Only 1 in 3 Americans actually prepare a detailed household budget, according to a recent Gallup survey. What I wish the results would show, however, is how many people start budgeting and then stop and start again.
Budgeting is definitely a process, and if you’re new to it, it can sometimes be disheartening when you can’t make the budget work out just right. I get a little obsessed with my budget spreadsheets, and I’ve tweaked my budget a million times now that we’re a two-income family. Still, there are some categories that don’t work out just right or other mishaps that pop up throughout the month. For this reason, budgeting can sometimes be frustrating, and if you’ve thrown your hands up a time or two and quit budgeting, I don’t blame you.
Despite running a blog all about budgeting for years, there have been many times where I stopped budgeting and tracking my spending altogether. Most of those times I just got too busy, but I always regretted it after the fact. The truth is that budgeting doesn’t really take a lot of time, and the longer you do it, the more intuitive it gets.
Here are some tips for embracing budgeting again if you’ve quit (or some insights on why you should start budgeting if you never have before!)
I find that budgeting or understanding your finances in general is much better when you use software or an app. Some people like to kick it old school with a pen and paper, but the truth is, technology can make our lives a lot easier. This is also true when it comes to budgeting.
I’ve tried many different apps over the years when it comes to budgeting, but what works best for me is to have a program like Personal Capital keep track of my spending and show me my net worth as a whole. Storing all of your spending information and investment information in one place also makes it easy for you to work as a team with your spouse to be on the same page financially.
If a goals based system works best for you there are other programs, such as Simple, that help you track your finances in relation to specific goals you’ve set so you can manage your money more effectively.
You don’t have to check your accounts every single day, but at least check in once or twice a week just so you’re knowledgeable about your spending habits.
Essentially, if you budgeted in the past but then stopped, try out some new technology, which can help make budgeting more interesting and enjoyable for you.
Look at Sample Budgets
I’m pretty sure everyone likes looking at other people’s finances (It can’t be just me!) I once tracked what I bought for seven days and compared it to another blogger, and it was a really popular post.
There are many great resources online including sample budgets that you can download and use. By doing a little research, you can also find some bloggers who post their monthly spending. This is not only interesting reading, but it can give you an idea of what categories you need to include in your budget. Some people forget about yearly expenses like car insurance or health care expenses. By looking at a few different sample budgets, you can create one that will fit your lifestyle and budget.
I think the primary reason people stop budgeting is because it can get tedious. Not everyone geeks out at the idea of creating a spreadsheet with a lot of colors and numbers on it. However, if you knew someone else was right there with you budgeting, it would help you to keep going.
It’s no different from joining a weight loss group at the gym. When you have people around you with similar goals, you don’t want to be the first one to quit. So, if you’re married, your spouse is the ideal person to budget with you. If you’re single, try to get people at work motivated to budget. Then, perhaps everyone will get on board and you won’t feel so pressured to go out for lunch every day!
No matter how you find it, accountability is everything when it comes to personal finances. Don’t keep your goals quiet; tell others that you want to budget more and ask them to join you.
Ultimately, creating a budget and sticking to it is a habit like anything else. Once you get the hang of it, it really becomes quite simple. So, if you’ve tried budgeting in the past but have given up, test out some of the tricks above to get back on track and start enjoying the process again.
Do you regularly budget? If so, have you stopped and started again in the past? What keeps you going back to your budget month after month?