When it comes to budgeting and managing money I sucked at it for a long, long time. (and still sometimes do) Eventually I wised up to the fact that credit cards were NOT free money, and that I was an actual grownup and had to learn what words like amortization, APR, and equity actually meant. Sigh.
The good news? While most people think budgeting is a four letter word, it turns out personal finance doesn’t have to be boring. You just have to know how FUN it can be to have money.
5 Steps to Making Budgeting Fun (no, really)
Setting up a budget can be mind-numbing, especially if you aren’t a fan of math, but knowing where your money is going is the key to being able to make your dreams happen. Not all at once of course, unless your Trump-rich, but you can make anything happen with a little patience, and some attention.
1. Set it to forget it-well mostly.
Budgeting seems scary, but all you really need to know is how much comes in, and what main categories of spending you do. No need to drill down into every bill. You can use categories like house (rent or mortgage, insurance, improvements, etc.), food & household (grocery, eating out, cleaning products, etc.), etc.
To make it even simpler you can budget using percentages. It may take you a few hours the first time, which I know doesn’t seem very ‘simple’ but once you’re through the process it becomes easier. When your budget is set up all it will take is a quick glance at your accounts about once a month, and some slight tweaks are all that’s necessary to stay on track.
That wasn’t that hard was it? Now you can reward yourself with a glass of wine (or whatever floats for boat)-just remember not to drink and budget.
Tip: You can totally cheat by entering your account into online money management software like Mint or Adaptu. After you enter your info the software does all the work while you do something useful like watch True Blood. Sometimes it takes a little tweaking, but it can be a great way to get your budget on in the span of a hourlong vampire drama.
2. Cut it out!
No that’s not the sounds of siblings bickering (though it could be–trust me). It’s the sound of you taking back your money from places you don’t value. Set aside 20-30 minutes a week to go through your expenses one at a time. Use that time to cancel subscriptions, find places to cut back on spending (like your cell or cable bill), and make annoying phone calls to your credit card company asking them to lower your rate.
I keep a checklist handy of bills and phone numbers and go through this process every few months. Just remember to have you ‘nice’ voice on when you call, and don’t be afraid to tell a company you’re ready to take your business elsewhere if they can’t do better on your bill.
3. Make a list, check it twice.
We all have financial to dos that we ignore. Whether it’s setting up a Roth IRA, increasing life insurance, or switching banks it can feel like a dunking task. Anytime you have a financial to do pop into your head-add it to your list. You can spend a few minutes every day knocking out your tasks or pick a day and deal with them all. Personally I keep I running list since something always needs tending to it seems.
4. Set up calendar reminders.
If you’re as smartphone obsessed as I am it’s easy to set up a recurring money calendar with alarms for important bills to pay (hello, estimated taxes) and your financial to-dos. I use green for money, and set it up once and now it my phone beeps at me whenever a bill needs to be paid.
5. Make it automatic.
While we can’t live on autopilot all the time setting up automatic deposits to savings and investments, auto payments for recurring monthly bills, and even automatically paying your credit card bill can all make managing money easier. Just make sure to keep a master list of what is paid and what the due dates are in case a card expires, or you know the internet explodes. What? It could happen-probably because we’re all watching this video too many times.
Did I manage to convince you budgeting doesn’t have to be a four letter word? I hope it’ll help you take some steps to your finances on track and give you more time to focus on what really matters whether it’s the Beek (James VanDer, that is) or the latest parody of ‘Call Me Maybe’.
Check out the following posts for more info on budgeting: