How I Budget

It seems like the idea of budgeting is very trendy these days among Millennials. In the planner community, there are shops who make sticker kits to help people do a monthly budget in something like an Erin Condren Deluxe Monthly Planner. Then there is the other segment who purely use Excel (I am in that group). Today, I thought I would go ahead and share how I budget and a couple tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

Create a reusable template that you can use each month

Since Excel is a digital method of budgeting, save yourself time each month creating a template that you can reuse. Then, when you have a new month, it’s a simple copy and paste. For me, this is my spending log (which is a must-have). I have the same template where I have the date of the expense, the place, the amount, the spending category, and any motes associated with the purchase.

Tracking month-to-month on one sheet

This is my preferred way of budgeting just so I can see a birds-eye view of how much I’m spending and how it’s changing each month so I see what categories I’m spending more or less in. I start out by having my projected income at the time, then move into my recurring, fixed expenses, then moving into food, then discretionary spending. Each of these areas have micro-categories to help me break down my expenses even further.

Expected v. actual

I have one column for what I expect to make/spend in a month for each category and what I actually spend. The expected number serves as my budget, whereas my actual is what the damage is at the end of the day. At the end of the month, I will tally everything up from my spending log and indicated in red or green if I was below/at budget or over. Then I use this to create my expected numbers for the next month.

Set aside a day each week to update

I’ve gotten into the habit of spending time one day per week (for me it’s Wednesday when I work from home) to update my budget. This includes going through my transactions on both my debit card and credit card and updating my spending log. This also gives me a glimpse into any charges I may need to call and dispute. Maybe you don’t check your accounts everyday, but at least do it once a week to see if everything seems to be in order. I wait to update everything at the end of the month because otherwise it’s just too much to keep up with and remember where I left off.

Now, I’m not a “hard core” budgeter, meaning I don’t really track things like sinking funds. I give myself a number for each category, whether it’s household, hobbies, clothing, etc. and try to stick to it throughout the month. This is the easiest way for me to maintain a budget and get control over my finances.

That said, there are a number of benefits to budgeting. For me, the most beneficial is seeing what categories I’m spending the most money on and where that money is going. It gives me a sense of how much I make versus how much I spend, and gives me a reason to keep an eye on my accounts. I’ve noticed that I’ve been a lot more diligent on calling for any suspicious charges and getting them resolved since doing this.

If you haven’t already, set up a budget for yourself so you can have more control over your money.

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