Last updated on September 10th, 2020
If you are just getting started and do not have a budget yet, be sure to check out our ultimate guide to start a budget.
Getting in the habit of checking in with your budget and your spending on a weekly, or even daily basis, is going to take some practice.
First, you need to decide whether you are going to use a spreadsheet, a budget tracking software, or both. I still use a spreadsheet to plan out my budget each month alongside my calendar, but once I have completed the planning process, I transfer the numbers to my preferred tracking software so that I can easily track and manage my spending and keep up to date on my budget.
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Using a Spreadsheet to Manage Your Budget
Choosing to use a spreadsheet to track and manage your budget allows you to keep everything corralled in one place and gives you complete customization control.
Here are some different items to consider tracking in different tabs:
- a basic template of expenses and income that can be pulled from in the future
- “extra” income each month from overtime and side gigs
- detailed budget for each month
- debt snowball
- Christmas expenses
- comparison of overall spending from year to year
- Net worth
If you are choosing to use a spreadsheet, hopefully you have already started a tab with your monthly income and expenses.
Next, create a tab at least for the next month (if not every month). Copy your expenses from the current month, and make sure there is a column for you to put in the monetary amount next to each expense.
Here are some different sections you could include in each monthly budget tab:
- income sources
- fixed expenses
- debt payments
- savings and investments
- discretionary expenses
At the end of each “section”, keepa running total and a grand total for all expenses at the end of the spreadsheet.
Finally, make sure you have another section that subtracts your expenses from your income so you know how your budget looks for the month.
Sound complicated? If so, I have a spreadsheet ready for you to use…
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Using a Budgeting Software to Manage Your Budget
If you decide to use a budgeting software, after you use your calendar to plan for the month and budget for the month down to zero, it is time to transfer your budget to your software.
There are a few options to choose from with pros and cons for each. If you are undecided you can read my review of the different options:
Review of Budgeting Softwares
There are many choices on the market for budgeting softwares. Some are free and some charge a fee. The best way to decide if you are going to use one is to check some out and see what you think. Keep in mind that for all of them you will need to provide your banking information in order to track your expenses.
Regardless of which software you choose, the first thing you will do is to connect your bank and other financial accounts to the software. You can add your bank accounts, investment accounts, loan accounts, your mortgage, cars, etc.
You will be able to see ALL of your finances at a glance!
Once you have linked all your accounts and created your profile, you can create a budget.
The categories and their expense amounts should roll over each month but once the next month starts you can go in and change anything that you need to.
If you do not have a certain expense one month then just change the amount to $0 instead of deleting the category altogether.
Once you create your expense categories and add the expense amounts for the current month, you can now start using the software to easily track your spending and manage your budget.
Why is software better than a spreadsheet?
Some people love their spreadsheets, but they can take a long time to set up to be perfect for your needs.
Spreadsheets are great for recording information or planning, but a software program that does automated tracking of expenses for you is a great tool to take advantage of.
Every couple of days, or once a week, make it a point to review transactions and label them with the correct expense category.
Make sure each and every expense gets a label that you have in your budget for that month – if you need to tweak your budget at any point in the month to add a new category or modify an expense amount (within reason) that is okay!
Once you have gone through your transactions, you can easily see how much you have spent for any given category and keep your budget in check.
Budgets take time.
It will take a few months to get used to budgeting and tracking everything and most likely there will be some missteps along the way, but don’t let that cause you to lose momentum.
Just like anything else in life, the more you practice and create a daily or weekly habit to manage your budget, the easier it will become.
Once you are comfortable with a system to track and manage your budget and spending, check out my next post that will help you automatically manage your money as soon as it hits your bank account.
Do you use a budgeting software? And if so, which one?
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