The following is a guest post by Fanny Seto. She is the creator of Living Richly Budget Printables, a 20-page printable bundle and budgeting system that makes it 20-seconds easier to stick to a budget. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Living Richly on a Budget, a personal finance blog. I met Fanny when I was living in San Francisco and she’s a smart, smart woman. I realize that printable budgets aren’t for everyone, but if you are going to go that route, I’d recommend picking these up. They are gorgeous.
Many people start budgets but they don’t seem to stick with them. Why is that? Because they’re lazy?
I think it’s because they don’t have clearly defined goals. Are you trying to pay off debt, save up for a house, or build a college fund for the kids? What is the exact amount of your goal?
Once you set your goals, then make it easier to follow through with budgeting.
Have you heard of the 20-second rule? It’s a principle from on the book “The Happiness Advantage.”
The idea is in order to make it easier to form a new habit, you make it more convenient for yourself by placing the tools you need within reach. Make something 20 seconds faster to get to and you’re more likely to do it.
For example, to make tracking expenses easier, you use a worksheet that has budget categories and the date already filled out so that all you have to do is fill in a number. Then you place it on the wall next to your desk or wherever it’s convenient for you to fill it out.
Use the 20-second rule for managing money so that you’re more likely to do it. Some of these are obvious but they’re good reminders on how to make budgeting and saving automatic.
Once your systems are set up, you can be lazy and not feel guilty about it.
1. Set up autopay for recurring bills and debt payments.
This is a no brainer. If a utility or other business offers autopay, do it! Not only will you not have to think about paying those bills every month, but you also save on checks and postage.
2. Automate savings from your paycheck.
Set up savings to be automatically be deposited from your paycheck, before you spend it. Otherwise you’re likely to spend that amount on something else.
3. Use a budget with categories filled out for you.
I like low-tech when it comes to budgeting. I use Living Richly Budget Printables, a budgeting system that I created. to stay on budget. With a printable budget, I can post this on the wall or fridge to remind myself to stay on target.
Even though everything is online nowadays, I don’t always have time to turn on the computer with my toddler running around. Having a worksheet on my desk, makes it 20 seconds easier for me to fill out and keep up with.
4. Track expenses with pre-filled expenses and date.
I used to use Mint. However, I found that since it’s done for you, when I check my expenses, it’s a little too late. What’s spent is spent.
What I mean is that when I actively write down my expenses, I tend to spend less. Since I know I have to record my spending, I am more conscious about spending. It’s a guilt trip thing that works.
Again, I like to do this on a worksheet, the Daily Spending Log (part of Living Richly Budget Printables) since it’s easier to access without having to turn on a computer. And the categories correspond to my budget so after the month is done, it’s easy to transfer the numbers to the monthly budget.
5. Keep a list of monthly and non-monthly bills and when they’re due.
Ideally, most of your bills will be set up on autopay already. It’s also a good idea to have them listed on one sheet with the day of the month they’re due. This way you can be prepared for them and you won’t have to dig through a pile of bills to figure out the due date.
6. Store credit card and bank logins in one place.
Managing multiple credit cards and bank accounts can be overwhelming at times. Put all of your login info in a secure place so that when you need to pay bills or check balances, it’s 20 seconds easier to get to.
7. Use cash.
There are some things I use cash for to really adhere to a tight budget. Groceries and eating out and get out of hand. With cash, you’re limited to what you have. Once it’s spent, it’s spent.
Other things I will use a credit card to pay for like gas. This way more convenient especially if you have kids.