“Help me with money!” – Ask and you shall receive:
There are two types of people in the world when it comes to budgeting: the ones who are good on it, and the ones who are very bad at it. In actuality, a scientific study from Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business that only 25% of people are born with good money management skills. There’s a higher chance that you’re in the “bad” side when you’re reading this post. But don’t worry, when it comes to budgeting, nurture beats nature. There are ways to make budgeting easier and less frustrating.
Read the previous posts in our Money Odessey:
21 Frugal Pantry Staples List on a Limited Budget
Practical Budgets For People Bad With Money
How To Effectively Overcome Credit Card Addiction
3 Signs When Frugality Isn’t Worth It & What To Do
How Soapy is Geoarbitraging in China
The Right Budgeting Mindset
Budgeting is perceived differently depending on the person. For those who are financially savvy, they see it as a tool to reach a certain financial goal in long-term or short-term. However, for those who are financially undisciplined or inexperienced, budgeting is only a tool to constrict yourself.
Believe it or not, everyone needs to do budgeting. According to Wharton High School, people should know how to budget in as early as their high school days. You wouldn’t know if you will have enough money to survive in the future. Financial security is what budget offers, and it helps in ensuring that you’re financially secure in the present (expenses) and in the future (savings) while being able to partake in leisure activities (wants). It is also worthy to note that there are unexpected events that can take a toll on your finances.
Following a budget is harder than making it. In fact, you can make a budget in less than ten minutes depending on your needs and what you currently earn. The hardest part is ensuring that you follow your plan and seeing it through the end. For people who have a hard time managing money, an easy and non-restricting budget is your best choice.
This is where the personal financial nerd comes out…
- How cool is it that we can paint all the colors of the wind in budgets?
- How cool is every financial milestone and progress we make? To give ourselves that amazing pat on the back knowing we made ourselves a little better?
- How cool is it we get to get creative, self-explore and create a blank financial canvas designed for our priorities and needs?
⭐ Related Reads:
- 9 Money Mistakes To Avoid For Debt-Free Living
- Don’t (Nicolas) Cage Yourself In Financially
- 4 Practical Budgets For People Bad With Money
7 Budget Styles For People Bad With Money
Most people take their voyager into budgeting starting off with a free traditional spreadsheet like this one. The basic budget works for most people because it is simply a summary of what numbers you have coming in vs going out.
But there are lots of different budget systems out there and they work differently for different people.
You get to draw out a budget that is tailored to you by being creative and making it yours.
Managing personal finances is one of the most important life skills a person can learn. Budgeting is right up there with walking, bladder control, and reading.
This is a rundown of 7 different budgets geared towards general overspenders.
1. The Envelope Method
The envelope system is an all-cash method where you divide up money based on budgeted categories and put that money into different envelopes. This all-cash method prevents overspending and is very tangible for overspenders.
This is also known as the clip method because envelopes tend to get messy when you can simply have a binder clip in place of envelopes. Or use an accordion folder or multi-flapped wallet instead of envelopes.
Three Easy Steps
1. Determine how much you have from paying the bills to saving for retirement. Once you know how much money is left from those obligatory expenses, divide it up into living expenses such as rent, transportation, groceries etc. Label envelopes with different categories that apply to expenses.
2. Divide and stuff the envelopes with money. Only spend money out of the envelopes for its corresponding category. If you are going to for gas, bring the transportation cash envelope with you.
3. Do not borrow money from other envelopes. Once the envelope is empty then it is game over until next time.
Easy to understand and easy to do with menial effort. There is no such thing as “overspending” for extras with the all-cash envelope method.
The biggest disadvantage is carrying bulks of cash around. It is less secure compared to swiping with a credit card. Another disadvantage is you cannot track your itemized expenditures compare to traditional spreadsheets or leave paper trails like credit cards. The last drawback is possibly missing out on credit card purchase protections and reward points but those are a very small price to pay for being able to avoid credit card debt in totality.
2. The Zero-Based Method
Initially, I was perplexed by the popularity of this method but research has shown this budgeting method as effective for habitual overspenders. Zero-Based methods in personal finance budgeting has just one must-follow rule which is the monthly total needs to equal to zero. That simply means your income minus all your expenses need to equal zero.
Three Easy Steps
1. List out all bills and expenses for the month. Make it detailed and honest.
2. Mark every expense incoming in the beginning of every month and include special expenses such as birthday gift or insurance renewal.
