If you’re anything like me – you’ll find budgeting hard. Its like fighting over a duvet that’s a little bit too small – there just never seems to be enough to cover your butt!
For some people, they never go over the amount of money they have, so budgeting is not something they actively “try” to do. For others, they never seem to have enough. I believe though that creating a budget (or spending plan if you hate the b-word) is really the only way of being able to gain full control and awareness of your money.
So what I’m really saying is, whether you love it or hate it, budgeting is essential.
Trial and Error
Like a serial dieter, I have tried a lot of different budgeting styles. I have used them at different stages of my wealth journey. What I like using may not work for you and vice versa, so the trick is to pick a style that works for you and stick to it – because they all work!
So here’s a list of the budgets I have tried, as well as some that I haven’t, but have been raved about by my people in my private facebook community.
Good old fashioned pen and paper
I was taught this method from an early age by my mum. Admittedly, this never caught on for me when I was a kid. I found it tedious and never bothered to track my money, which is probably why I got into a lot of debt in the first place!
But now I really enjoy using a notebook to help me to stay on track of my money. I even created my very own budgeting planner because I could never find anything that 100% worked in the way I wanted it to. You can try one out for yourself if you like here. I think there is something really special about using a pen and paper to do this work.
How To Do It
Buy a note book or one of my planners. Write out all your outgoings – include everything, going out, bills, mortgage or rent etc. Organise them into “pots” like “essentials”/”fun”/”education”/”health”/”future”/”savings” etc. From now on, you’ll be allocating money to a category rather than wrestle with individual items in your budget.
Every month, transfer money from your bank account where your salary or business income goes in and allocate enough money to each of your “pots”. You can do this easily with accounts like Starling or Monzo without needing to open multiple accounts.
This is a rough doodle of how my account looks with each of the boxes a “pot” within my monzo account. My main Natwest account houses all my income and my essential bills like mortgage/electricity/gas/water etc.
Set up your pot allocations EVERY MONTH. Assess how well you did each month – how much spending was unplanned? Could you have allocated more to a pot to cover it? Don’t forget birthdays and christmas and adjust your allocations accordingly.
You can also use your notebook (or planner) to track your income/freebies and gifts from people. This is a lovely way to help yourself feel abundant and supported by the universe!
Record your goals and dreams, things you’d like to do/remember and anything else that is helpful to you for managing your money. Colouring pens/glitter/stickers are optional but using them can really get your creative juices flowing!
I used this method when I was feeling especially strapped for cash right at the start of my wealth journey. I found it really useful to just use cash because I felt totally in control.
How To Do It
Aside from your savings, investments, main bills and debt repayments etc (which should be on direct debit), work out how much money you have left for fun stuff, groceries and anything else you go shopping for.
Buy some envelopes – they can be the paper kind, or you can opt for some nice plastic ones from somewhere like ebay or amazon. You’ll be using them a lot, so it’s worth making sure they are durable!
Label each envelope – for example, you could use PETROL/GROCERIES/CLOTHES/EATING OUT/KIDS/THINGS I DIDN’T BUDGET FOR, but basically set it up however you like.
Next, withdraw from your bank account the money you will need to cover all these expenses for the month. If you are paid weekly, or some other variation, obviously do it as you get paid.
Put the cash you have allocated into each of the envelopes. Great! Now you have set up your envelope system. You task is to spend no more than what is in those envelopes. If you overspend in one category, simply move money from another envelope to balance it out, but once the money is gone, it’s gone!
Other Variations To Try
Instead of envelopes, you could try jars or brightly coloured boxes. If you have children, have some fun together and decorate them. You could even get them started on their own.
Any money left over in the categories you have set can then be used on a big thing you’re saving for, such as an emergency fund, or you could be even more savvy and start investing (you only need £25 per month to get going with this). Don’t be tempted to blow every single last penny in the envelopes if you don’t have to. Equally though, don’t beat yourself up if this doesn’t work for you straight away. If you regularly overspend in a category, either you need to cut down, or you need to allocate more of your budget to it.
This is one of my favourite methods, but I enjoy using my planner, so I use spreadsheets less now than I used to. Not everyone likes spreadsheets, and many people are scared of breaking them or getting in a muddle. My suggestion is that you keep it simple.
A spreadsheet can help you get intimate with your numbers because you’re not pulling them in automatically from your bank account. I think this helps with feel in control of your money because you know what’s going on when you update it yourself.
How To Do It
When I used spreadsheets regularly, I used it to do five things:
- Plan my spending for the month ahead
- Record my spending throughout the month
- Track how much I spending in 7 key areas and modify as I notice patterns (giving/education/debt/emergency/investing/saving for big things/everything else)
- Track my net worth (which gives me an overall indicator of how well I’m doing)
- Keep an eye on how much I am managing to save
Knowing what your net worth is gives you a powerful reminder of what your money habits are. If you’re in a lot of debt, and continue to overspend, your net worth will continue to be low or negative (don’t worry – most people’s are). If you are a saver or an investor, and the amount you have allocated to these areas exceeds any debt you have, then you’ll have a positive net worth.
Don’t forget to factor in yearly expenses like car insurance – divide the amount by 12 and allocate the money per month into a savings pot somewhere ready for when you need it.
If you have never done anything like this before, it will take a while to build up the savings, but this is ok. Start where you are and stay persistent! Don’t beat yourself up for getting it wrong – everyone does when they start.
No budgeting round-up is complete without throwing a few apps in the mix! Personally, I don’t use them because I find them hard to get my head around, but maybe this will change with time. I like the control of having my spreadsheet, and I figure that as I’ve found a thing that works for me, then that’s ok!
The “you need a budget” app is all about making sure you allocate every pound to a spending category. Its very similar to the envelopes in that sense, but digital! It costs to use it every month, but you can trial it first to see what you think.
Its American though, so as far as I’m aware, if you’re not in America, you can’t hook up your bank account to it, but to be honest, this is a good thing because then you have a much better sense over your numbers anyway when you manually input them.
My facebook followers rave about YNAB, so why not try it out for yourself using the free trial? If you don’t like it, just remember to cancel the subscription payment before is taken.
This is budgeting software for mac users. Again, it is American and it is paid for, but I have also heard great things about it from those that use it. The app allows you to track your investments as well as your day-to-day budgeting, and I think this is actually a very good idea to have it all in one place. They use the same concept as envelope budgeting, just online!
Starling Bank and Monzo are challenger banks that help you to track your spending, allocate money into pots and help you to save money. I use monzo and really enjoy it’s features! It’s free to set up an account, so you don’t lose anything by giving it a go yourself.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some other ideas you could try.
Japanese Budgeting – Kakeibo
This is a method I read about recently online. It is a traditional method that involves “journaling” rather than “budgeting”. You use the book to journal your spending by planning before you do it, tracking it during the month, and then reflecting on it at the end of the month. It is very thorough! There’s a great review of it here.
The 20-30-50 rule
This is a budget for minimalists and people who want a speedy solution!
20% of your income goes on finance goals like investing, saving or paying off debt.
30% of your income goes on flexible spending. This could be allocated to whatever you want.
50% goes on your essentials – bills, rent, mortgage, food shopping etc.
See what I mean about minimalism? I think the problem with this method is that it could leave you open to forgetting about certain things like car insurance payments etc, so as long as you leave money behind in your account for stuff like this, you could be onto a winner.
The Mini Millionaire has a fab review of this.
So there you have it – a budget for all! Whatever combination you pick, as long as you stick with it month after month, you will be successful.
Now over to you – which method do you use/will you be using? Let me know in the comments or head over to my Private Facebook Group and tell me there!
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