The most challenging aspect of managing money wisely is setting up and maintaining a budget. I like to start with this conversation because the budget is the engine that makes the system go. It is the foundation. Budgeting helps you to become better managers of your resources, gain control of your spending, and follow through on your other goals (see previous post on 5 reasons to set up a budget). I believe where most people get hung up is the process…that is, the HOW TO make a budget.
If you Google How to Make a Budget, you will find a varying degree of articles, each with different styles, techniques and tools. Today, there as many methods and tools to budgeting as you have fingers and toes. Some of the different methods that I came across are zero based budgets, envelop system, buffer system, bi monthly budget, slider system and recently I have been seeing more on the 50/30/20 budget.
Some of the popular tools used to budget include Android Apps and iPhone Apps, web based applications like Mint.com, software like You Need A Budget and Quicken, or online envelop system called Mvelopes. Most recent newcomer is Budgetable (I will test this one soon and tell you what I think). Let’s not forget, spreadsheets and good old pad and paper. There are numerous others that I did not mention. I am not going to review all of these options here, there is plenty information and reviews available online.
In testing some of these options, what I found is simple still works. I still favor the spreadsheet. Why? It’s familiar. I value simple, but someone else may like the convenience of technology. Which tool or method should you use? That is up to you. Successful budgeting isn’t about having the right app or doing everything by the book. The keys to budgeting successfully are: get started, do you, follow through, be accountable, and have fun:
- Get started – I heard someone say that the hardest part about budgeting is getting started. There may some truth to that. Just do it!
- Do you– Find the best method which works for you. Keep trying methods until you find one that works for you. Modify a process until it feels comfortable. If you try to adapt a process that does not feel natural, you will stop using it after awhile.
- Follow through – Budgeting will be difficult at first. You are developing a new habit. It takes discipline. It may feel restrictive at first, but think of it like dieting. The early feeling of financial constraint will pay off later as the process gets easier and you gain control of your finances.
- Accountability– Get a partner to hold you accountable to sticking with your budget and watching your spending. Check in with this person daily, weekly, monthly, or as often as you need to until you gain consistency.
- Celebrate Success – Because the budgeting process can be challenging in the beginning, do not forget to reward yourself for milestones along the way. Find ways to make it fun.Budgeting superstars from the readers at DailyWorth.com share tips on what works for them. The end goal of budgeting is to gain control of your finances. The method you use to get there is unique to you. Have patience and keep trying until you find something that works.
Samirian Hill, A.K.A. The MoneyWise Teacher, is the President and Founder of BudgetWise Financial Solutions, where they teach people to manage money wisely through engaging, educational, and empowering workshops, seminars and individual consultations. Samirian enjoys golfing, cooking, and reading.