For many people, budgeting is associated with negative emotions — feelings of restriction, stress, and anxiety. But really, a budget is just a plan for your money. And a solid plan is a recipe for replacing negative emotions with positives: you feel more freedom, more security, and more in control of your life.
The key is to create a budgeting system that works for you — one that’s easy to stick to and motivates you to keep going without feeling overly restrictive. Here are 11 easy budgeting tips to help you get started.
1. Figure out your “why”
It’s a lot easier to stay on track with your budget when you have clear goals in mind. If your answer to “Why do I budget?” is simply, “Because I’m supposed to,” then you’re unlikely to stick to it in the long term.
Spend a few minutes reflecting on a deeper reason. Why are you budgeting? Is it to have more stability or freedom? Less stress? To move into your own place, launch your own business, or travel the world?
Figuring out your “why” will make it easier to make those small, in-the-moment money decisions. It will also help you create an easy budget to stick to, because it will align with what’s most important to you.
2. Set specific goals that get you excited
One of the reasons that budgeting can feel hard is because most people associate it with paying for things that aren’t necessarily fun to pay for: rent, utilities, car payments, etc.
If you can flip that on its head — and focus instead on how budgeting can help you achieve some exciting goals — it makes it easier to stick to your budget. This is where you put your “why” into more concrete terms. For example, if your budgeting “why” is to be able to travel more, you might set up Goals in your Simple Account for:
- TSA Pre-Check
- A new set of luggage
- A trip to one of your dream destinations
Selecting a few concrete Goals can motivate you to stick to your budget by giving you something positive to budget towards.
3. Create a debt payoff plan you can stick to
Carrying any amount of debt is stressful — especially if you know that for every month you don’t pay it off, you’re going to pay more in interest in the long term.
Spend some time figuring out a debt payoff plan that’s realistic for you. You’ll be surprised at how much peace you will feel just knowing that there’s an end in sight.
4. Focus on big moves first
When faced with a financial decision, some say, “I can’t spend any money — I’m on a budget.” But budgeting doesn’t always have to mean tightening the purse strings and counting every penny.
Finding ways to save money is great, but it can be emotionally draining when it becomes your sole focus. If you’re feeling too restricted in your financial life, try to identify the categories that take up most of your budget—like rent or mortgage payments, food, car payments, debt—and then try to find ways to save on those bigger bills.
Cutting the cost of your biggest expenses will have more impact on your budget than saving small amounts on many bills.
5. Find a budgeting tool you enjoy using
If your budgeting system involves a lot of math and complicated spreadsheets (and you’re not one of those people who’s into that sort of thing), then it probably feels hard — and decidedly un-fun.
But if you can find a budgeting tool you actually enjoy using, it can make budgeting easier, and maybe even enjoyable! That’s why we designed the Simple App to be intuitive and easy to use.
The Simple App has built in features to make your budget feel more personal. You can add photos to your Goals to keep you inspired, assign names to each of your Expenses and Goals, and add emojis to keep it fun and visual.
6. Create an emergency fund
Another way to keep budgeting from feeling overwhelming is to build in safeguards to protect your plans from going off the rails. An emergency fund is just that—money you set aside to cover those unexpected expenses.
An emergency fund can give you peace of mind and a sense of security, so you don’t have to scramble to come up with cash if you get a flat tire or your dog hurts their paw.
If you don’t have one already, take a few moments to create an emergency fund—and keep it separate from your other checking and savings. This is an easy budgeting tip that can make a huge difference in your financial health in the long term.
7. Be realistic with your budget categories
If you’re looking for how to create an easy budget, you’ve got to start with what you actually spend money on in real life. After all, sticking to a budget can be hard — sticking to a budget that isn’t realistic is nearly impossible. When setting up your budget, make sure you include all of your expense categories, so that your budget accurately reflects your financial life. It can be helpful to look at your past account activity to get a sense of which categories of spending you might be forgetting to include in your budget.
Easy budget tip: Remember to look at both fixed expenses and variable expenses!
8. Be realistic about your budget amounts
It’s also important to be realistic about how much to budget for each category. If you consistently spend around $100 per week for groceries, then don’t create a budget that only allows $50 — unless you have a specific ideal of how you’ll stick to that amount.
Set yourself up for success by budgeting a realistic amount of money based on your past spending. Then, work on finding ways to save! If you find that you are able to shop smarter at the grocery store, then you can reduce your food budget and apply those savings elsewhere!
9. Pay yourself first
There’s an old adage that can make a big difference in your money-management success: pay yourself first. Set aside a portion of every paycheck for long-term savings and squirrel away that money before you start to deduct your regular expenses. Then, set up your budget using the income you have leftover after you’ve already paid yourself.
You can do this in one of two ways: You can ask your employer to set up your direct deposit to send a portion of your income directly to savings before it even hits your checking account. Or, you can set this up yourself: in your Simple Account, you can set up a Funding Schedule to move a certain amount of every paycheck into one of your Goals or your Protected Goals Account.
10. Plan ahead for big purchases
The key to success with most anything is preparation — anticipating what’s ahead so it doesn’t come as a surprise. In addition to those expenses you have every month, you likely have some predictable expenses that occur less frequently, like holiday shopping or summer camp for your kids.
Spend some time brainstorming what types of seasonal expenses you might have in your life so that you can start saving up for them over time. This budget tip will help you feel more prepared for what’s ahead, so that you don’t get derailed by things that you could have anticipated.
11. Budget to treat yourself
You might not expect to find “treat yourself” on a list of easy budgeting tips, but here it is! Life is short. Budgeting can be tough. Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to treat yourself, like when you’ve achieved a goal, had a hard day, or just need a pick-me-up. Instead of trying to deny yourself this comfort, budget for it! If you don’t plan for some fun stuff, you’ll eventually indulge in something — because you’re human, after all! — and then your plans will go awry.
Treating yourself doesn’t have to mean spending big money. Maybe it’s a bottle of nail polish, a fancy coffee, or a bottle of wine. Carve out a little room in your budget to treat yourself from time to time, so that you can stay motivated to stick to your plan in the long run.
Don’t stop now!
We hope that these budgeting tips have helped make budgeting feel a little easier. If you’re ready to turn these good money vibes into some nitty-gritty planning, check out this blog post all about more specific budgeting strategies!
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