A lot of the time when we talk about budgeting we talk about writing everything down in a spreadsheet, and keeping track of all your spending. Not everybody is a spreadsheet person. In fact I’d guess that most people aren’t in love with spreadsheets. They do work, and it is an excellent way to manage your money. If you can stand them, anyway. But what if you hate spreadsheets, but still want to manage your money? Well there are several ways to budget without using spreadsheets.
This is one of the most popular non-spreadsheet methods. To do this you get a bunch of envelopes. On each one write one of your budget categories; like groceries, entertainment, rent, etcetera. Then when you get paid you put a portion of your money in each of those envelopes. When the envelope runs out of money you can’t spend any money on that. This may take some planning to know how much of your paycheck you should put into each envelope. You can use my post Don’t Create a Budget Yet. Part 1 – Find Out Where It Goes to learn one technique for figuring that out.
In today’s electronic age it’s sometimes impractical to use physical envelopes. Especially for larger things like vacation savings. In this case you can set up multiple savings accounts. Most banks will allow you to do this. Just label each account based on what you want to use the money for.
This is one of my favorites. Now it is even better. You can let the software do all the work for you. You can either buy a program and enter each of your purchases and paychecks into it. Or use a service like Mint.com or an app like Level Money to compile this information for you. Either way you enter budget amounts and the software will categorize it for you. Just pay attention to where the software puts your transactions to make sure it does it correctly. Most learn after a while and will get pretty accurate. These programs can also alert you when you start to get close to your limit.
Sometimes a spreadsheet may be overkill. Especially if your finances are pretty simple. In this case a simple list may be all you need. Just write down the important information. For example, if most of your stuff is set, but you want to control your eating out budget then just write down when you eat out and how much you spent. This will help you keep track so that you can see how much you’re spending.
Budgeting is one of the most powerful ways to improve your finances. But you don’t have to use the standard budget spreadsheet. There are a lot of different ways to budget. This is just a quick list of three ways people I know budget. There are countless other ways to do it. Let us know if the comments how you budget. Do you have a special way that helps you keep track?