviewing your month and figuring out what adjustments need to be made, look at the upcoming month (or months if it’s a major expense you will need to plan well in advanced for) and add those items into your budget for the month. I know every March and August I have car registrations due. I know every October and December I have my children’s birthdays to set aside some money for. It saves me so much headache when I plan for the things I am able to so the unexpected things are (slightly) easier to deal with.
Cut down on the number of categories in your budget
This one doesn’t apply if you love details but for people like me, I don’t need a socks budget and a shoes budget and a kids clothes budget and a husband’s clothes budget, I just need a clothes budget and that will cover all my bases. Same thing with grocery shopping. I don’t need a separate budget for things like paper towels, toilet paper, tin foil, etc. I’m going to buy them all at the same store where I get my groceries anyways so it’s just simpler for me to put it all under the groceries budget.
Cutting down the number of categories will be less to keep track of and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Make sure there’s some fun money in your budget
Just like you’re more likely to live a healthy lifestyle when you allow yourself to enjoy your favorite food every once in a while than when you do a crash diet and deprive yourself, you’re more likely to stick to your budget if you have some money set aside for something fun. It may be a family outing for the month, a date night out, or just a weekly coffee from your favorite coffee shop. Just make sure there’s room in the budget. If your numbers aren’t working you either need to bring in more money to make it happen or get rid of something else in your budget you don’t need.
Simple right? Budgeting can actually be fun if you’re doing it right believe it or not. Keep it simple! What other ways have you simplified your budget? Share with me in the comments!
2 Replies to “Ways to simplify your budget”
Kids budget – do you lump yours together? What suggestion for blended families where one child seems to be pulling most from the kid budget? TIA for your idea.
I keep everything lump together as you mentioned above and plan for fixed expenses as well. Every month I keep adjusting as I notice we are actually spending less in some categories. Thanks for the post!
Great question! I usually try to space out kid’s expenses and make sure to update our budget monthly with what they need. For example I will try to not do clothes shopping for them the same month as back to school supplies or Christmas or birthdays. So each month I usually have expenses for them but I try to plan so that they don’t all come at once whenever possible. We did school supplies in August so I’m waiting to make a clothes budget for the month of September.
I definitely think older kids seem to require a greater chunk of the budget. My philosophy was always to spend as little as possible when they’re younger and don’t know any different so when they’re older and need more (more expensive Christmas gifts, after school activities, etc) we will be in a better place to devote a greater chunk of our budget to those things.
It sounds like you’re doing a great job of tracking each month and adjusting as necessary! I hope that helps!