Trying to do a better job of budgeting for and keeping track of expenses? You aren’t alone! Basic checking accounts don’t usually offer a whole lot in terms of budgeting tools - so every time you got paid, you had to figure out how much to set aside for bills and anything you routinely spend money on.
We felt like there had to be a way to make managing your finances feel less… labor-intensive. (Who has time for all that?) That’s why we created Simple Expenses, to make it easy to save for (and actually stick to) a budget.
We make it easy to track your progress in saving up for current and upcoming bills, so you’ll always know if you’re on track. If you ever get off track, you can transfer money over to get back on track with the tap of a finger. Here’s how to set up Simple Expenses to make managing your finances easy (and dare we say - fun?).
PS - Since many bills are paid on a monthly basis, we’ll use a monthly schedule throughout this post - but you can set up Expenses on whatever schedule works best for you.
First: Analyze your spending habits.
The first step to keeping track of your expenses, is to figure out what they are. Jot down a list of all the items in your personal budget, which might include:
- Mortgage or rent
- Car payments
- Phone bill
- Cable/streaming services
- Student loan payments
- Credit card payments
Be sure to think beyond these typical spending categories to include any other frequent or recurring expenses, like:
- Gym memberships
- Prescription costs
- Costs of pet ownership (food, toys, treats, daycare, medicine, vet appointments, etc.)
- Dining out
- Subscription services
- Household supplies
- Car repairs and maintenance
- Car, home, or renter’s insurance
- Donations to your favorite nonprofit
Decide on a budget for each Expense.
Look through your recent bank account, and credit and debit card activity to see if you have other spending categories you’d like to track. Then, go through each category and add up the transactions from each month. (This will help you figure out how much to set aside for that Expense.)
It might be helpful to look at transactions from a few months to see what your average cost is - especially for categories that can really vary by month, like groceries or heating bills.
Set up your Expenses.
Setting up Expenses in Simple for each of your spending categories is super easy. Just navigate to Expenses on your phone or desktop, and tell us a little more about your Expense - like how much you’ll need, and when you’ll need it by. Once your Expense is set up, we’ll make it happen! (Learn more about creating Expenses here.)
Fund your Expenses.
You’ll be prompted to set up a Funding Schedule during your Expense setup. If you get paid on a regular schedule (once or twice a month), you can align your Funding Schedule with your payday(s) so that your Expenses are automatically funded as soon as you’re paid.
If you’d prefer to move money into an Expense on your own schedule, no big deal. (This is common among people who don’t get paid on a regular schedule - like if you freelance and get paychecks randomly throughout the month.) Just follow the steps above for adding a Funding Schedule, and select “No automatic funding”. Then use the “Transfer” button whenever you want to stash money in that Expense.
Spend from your Expenses.
Now that your Expenses are set up and funded, you’re ready to start using them!
You’ll notice that for every Expense there are two “buckets” of funds - a “Ready” bucket, and a “Coming Up” bucket. This way, you can have funds “Ready” for your next upcoming payment, while also tucking funds away for the next payment that’s “Coming Up”.
If you have money left over in your “Ready” bucket after a set due date has passed, those funds stay in your Expense for the next payment. One main difference between the two buckets is that the “Coming up” bucket is reserved and can’t be spent from, but funds can be transferred in and out.
If you have push notifications enabled for your Simple mobile app, whenever you make a purchase with your Simple debit card, we’ll let you know.
If you’ve set up your Money Out categories, you’ll see that many of your purchases will automatically be spent from the correct Expense.
In some cases, you might need to manually assign a category to a purchase, either because it didn’t automatically spend from your Expense, or because it didn’t spend from the Expense you wanted it to (like if you buy some dog food from a grocery store and want it to come out of your Dog Expense, not your Grocery Expense).
You can manually spend from an Expense by tapping on a transaction in your Activity, selecting “Spending from”, and choosing the Expense that should be tied to that transaction.
Stay on track.
With separate buckets for “Ready” and “Coming Up”, keeping track of your Expenses is easy. If an Expense doesn’t have the full amount saved, and you don’t have another transfer scheduled into the Expense before it’s due, you’ll see that the Expense is “Off Track”. If an Expense is “Off Track” you can manually transfer money into that Expense to ensure that you’ll have enough money by the time the Expense is due.
Review and adjust your Expenses.
At the end of the month, take a moment to review your Expenses. Make sure:
- There aren’t any inconsistencies in your recurring bills. If you expect to pay $100 for your phone bill, but get charged $152 one month - you can look into the bill to see what caused the increase.
- You are budgeting accurately. If you consistently have $250 left over in your Grocery Expense, you might decrease your grocery budget and put that money directly into your Emergency Fund instead.
- You are staying within your budget. If you ran out of funds in a particular category and had to transfer additional money in, take a look at the purchases in that category and see if you see any areas for improvement.
Decide what to do with leftovers.
Do you have some extra funds left in one or more of your Expenses? Yay! If you do, you have a few options:
- Apply them to the next month. Was your water bill lower than expected? Cool! Keep the extra funds in your Water Bill Expense in case you take a few extra-long showers next month.
- Use them to pay off debt. Do you have student loans, a car loan, or credit card debt? Use your extra funds to pay those debts off faster.
- Dump them into your Emergency Fund/Savings Goal. In Simple, Savings Goals balances earn a competitive interest rate - so if you’re working on building up your Emergency Fund or Savings, transfer your extra funds into the appropriate Goal and watch that money grow!
- Pay it forward. Use those extra funds to earn some good karma. Whether it’s $5 or $50, donating money to a cause you care about is always a good use of extra money!
Keeping Track of Expenses with Simple
We built Simple Expenses to help make keeping track of your Expenses easy. With the peace of mind of knowing that all your recurring and routine Expenses are covered, you can use that brain power towards more interesting things - like deciding where to take your next trip!
Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple nor our partner banks, The Bancorp Bank and BBVA Compass, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.