So, you want to start using a budget and keeping track of your finances so you can make progress toward your goals, but you don’t know where to start and you don’t really feel like doing something super complicated or time-consuming.
And the idea of having 10,304 envelopes stuffed with cash and putting groceries back because you can’t buy it with the money leftover in the envelope you brought is overwhelming, to say the least. But you know if you start using your credit card or debit card you’re just going to spend a buttload of money and not pay attention to the amounts until you go broke.
There is an alternative! Here’s my lazy guide to budgeting and accounting. 🙂 I actually only spend maybe 10 minutes a month on my accounting / budgeting now that I have the system set up to do everything automatically.
The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Budgeting and Accounting
First, you’ll need some accounting software. I would recommend either Mint or Wave. I used to use Wave because it was mixed with my business expenses, but now I use Mint for personal finance because it’s consumer-friendly and actually lets you set up budgets based on different categories.
So, sign up for the software of your choice.
Next, decide what your budget actually is.
Write down what you KNOW certain expenses are going to be, such as your monthly rent. If you have a regular income, great, or if you’re self-employed then either use an average or use a lower number than normal just to account for bad months.
So you have your monthly income. Then you have your monthly expenses.
Here are some categories you might have for expenses:
– Hobbies / business
If you have no idea how much money you should budget for a certain category, look back at your credit or debit card or receipts to see how much you spent last month.
Next, set up your accounting / budgeting software to be linked up to your bank account and Paypal if applicable. This sounds kind of sketchy, but these two companies are legit. You can find detailed instructions on their websites.
Basically, you want to make it so any time you spend money, it will automatically be inputted into your accounting software. I can almost guarantee that if you have to do every expense manually, you’re not going to want to do it.
I use my debit card for almost everything (I don’t have a credit card and don’t really want one at this point in my life) so I am limited to only the money I have in my checking account, will never accrue debt, and every purchased is automatically added to my accounting without me doing anything.
I also have my Paypal account linked to the software so when I get paid by a client or spend money on there, it will also be accounted for.
If you pay for something with cash, just add it manually based on the amount on your receipt. Maybe do it once a week all at once.
With Mint, you can also create budgets with a certain amount for each category, and they’ll let you know when you’re over budget for the month. Pretty cool!
That’s it! So to sum up…
1. Create a budget based on your past spending history and averages.
2. Sign up for accounting software and link up your bank and Paypal accounts.
3. Pay for things with a credit or debit card, and they will be inputted for you and you don’t have to lift a finger!
4. If you pay in cash, add it manually yourself.
5. Stick to your budgets! Even if you don’t, at least you know exactly how much you’re spending and earning every month. That’s a good start.
Want more? Here are my favorite books on budgeting and saving money:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting
- 31 Days to Radically Reduce Your Expenses
- The Total Money Makeover
- The Money Saving Mom’s Budget
If you’d like more tips on budgeting and saving money, check out our ebook Budget Transformation.