Oh budgeting, how I have fallen in, out, and back in love with you. Budgeting is one of those things that can really be frustrating until you can get it right. The purpose of budgeting is to know where every cent is going at all times. Not every budgeting tool is perfect for everyone since we all think differently. I have changed my systems a few times over the past years. Here are some great tools that I have found along the way.
Budget down to zero every month:
You’ve heard it before, I’m sure. I learned the hard way that you should budget to zero every month or you won’t know what happened to your money. Budgeting to zero means assigning a place for all the money you have. If you’ve paid all of your bills and you have some cash left over… don’t just leave it there. If you planned on getting some new clothes, then budget for that. Or, better yet, place the leftovers in your savings. Why do this? This keeps you from thinking, “oh yeah, I have an extra $200 so I can get this, that and the other.” …then at the end of the month you discover you’re short $200 (or more). Budgeting to zero keeps your money from disappearing on you by giving every dollar a home.
Important things first:
I quickly learned in my first budget many years ago that you have to put livelihood first. Here’s my order:
Tithe and Offering, Groceries, Mortgage/ Rent, Light Bill, Water Bill, Car insurance, Car Note, then everything else.
It is important to my family that we give to God first. Next, we budget everything else we need to live. After those comes what I consider to be luxuries, such as credit cards, cell phones, cable, etc.
There’s an app for that:
There are plenty of useful apps out there to help you create and track a budget. These are a few that I have found useful.
- Mint.com – Mint.com was on of the first budgeting tools we used as a married couple. it allowed us to merge both of our income and bills in one location. It made it easy to see what we had coming in, what we had going out and how much we had left in each category. You can sync your bank account and your bills to it. I liked that you can set reminders for paying your bills as well
- Goodbudget – Have you heard of the envelope system? It’s when you use cash for everything. You take your money and place it in its corresponding envelope (one for groceries, one for gas, and so on). With each envelope you track your spending by only using money from the appropriate envelope, writing when you spend. This is the digital version of that. You put money in to each category you have created. As you spend from that category you input how much you have spent and where. It allows you to always keep a hand on your money by category.
- DollarBird – This one is hubby’s favorite. He loves it because it tells you exactly how much money you have at any given moment, and it gives you the ability to forecast and adjust your expenses as needed. You manually input your spending so it allows you keep ahead of your bank account. He hates the delay some bills have to post on the bank account. You can’t sync to multiple devices on the free version, but you can both have one and make sure you are on the same track or pay $5 a month to be linked to the same account. The paid version also tracks your budgeted spending by category.
- Pen and paper- My favorite app, lol! I know this is not an app but it works well. I love seeing what is due, when it’s due, how much am I spending, and checking off what’s been paid. I have transferred one to a word document before and that works as well.
Revisit the budget during the month:
What makes a budget work is keeping up with it. When starting a new budget I suggest you revisit it at least once a week (if not daily). Make sure the right things are being paid and make adjustments as needed. This ensures that you didn’t miss anything, and that no surprises throw you off. By doing this you are fine-tuning a system that works your family.
Revise every month:
You should revise your budget every month. Every month is not necessarily created equal. For instance, you may have gone over the budget last month on food, which means you may need more money in the grocery budget. Maybe you over-budgeted for gas last month and had $50 left in the budget. This means you need to adjust that budget and put that $50 to good use elsewhere (like paying down a debt).
Budgeting is one of the parts of being a well-functioning adult most people don’t want to do. But be of good cheer, because it gets easier the more you do it. And remember, you must be faithful over the few things to be ruler over many things -Matthew 25:23.
I would love to hear from you. What are some your favorite budgeting tips or tools?