I think one of the things I used to hate about budgets before I had a REAL one was the idea that budgeting took “FOR-EV-VERRR” (that was for all my Sandlot loving friends out there). I assumed I would spend endless hours trying to figure out where all my money had gone all month from credit card to credit card. On top of that, budgeting meant actually talking about money which we all know is one of the number one topics that couples fight about. It all sounded like the worst idea ever.
Now that I’m an actual budgeting success story (2 years and going strong!) I can pass along some of my tips to people who want to budget but rarely do for fear of the time it takes and the potential of marital conflict. Here are my tips for how to do your budget faster.
1. Set up a real budget.
If you aren’t sitting down each month at pay day and telling your money that’s coming in where to go, you are just a tracker of your spending habits. Tracking spending habits isn’t the same as budgeting.
Good budgeting involves you knowing where you are going to spend your money before it gets spent, not the other way around. If you are more of a tracker, it’s okay, but you have to start at square one. Check out my post Budgeting 101: How To Start Bossing Your Money Around to get you started bossing your money around rather than chasing it around. You can even print your own monthly budgeting worksheets.
2. Start Using Only 1 Payment Method
The best day of my financial life was the day I cut up all my credit cards almost 4 years ago. It eliminated so many hassles from my life. I had a credit card for department stores and one from every major credit card company out there. It was so hard to keep track of that many different accounts, cards and where my money was going. I even wasted many hours of my life, chasing down money some stranger spent on my cards.
My husband and I have one checking account and everything that is spent comes out of that one account. We get one statement each month in the mail. It’s minimalist budgeting bliss! Consider dropping all your random cards and make life easier on yourself with just one account. If you have some plastic self control issues then maybe cash is a better 1 payment method for you…
3. Go Cash Only
If you really hate number crunching and spreadsheets, then your fastest budgeting options is the cash envelope system. You simply sit down, decide how much cash you are bringing in, go to the bank and fill up cash envelopes with the money you have budgeted for each spending category. Bills get paid from your checking account and everything else comes from an envelope or stays in your savings. If this sounds like something you want to try, check out my post the Quick Start Guide to the Cash Envelope System to get started.
4.Find a Budgeting Software You Like
A good budgeting software can import all your spending transactions in just a few seconds. Some programs “learn” reoccurring transactions and auto assign them to categories. I use Quicken for my business and Clear Checkbook for our personal stuff. Mint is also a nice online budgeting system that works great.
Remember, it’s just a tool to speed up the budgeting process. You’ll still have to tell your money what to do. It all comes down to what program is the most user friendly for you so you will ACTUALLY use it.
5. Take Advantage of Smart Phone Apps
One lesson I’ve learned in my budgeting journey is that I would save myself a TON of time, if I will simply enter my transaction the minute I spend my money. Typically however my 3 year old is with me so I end up trying to JUST. GET. THROUGH check-out. I tell myself I’ll do it later and then I don’t. Then along comes budget day and I’m scrambling to enter all my transactions and hoping I didn’t go a cent over rather than knowing how much I spent as I went along.
The best way for me is to enter it as soon as I sit down in the car or make the payment online. In our case, we use an online budgeting site called Clear Checkbook that also has a phone app that syncs. When I enter a transaction it deducts the amount from one of the 30 or so categories we have set up. I always know how much money is our “digital” envelope because it deducts the money as a I go. If I do this every time, there is way less work for me when I prep for our budget date nights.
6. Tag Team
For almost 2 years now, my husband and I have sat down twice a month to work on our budget together. If you aren’t in the habit of doing this, it may sound dreadful to you if you and your spouse regularly argue about money. Let me encourage you by saying that it may be hard the first month or two but once you get in the flow, you both know what’s going on with your finances, start working together to pay off debts, you will most likely find that you start looking forward to budget night.
There have been times when I’ve just had to do budget by myself because my husband is out of town. It took double the time because there wasn’t someone sitting there keeping me focused and on track with the task at hand. I had to think of all the expenses coming up myself. There was no one to watch my back for errors. When it comes to your family budget, two heads are better than one.
There are two couples out there that I love that have taken this whole tag team financial life to a very public level. Consider checking them out for a little bit of financial couple inspiration.
Talaat & Tai at His and Her Money.com– This couple makes some really informative and enjoyable podcasts and videos that you can listen to on the go to inspire you to go after your money goals TOGETHER!
Mark and Lauren G literally do budget night live for the world to see and are on a quest to help other families pursue “The New American Dream”.
I hope that one of these tips has helped you discover a way that you might help you speed up budget night. Budgeting is an important aspect of a healthy financial life. Invest time in yours.
If you have any budget time saving tips of your own, please share them with us in the comments section of the post.
Kim Anderson is the organized chaos loving author behind the Thrifty Little Mom Blog. She helps other people who thrive in organized chaos to stress less, remember more and feel in control of their time, money, and home. Kim is the author of: Live, Save, Spend, Repeat: The Life You Want with the Money You Have. She’s been featured on Time.com, Money.com, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Day, and more!