In a previous post I mentioned that I’m not one for budgeting.
I can’t stand writing out a budget. To me, it’s like counting calories. You get off to a good start and then you eat a cookie and the whole thing feels like it’s blown apart. I know it’s probably good to actually write down in a journal or keep a log on your computer of what you spend each month. For some, it probably helps to see it in black and white, but I’ve always felt that if your life is not lived saving money, just like if you don’t live a healthy lifestyle, all the “keeping track” doesn’t mean a thing.
To truly save your money, you have to live the lifestyle. If you honestly don’t live by knowing whether you really need to spend money on an item or not (a want or a need) and knowing basically what your monthly expenses are, your bank account is never going to add up. Some people may not agree with me and may not like what I’m saying, but you really do have to live a saving lifestyle, just like a healthy eating lifestyle. That means you really have to live by paring down or omitting spending on clothes, household items, coffees, hair salons, gym memberships, movie nights, or eating out in restaurants. Saving money has to be a real part of you!
Having said that, I thought maybe some people just need to “see” what monies they are expending to get a true picture of their spending, just like I need to use My Fitness Pal to keep track of my calorie intake! Kiplinger.com has a pretty good webpage that you can use to insert all of your usual expenses to add up what you have coming in and to show you what is going out. It seems to be pretty comprehensive, including things like car loans and student loans and insurance premiums – some of the things we forget to add to our monthly expenses. There is also a spot to add in emergency funds – remember, it’s important to “pay yourself first”. That emergency fund can add up over time.
I think the best thing to do though, if you are going to keep a budget, is write it down. Seeing it in black and white and the mere act of physically writing it on paper helps most people to really “see” their expenses. I think it’s also easier at the end of the day to take any receipts you have, sit at a table or sit on the couch, and use a journal to write your expenses down rather than getting on a computer and using a computer program to track your spending that you may become frustrated with.
If you do prefer a program on your computer, Excel has some budgeting templates that are free, and Mint.com has a free account you can sign up for to track your budget. There are so many apps and programs that can help you log all your budget needs.
So, if a budget does work for you, and helps you to see where your money is going, definitely use it. It will have to be something you use for a while though to give you a good idea of where your spending is happening and where you can change your spending.