I'm not a budgeter. I'm not able to sit down and draft a detailed budget. I use a spending plan instead, which is a sort of road map to the where I want to go, but which does not contained detailed directions.
I recognize that budgets are valuable tools for many people, though. Dayana Yochim at The Motley Fool has some tips about budgeting for lazy people. She says that the secret to setting up a budget you'll actually follow is to make it easy. Your goal is to spend less than you earn. To do that, “take every shortcut possible”.
- Track your spending. This is the first step to every successful budget. Take a snapshot of what you're spending. Yochim recommends using your credit and debit card statements for an easy, unbiased look into your habits. If you're obsessive like me, you can track every penny you spend as you spend it.
- Plan your spending. Next, Yochim says, “Make a list of what you need to buy or do over the next three to six months.” Be as detailed as you can, but don't sweat it if you don't know exact numbers.
- Convert the numbers to monthly totals. Take your list from the previous step and divide by however many months you planned out. The resulting numbers are your monthly budget for each item in the list. If you think you'll spend $300 on Christmas gifts during the next six months, for example, then you'll budget $50 a month for this expense.
- Set up a savings plan. To help yourself meet your budget, Yochim recommends one of my favorite money hacks: set up a separate savings account specifically to save for your goals. (I use targeted accounts.) Because Yochim is creating a “lazy” budget, she suggests setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account.
- Stop overspending. A budget only works as well as the person following it. If you find yourself spending more than you've planned, consider using the envelope budget system to limit yourself.
Yochim's ideas aren't revolutionary, but her article describes an excellent way to create a quick and dirty budget. And she's right: the more you can automate it, the smoother it will run. Quite often, the weak link in the budgeting chain is you.
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.