Budgeting can be easier said than done. It’s one thing to create a budget, but it’s a whole other thing to stick to it.
Whether you’re saving for a vacation, retirement, or trying to pay off your never ending pile of debt, budgeting can help in all aspects of your life. However, who really has time to sit there with a calculator, save all your receipts, or invest endless hours on tracking their spending?
The truth is, we all like to think we’re good with money, but, we can all be better. In this article we’re going to breakdown the basics of budgeting, how to stay on top of it, and most importantly, our favourite tools to make it easier to keep track of your budget.
Budgeting for the first time
It’s never too early or too late to start your budget, and that’s one of the biggest misconceptions. Whether you’re budgeting during your very first part-time job, while in college, or even if you are making a six figure salary, keeping track of your money and spending habits is important. Just as important as saving. Here are some of our tips for laying out your budget for the first time…
Know your cash flow
It’s not about knowing how much you regularly have coming in, but also how much money you have coming out. This will serve as a good starting point for your expenses, and your savings, when creating your budget. If you’re on a salary, this should be easy, all you need to do is look at your pay stubs. If you’re not salaried, and have inconsistent hours, take a look at multiple pay stubs and form an average. Also account for times of the year you may acquire more hours than normal.
Budget for your savings
With your cash flow laid out, now you can have a good idea of where your money is coming and going from. Your next steps will be to see where you can save more. Evaluate what you’re spending the most of your money on that isn’t an actual need but more so a want. It’s common to feel like you don’t have enough money to actually save when you eliminate all your bills and expenses, but even saving a little bit makes a difference. Making your savings a financial priority will help prepare you for what’s to come in your life, plus, give you a bit of a cushion.
Stick to it
It’s one thing to make a budget, but it’s another to actually stick with it. By sticking to your budget, you’re working on creating financial stability. Keep your end goals in mind, and also the things you would love to have money for. Remember, it takes about two months to build a habit, and once you get through the first two months, it’ll be second nature to you.
Don’t forget to have fun
When you’re constantly worried about staying on track financially and sticking to a budget, you can forget to treat yourself and have fun. Don’t feel guilty about this! No matter how tight your budget is, you need to have a little wiggle room for treating yourself. Just be creative on what you’re doing for fun. It’s amazing how many free or inexpensive things are available that we never think to look into. Having fun doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Opt for a pot luck with your friends versus going out for dinner, have a picnic in a park versus going for a fancy brunch, look at local events happening in your area, the list goes on.
The best free budget apps
With technology being at the forefront of everything these days, it’s no surprise that there are a ton of tools out there that help you keep on top of your finances easily. Here are some of our favourite tools to help you manage your dollars.
Available for all smartphones, Wally is like walking around with an expense sheet. Whether it’s for a business trip or your personal day to day spending, Wally lets you log your expenses by manually entering or by take a photo of your receipt. You can also turn on the location services so Wally can see where you are spending and to help log an expense. If you’re looking to monitor your spending habits Wally is the app for you.
If you’re looking for a traditional budget app, then Spendee many not be for you. Available in both the App and Google Play stores, Spendee is a great app to give you a visual as to where you are spending your money. By tracking all your finances, this app gives you the options to create different wallets for different expenses and create budgets within those wallets to track spending. Creating this visual of where your money is going helps to see where you can cut back and start saving.
Saving for something specific? Pocket Guard helps you track and lower your bills. Anything from a vacation, a new gadget or paying down debt, Pocket Guard lets you see your spending categorically, uncover opportunities to save and get notifications about what you have available to spend. This is a fun and motivating way to start saving and get in the habit for the future.
One of the most popular and reputable budget apps is Mint. Mint works by gathering all your financial information, everything from regular bank accounts to investments and bills. It takes what your income and your spending patterns and automatically updates in real time. Mint also has the ability to send you regular notifications about your spending patterns by customizing accounts and setting limits to track your expenses.
Outside of the apps, there are some good old fashioned alternatives to tracking your budget as well. One of our favourites is the envelope method.
This is the old school way of tracking your budget without having to worry about technology. Once you figure out your budget, get envelopes for each aspect of your budget and take out the budgeted amount of cash to put in each envelope. All your spending needs to be done from these envelopes. This not only is an easy way to keep track of spending, but it also eliminates the use of plastic cards that can cause you to impulse purchase or overspend.
Buckling down on your budget
Once you’ve built out your budget, you’ve found a tool that helps you track the money you have coming in and out, how do you buckle down and stick to it? Here are our tips for not just setting your budget, but following it.
Be okay with change
The biggest thing you can remember is that it’s okay for your budget to change. Once you set it, and start sticking to it, you’ll learn what’s not practical, and may need adjusting. Remember though to ask yourself if the areas where you’re having issues is a need or a want. You’ll also want to evaluate how you’re tracking everything. For example, you may think one of the apps mentioned above will work great for you, and then realize it’s hard to keep up with. Adjust where necessary and don’t be so hard on yourself.
Know where your money is
Knowing how much you regularly have coming in is one thing, but also knowing how much you have coming out is another. This is the biggest starting point for creating your budget, along with listing out all your expenses and categorizing them. There shouldn’t be any other expenses when you’re in a financial bind, and by understanding this, you’ll be less stressed with a plan of attack, aka your budget.
Budget your savings
Treat your savings like any other bill that needs to be paid. Having savings is important. Whether it’s your emergency fund, your retirement savings, or if you’re saving for a house or bigger expense. It’s common to feel like you’re in too much of a bind to make saving a financial priority, but even saving a little can go a long way. Plus, if you get in the habit of regularly putting dollars into your savings, it’ll be second nature to you and you’ll learn to live with less.
If you’re putting in the effort to budget, you need to have a follow through. If you want to prioritize your finances and get yourself in a comfortable position with your money, stick to it! When you make your budget, and set your goals, make sure you are setting yourself up for success, and if you realize you’ve underestimated some aspect of the budget, or are struggling, readjust to make it manageable. By having a budget in place and analyzing where you are blowing it, you’ll hold yourself more accountable and head towards financial security.
There are a ton of tips and tools we can list off for you to make budgeting easier, and at GoDay, we’re full of information and resources to help set you off on the right track. Whether you need to learn how to get a loan, or need advice to make ends meet.