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    8 Simple Budgeting Methods People Who Say They Hate Budgeting Probably Haven't Tried Yet

    Just add "budgeting pro" to your ever-growing list of skills.

    Raise your hand if you're kinda sick of being told to cReAtE a BuDgEt to get a handle on your finances.

    PopTV / Via giphy.com

    We know, we know. But this age-old advice isn't for nothing. When done thoughtfully, a budget can actually help you be more aware of where your money is going, so you can save and spend more on what you actually love. Now that all sounds good in theory, but the truth is there are sooo many different ways to budget, and many of them can easily feel confusing or time-consuming.

    That's why we rounded up some tried-and-true budgeting methods that you might want to try out if you don't have time for anything too wild or frilly.

    Important to note: if you find yourself spending too much money on stuff that you don't really need or even care about, then making a budget will definitely open up new ways to save more and manage your money more effectively. On the other hand, if you're stretched really thin just trying to cover basic bills, you might not find as much wiggle room, but it still can be worthwhile to take an honest look at your income and expenses. A budget might not solve all of your financial problems, but even small positive changes, like saving $5 a week, can add up over time.

    1. The envelope system might come in handy if you prefer to do things the old-school way and divvy up good, 'ol cash.

    Person holding envelope with cash
    Peshkova / Getty Images/iStockphoto

    The envelope method is a tried-and-true cash budgeting system. It might not work as well for you if you prefer making all your transactions digitally, but one perk of using cash is it gives you a more concrete idea of how much money you really have on hand.

    So here's how you can get started: Take a handful of envelopes and label each one with a spending category — these categories can range from basic essentials (like rent and food) to fun money. You can get as specific or as general here as you'd like.

    Now, you'll have to figure out how much you want to spend on each category. To do this, you might consider how much you spend on rent and bills each month. Another good place to start is by looking at your bank statement to see how much money you spent last month and use that number as a jumping-off point. For instance, let's say last month you spent $300 on groceries, but you think you could spend a little less. You can decide to set aside $250 for groceries this month.

    Once you've got your spending limits in place, you'll want to head to your bank or ATM to withdraw cash to fill all your envelopes. You may even consider withdrawing your entire paycheck.

    Now, you'll want to fill the envelopes with the amount of cash you decided to budget for each. So if you planned to spend $250 on groceries, you'll put $250 into that envelope. The idea here is that when you run out of cash in your envelopes, you don't "borrow" money from another envelope. You'll be done spending until the next month. Of course, you may sometimes run into the scenario where you really do need extra money for an essential, like food. In this case, it's fine to get extra money from somewhere else. In fact, if you're noticing a trend of having to find extra cash for certain categories, it may be a signal that you need to budget a little more for that category.

    2. The multiple accounts method is a no-fuss way for you to *digitally* separate your cash.

    Person holding a phone with their banking app open
    Oscar Wong / Getty Images

    This budgeting style is very similar to the envelope method, but it's not as "strict," and it's geared more toward people who would prefer to have a digitally based money tracking system. To get started, you'll want to have two checking accounts and at least one savings account. You'll use one checking account for your mandatory spending (aka your needs, aka rent, food, utilities, and bills). The other checking account is meant for your discretionary spending (aka your wants). And the savings account is for building up cash toward a goal or simply having a safety net to fall back on.

    Then, you'll decide how to split your income between each account. Let's say you decide to follow a version of the 50-30-20 rule for splitting your income. Every month, you'll put 50% of your income into your "needs" checking account, 30% of your income into your "wants" checking account, and 20% of your income into your savings account. (Pro tip: Use a high-yield savings account like the one from Ally bank so you can earn a little interest on your savings each month.) That's all there is to it!

    Of course, you can adjust these numbers to align more with your circumstances (if you live in a high-cost area, you're likely spending more than 50% of your income on necessities).

    Bottom line: This method can feel like you have a little more freedom with your spending — what's better than giving yourself an entire checking account just for spending on the things you love???


    To make this method even easier, if you get paid via direct deposit, you might be able to have your paycheck automatically split between your accounts. Check in with your employer's payroll person to find out more.

    3. The zero-based budget lets you maximize your saving and debt payoff by accounting for every. Last. Dollar.

    MTV / Via giphy.com

    The zero-based budget can be a little more aggressive — which is why it's a great strategy to consider if you want to aggressively throw money at some of your financial goals, like quickly reaching a savings goal or paying off debt a lot faster. Basically, all of your income must be allocated toward your needs, wants, savings, and other expenses. The ultimate goal here is that by the end of every month, your income minus your expenses equals zero. Because of this, you actually have quite a bit of room to customize your spending and put more money toward a goal or expense as you go along.

