Dump Your Budget And Turn to a Better Money Management System
Does thinking about your budget make you groan?
Are you so frustrated that you want to give up?
You might think you’re just terrible with money or that you’ll never get the hang of how to manage your finances, but the real problem might actually be with your budget itself.
Here are three situations where it may be best to ditch your budget — your current one, that is — and come up with something that works better for you.
3 Reasons You Should Say Goodbye to Your Budget
Yes, we’re giving you permission to toss out your budget — but that doesn’t mean turning your back on budgeting completely. If what you’ve been doing isn’t working, there’s a better way to master your money.
1. If Your Budget Is Too Restrictive
While a bare-bones budget that only accounts for essential spending can be necessary to get through lean times, a budget that is super restrictive is not sustainable long term.
Rather than forcing yourself to conform to tight spending limits, forget about your current budget and give yourself a month to simply track your spending. This will give you a more realistic idea of how much you naturally spend.
For example, if you budget $300 for groceries each month when you actually spend closer to $400, your budget will always feel too tight. Once you get a more accurate picture of your spending, you can create a budget that you can realistically stick to.
Another way to get your budget to feel less restrictive is to intentionally leave room for fun money. By dedicating some spending specifically to things that brings you joy, your budget will be easier to follow.
2. If Your Expenses Fluctuate
Budgets are not supposed to be static. This is especially true if you have expenses that go up and down from month to month or from season to season.
At the peak of summer and in the middle of winter, you can probably expect higher utility bills. Likewise, you tend to expect more spending during holiday seasons or months when there are several birthdays in your family.
If you’re trying to stick to one fixed budget all year, you’re going to struggle when your expenses fluctuate. Instead, embrace the reality that you’re going to need to come up with a new budget each month.
Schedule time at the end of each month to reflect on upcoming expenses in the month ahead. You may not be able to plan everything down to the last dollar, but think about the situations that may cause you to spend more or less.
A calendar budget is a great money management system because it prompts you to take note of any appointments, special occasions and upcoming events where you’ll be likely to spend money.
3. If You’re Not Motivated to Stick With Your Budget
If you have total disinterest in the budgeting system you’ve been attempting to use, it may be time to try something different. Luckily, there are several different budgeting methods to choose from.
Like we mentioned earlier, the calendar budget is great for staying on top of expenses that fluctuate from month to month. A zero-based budgeting method is suitable for type-A personalities who want to account for every dollar and cent.
The cash envelope method is perfect for someone who is always tempted to spend beyond what they budgeted. The 50/30/20 budgeting method is fitting for someone who wants to make sure they’re meeting their needs and taking care of financial goals while leaving room for discretionary spending.
A paycheck budget works for those who want to focus on how to use their next paycheck rather than plan for an entire month at once. People wishing their bills were more easily distributed throughout the month should try the half-payment method.
If you’re into the latest tech, try one of these top budgeting apps. If you prefer a pen-and-paper approach, you can use a budget binder, a bullet journal or the kakeibo method. Spreadsheet nerds should create an Excel budget or a Google Sheets budget.
You can also combine different aspects of budgeting methods to create your own custom budget style, like Kumiko Love did when she created the budget-by-paycheck method. You’ll be more motivated to stick with your budget when it’s something you created.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at Codetic.