3. Subtract incoming monthly income from expenses including all debts. Done correctly, the remaining amount should be close to a zero. This take practice but it offers less rigidity compared to the envelope method.
Zero-based budgeting teaches you to not overspend past earnings. The zero-based method is a great pairing with having an emergency fund. Using these two as combos make it a great tool for overspenders.
Our utility bill is charged in bulk once every two months instead of monthly and the figures vary rather largely between summer and winter months. The zero-based budget does not address for unforeseen circumstances in any particular month beyond the scope of income coming in vs expenses going out.
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- How Much Money Does Our Frugality Save? (Spoiler: $56,000+/Year)
- Eat Ugly, Save Money? Imperfect Produce Review (+ FREE COUPON)
- Everything ‘Married…With Children’ Did That Kept Them Poor
3. The Goal Digger
This particular one is my favorite budgeting methods. I named it after a popular hashtag on Instagram that made me giggle. The Goal Digger is effective for the starlets like me with big dreams in mind. This budget treats you to the occasional nice things in life after successfully staying within your budgeted appropriations.
Three Easy Steps
1. Limit just one goal and focus in on it. This goal is the basis of your psychological foothold on corrective spending. It must be influencing and doable (nothing too mighty).
2. If you have debt, work on focusing expenses on that goal in order to prioritize saving. This includes making sacrifices, not living in or spending in the now like a toddler, over a craving.
3. Open up a separate account and set aside the amount saved for that specific goal in mind until it is reached.
A single goal provides intrinsic (inner) value and extrinsic (external) rewards which is powerful against a habitual overspender. It teaches the value of patience which is one of the main pillars of personal finance and wealth accumulation.
Do not use this budget if you have large debts. If the budgeter has debt, it is harder to use this method because the debt itself might be too sizable to be effective long-term. For overspenders who are reckless with high-interest debts, it shouldn’t warrant a “reward.” The debt must come first. However, for people without much debt, this is my favorite method of budgeting.
4. The Percentages Method
The percentage method is under the same concept as the 80/20 method or the 50/30/20 method. It is simply a wider range breakdown of a budgeted category for the most important expenses for people who want to skip detailed itemized plans. Percentages are generally up to the budgeter. The 80/20 method is simply 20% going to saving and 80% going to everything else under the money sun from debt to rent to shoes. The 50/30/20 method goes to necessities such as shelter, food, electricity. The 30% goes to items labeled as wants such as ice cream or jewelry and 20% goes into paying back debt.
|Category||Percent of Overall Spending|
|Housing (mortgage/rent, Real estate taxes)||24%|
|Utilities (water, power, garbage collection,||8%|
|Donations/Gifts to Charity||4%|
|Savings and Insurance||9%|
|Entertainment and Recreation||5%|
|Transportation (car payments, gas, service)||14%|
Three Easy Steps
1. Calculate each expense in relation to income in percentages. For example, if rent is $1,000 a month and net income is $4,000 a month then the housing category would be set to 25% of overall spending out of 100%.
2. Trim overall spending percentages down and priorptize catgeories such as personal debts first after saving for an emergency fund.
3. Make sure the spending percentages are accurately reflected and the total equals to no more than 100% of your net income.
Percentage methods are best suited for those who hate to itemize and have a hard time tracking detailed numerical figures.
Generally, the weakness of percentages is the lack of disciplinary categorizations such as what divides the needs vs wants for overspenders. Percentages of spending also vary wildly depending on location. Soapy lives in an HCOL city in Canada which means her housing expense ratio would be a lot higher than someone from Tennessee. The percentage rules tend to be more relaxed in terms of debt payoff and saving as well. The 50/30/20 rule with 20% going into debt is not enough. The 80/20 rule with 20% going into savings is the bare minimum a person should be saving.
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- Why ‘The Millionaire Next Door’ is a Myth to Most Millennials
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5. Reverse Budgeting
Unlike other traditional budgeting styles, this one focuses on savings and not in other budgeting categories. Instead of “saving what’s left after expenses”, people will “spend what’s left after saving and spending for necessities”. Why is it easier than its counterpart but is not being restrictive? This is because you “pay for yourself” and helps you remove bad habits. After you reach your saving goal for the month, and after paying for your necessities, you can spend what’s left with your money in whatever way you want.
You focus on saving and not on spending. Because of this, you’ll be able to cut your expenses and save at the same time.
Depending on the income, this might affect your necessary spendings. You might have to adjust your transportation and food expenses.