    Even though the ultimate goal each month is to give every single dollar a job so you use up your entire paycheck, it helps to start by looking at how much you're paying for necessities each month.

    You can also revisit last month's bank statement to see how much you spent on wants, how much you used for paying off debt, and how much you saved. Then, depending on how much is left over after your last payday, you might be able to throw the extra at other goals or purchases.

    4. Orrr, you might want to try the no-budget budget if you want a much more laid-back method for tracking your money.

    Fox / Via giphy.com

    OK, this no-budget budget might sound more like an oxymoron, but here's how it works: Just pay all your bills and necessities each month as soon as you get paid, and then automatically transfer a percentage of what's left into savings. Since you've already set your savings aside and your bills are covered, whatever's left in your account is fair game for, well, basically whatever you want to spend on.

    It's not exactly a set-it-and-forget-it method, but it's the next best thing. To stay on top of your cash flow while using this method, you'll need to get in the habit of checking your bank balance every morning.

    Adding this step to your daily routine can make you more aware of where your money's going. Plus, being aware of your balance can keep you from accidentally overspending on something you can't really afford. Keep in mind that this method may not be best for you if you struggle with controlling your spending or if your income is a bit unpredictable.

    5. Use a budget app like Mint if you want a method that basically shoulders all the hard work of creating a budget for you.

    Screenshot of the Mint app showing spending categories
    Mint / Via apps.apple.com

    I originally started using Mint to keep track of my savings and investing accounts — it was so convenient to just log into one app and have the full picture of where my balances stood. But I gotta admit that the budgeting feature can really come in handy, especially if you don't have time to create a spreadsheet or track your budget in a bullet journal.

    The app shows me all my spending for the month divided into categories like food, bills, entertainment, and shopping. You can see all this info in a nice, neat pie chart, which is a bonus if you prefer seeing data visually. At times, the app might accidentally mark a savings transfer as money that was "spent," but it's really easy to go in and manually assign it to the correct category.

    Over time, Mint tracks your spending and suggests budgeting goals based on your actual expenses and habits.

    So if you're a total budgeting newbie, this feature might help you get customized advice on your goals. Of course, you can also create your own spending and saving goals.

    6. The pay-yourself-first budget can help you prioritize your saving and investing goals so that you can reach them a little faster.

    The WB / Via giphy.com

    With a traditional budget, you plan around your fixed, necessary expenses like rent, bills, and food; whatever gets leftover is fair game for saving, investing, and purchasing wants. But with this method, you make a spending plan that's built around how much you want to save. So you're saving first (aka paying yourself first), and everything else follows. Because of this flip, this method may also be known as the reverse budgeting method

    So let's say you take home $3,000 per month and want to put $100 a month into an emergency fund, $150 a month into a retirement account, and $200 a month into a savings account for buying a home. This means that you'll prioritize saving that first $450 toward your goals and the remaining $2,550 is fair game for all your other expenses. That was just an example, though, and you'll want to consider your own income and circumstances. 

    Keep in mind that this method is not an excuse to ignore your necessary expenses.

    it just helps you strike a balance between saving and spending so that you don't feel like your savings goals are constantly being ignored because of your rent payments and grocery bill.

    7. The values-based budget allows you to spend and save consciously while considering your lifestyle goals.

    CBC Television / Via giphy.com

    The idea of budgeting can feel very limiting. It might seem like you're forced to live your life by your money's rules rather than using your money as a tool to live life on your own terms. But the values-based budget breaks down this idea by allowing you to focus on allocating your money to what matters most to you. 

    To get started, you can grab a piece of paper and write down up to five personal core values (you can have fewer, but three to five would be ideal).

    So let's say your three values are community, relaxation, and quality time with loved ones. Think about how your expenses fall into these categories. You might exercise your community value by donating monthly to your favorite organization or spending money on gas to commute to a volunteer site. For relaxation, you might purchase a cabin by a lake not far from your primary residence so you have a place to go every time you want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Or you might spend on monthly spa treatments or your favorite bottle of wine. And for quality time, you might plan a monthly family dinner at a restaurant and pick up the tab. You get the idea. 


    This budgeting tactic is designed to also help you figure out if you're spending money on something that doesn't align with your values (so you can cut it out and have more money to spend on what matters to you!). 

    8. Or create a simple, easy, handwritten bare-bones budget with pen and paper.

    Simple budget on paper
    Charis Barg / BuzzFeed

    If all else fails, you probably won't go wrong with a simple, pen-and-paper budget where you just write down your expenses and how much you plan to spend on each. There's nothing fancy, shmancy about this approach, but it can really get the job done and help you stay aware of where your money is going! 

    What's a budgeting method you swear by? Let us know in the comments below!

    And if this sounds like music to your ears (and wallet), check out our other personal finance posts. 

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