Several months ago, I kissed budgeting goodbye.
It was a strange move for a guy who wrote a book called The Secret to a Successful Budget.
When I talked about why I kissed budgeting goodbye, I mentioned that once we left Papua New Guinea we planned to get back into the habit of budgeting. Interestingly, that hasn’t been as simple as we had imagined. We’ve tasted of the forbidden fruit of budgeting sloth, and we’ve needed to reach deep for some budgeting motivation.
In honor of the struggle, I decided to share some quick tips for getting into budgeting if you’ve never budgeted before or if you’re struggling to get into budgeting again.
Seven Tips a Budget That’s Not Working
- Answer the ‘why’. There’s no point in doing anything if there’s not a point in doing it. (You might need to read that again.) If you don’t know the reason for budgeting, then it is going to seem like a huge waste of time.
- Start simple. Budgets can be very simple or very complex. Simple budgets are more likely to last. Complex budgets make you feel like a part-time accountant. In our case, we’ve been spending cash for everything, so we’ve just totaled up the bank withdrawals. Is that a perfect budget? No, but at least we can tell how much we’ve spent every month.
- Decide on a budgeting software. While we’ve been using multiple currencies, we’ve used MoneyDance. However, now that we’ll be primarily budgeting in US dollars, we’re looking into both You Need A Budget and Mvelopes. These programs make tracking your spending simpler, and they make tax season easier, too.
- Repent and purge your receipts. We keep receipts for everything we spend. However, keeping them is only part of budgeting. You need to enter them into your computer. If you’ve fallen behind on your budgeting, it’s OK to just throw everything in the trash and say ‘from today on …’. Sometimes a fresh start is all you need, so you don’t feel so overwhelmed by your past budgeting indiscretions.
- Set a schedule and establish a habit. You’ll never have time for anything you don’t make time for. Schedule 10 minutes at the end of every day. Use that time to quickly enter your expenses. Or if you prefer, pick one day a week to review your receipts and expenses for the week. Once the habit is established, budgeting is simple.
- Take shortcuts. As you get started, do whatever you need to do to ensure your budget is simple enough. The ultimate goal is to be sure that you’re spending the right amount and that you’re spending on the right things. If you need to cut a corner to do it, cut the corner. No one is grading you, and perfection quickly becomes an enemy of the successful budget.
- Add an appointment to your calendar or task list right now. Make sure the date is within the next seven days. Block off one hour to start the budget. Budgeting is like a snowball at the top of a mountain. Once you get it started, it will continue without exerting as much effort. If you don’t do this step right now, then none of these seven tips will change anything.
What tips do you have that have helped you keep up with your budget?