6. The 50/30/20 Budget
The 50/30/20 Formula is one of the most popular budgeting styles, and for a good reason. The concept is very easy to follow, yet very realistic. It is outlined by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren and can fit in different lifestyles. Basically, you set 50% of your pay to necessities (fixed expenses like food, housing, and utilities). 30% of your money will go to your wants and the remaining 20% will go to your savings. It is also recommended to keep fixed expenses to 35% so the remaining 15% can be used for other expenses.
You don’t have to make an exhaustive list of items. This is good if you don’t want to adhere in a fixed rule every month.
When a category overlaps with other categories (e.g. more expenses than expected), you will have to decide if you will either use funds from other categories or you’ll need to supplement it with another income source.
7. Zero-Based Budget
Basically, this budget style forces you to start on a clean slate each month or each budget cycle. This means that your only goal is to make income minus the rest to equal zero. When you opt for this style, you will have to make sure that all your dollar was spent, but not by overspending. For example, if you have $200 left after your expenses, you must put it either on your savings, investments, emergency fund or paying for your debt. This method is great for people who wants to make a hands-on approach to their budgets.
It shows the areas where someone usually overspends and can help in curbing unnecessary expenses.
This is not for people who don’t like creating a list every month. The 50/30/20 method would be a better choice. It is also not good for expenses that usually change in the amount.
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5 Free Budget Tools For Easy Money Management
A lot of people use different apps to help them make a budget and track their expenses. Using a free app can help in making your finances easier. Here is the list of three free apps or ways to manage your finances. Want to master your finances effortlessly?
Sign up here with your email to download our free Google Sheet budget template.
The good old spreadsheet for word processing software is a good start in making a budget. It is customizable and makes computations easier. However, this takes on a lot of manual approaches and might not be ideal for busy people. Free suites are always available online.
2. Personal Capital
Sign up with Personal Capital and use their automatic Net Worth Tracker for free. PC is a free financial service platform that helps you analyze your financial health all on one simple & secure account. This was a huge step up from the tedious dance we did before where we had to manually log in to our financial accounts (all 19 of them) individually.
3. Quicken / Mint
Quicken and Mint are owned by Intuit. Quicken lets you handle all your finances (spendings, investments, bills, etc), as well as trace your spendings via downloading your transactions from your financial institutions. Mint does this all too, the only difference is that Mint is an online service.
YNAP or You Need a Budget is an app available for Windows, Mac, IOS, and Android. The app makes excellent reports and is easy to use. It also encourages the user to live in its last month’s income.
⭐ Recommended Reads:
- Top 14 Reasons Why Some People Don’t Save Money
- 13 Sensible Defining Characteristics Of Upper Middle Class People
You can mix and match budgeting methods and principles. There are also great supplements to budgeting like using the Zero Day Challenge (my review of ZDC) in correspondence to any of the budgeting methods mentioned above.
It is important to tailor your finance in a personal way and experiment with what clicks. The overreaching important aspect of keeping a budget is to keep it consistent.
A lot of financial circumstances stand different so take the above 7 budget types as a guideline to start and then make it yours based on your needs and desires.
Remember, a budget is not a shackle but a better way of organizing priorities.
These are great, Lily. And I have used three of the four! Well, that’s not true. I’ve used four of four, but I really didn’t like the envelope method so I abandoned that in favor of zero-based budgeting when we first started our budgeting journey. 🙂
Currently, I’m trying out a Goal Digger experiment–keeping our food spending down (a relative “down” compared to you fantastic frugal food spenders). It’s really helpful to have one spending goal in mind. It’ll be interesting to hear if you can convert your friend Soapy. Sounds like you might need to help her tackle her addiction before she can master the budget.
Haha love it Laurie! I pick the goal digger before all else too.
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
Nice analysis! I think that any of these methods would work great for anyone who is trying to budget.
Truth be told. Mr. FAF and I don’t use any of the tools a I’ve. We have never had any itemized or written down budget. We just try to spend as little as we can and not buy things we don’t really need. It’s been working out great for us so far! 😀
I didn’t know that! Not even a spreadsheet?! That’s naturally frugal to da extreme!
Chris @ Duke of Dollars says
Great stuff Lily!
It is the little steps that get you started, once I started budgeting it became such a fundamental part of spending that it helped me think about the future even more than I did!
Great point Chris!
QMB @ The Land of Milk and Money says
Haha love the “Goal Digger” name, not to mention the idea! I think I’ll gently forward this article to the Soapy in my life – an amazing friend with whom I have so much in common, but dear lord do we manage money differently…!
Ahh, I hope your Soapy finds it helpful!
Budget On a Stick says
We did the envelope system when we were getting out of debt. After becoming consumer debt free we are somewhere between the envelope and zero system.
I like to track our percentages but there is almost no way to bring them into alignment and some of our line items like to change to the point that it won’t make sense.
What do you use now? Spreadsheet?
Budget On a Stick says
I track non-savings expenses (ie not roth or 529 contributions) through Mint but have the full budget mapped out in a spreadsheet.
We have every dollar mapped but have an overflow point that goes into savings to sit for things like (house projects or trips or etc).
Kayla Sloan says
This is a great article. I’m sure not everyone knows there is more than one way to budget. I also love the quote about a budget being a reminder of what is important. It helps put budgeting into a positive light instead of thinking about it so negatively. Nicely done!
Aww thank you Kayla! ❤
Mrs. Picky Pincher says
I used to live and die by the envelope method. It’s awesome if you’re just starting out and need to be strict with your money. Not sure if I would implement it long-term since that strictness can lead to feelings of resentment, but it got my head in order for the year I used it.
My father in law still uses envelopes/all cash and he’s almost 70! It works! 🙂
Mrs. Groovy says
My mom lived by the envelope method (hidden between pots and pans in our cabinets) long before Dave Ramsey made it fashionable.
If I were going to budget I’d do zero-based. We never actually budgeted because we a) got on the pay yourself first schedule by automating investments and b) paid all essential bills automatically from checking. Then we just spent what we had left over.
We still track every penny, though.
Some people (the Groovies) are just naturals 🙂
Dave @ Married with Money says
I like all of them for different reasons. 🙂 I’m a big fan of 50/30/20 if you must budget, but normally flip the 30/20 so that 30% is savings and 20% is spending on wants.
The one thing I don’t like about it is that it’s not obvious that those are maximums for spending, and minimum for saving. Saying you SHOULD spend 50% of your income on Needs doesn’t really make sense if you can make it work with only spending 45% or 25%, you know? Gotta have that nuance in there, or you can convince yourself anything is a ‘need’ just to fill up that bucket.
Ohh, that’s super true Dave! I think everyone should save a minimum of 30% too (if I could dicate the world).
Abigail @ipickuppennies says
Wow, I’m boring. I just do a “$X for this category, $Y for this one, etc.” and then put the rest in savings. The numbers are based on what we generally spend (we have a lump sum for general spending each week), what we need to save for yearly stuff like car insurance (or quarterly stuff like taxes), what can afford to put into various goals (vacation, eventual car down payment, etc.) and then, as already stated, the rest gets thrown into savings.
Lol that’s not boring!! We do just about that Abigail! Taxes are very annoying to approximate.
Once bills and savings are taken care of (automated for most of it), the rest is mine to spend. That’s my budget:) I use multiple accounts to take care of that (like the envelope method but on line and with less categories I guess )
Lol what do you do with your excess money Caroline?
Tonya@Budget and the Beach says
I just went back to re-read your cast of characters and loved how you put that together. Budgets are so tricky in that many people either feel they are too restrictive, or they make up something like “oh my budget is in my head.” Uh, no it’s not. 🙂 Unless maybe you are a math prodigy. I use a simple spreadsheet. I tried to get more complicated with YNAB but I just couldn’t figure it out or stick to it. Budgets remind me of diet types. If you ask, “what is the best diet?” The answer is, “the one that works for you.”
Ha! Thats perfect Tonya, I absolutely agree. Spreadsheets works for us just fine too, everyone needs some sort of budget/organization is how I feel.
The Luxe Strategist says
I guess I’m a combo of #2 and #3. Basically, I’ve figured how much I want to save first, then go backwards from there. But I also am not a natural spender, so I don’t really have issues going over budget. Instead of being tied to a budget, I’m just super picky about what I buy and think about it like, “Is this thing worth my money?” Most of the time, it’s no.
That’s such a good way to think about spending. I didn’t realize that principle until I was 20? I use to go into a Claire’s at the mall and buy junk for $1 or $5 because it was cheap. And yes they’re cheap junk too!
When I was in debt paying back my student loans, I would use the percentage method and it helped out a lot. I was able to figure out if I needed to cut back on going out to eat or on my groceries in order to pay the monthly amount I wanted for my loans.
Nowadays we don’t really have a budget since our expenses are low and we barely need to make any changes on our spendings.
Nice! Percentages are stress free compare to traditional nickel and dime budgeting.