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5 Ways to Ease Into a Budget

By: Steve Johnson

7/9/2008 - 45 Comments

If a budget makes you feel anxious or depressed, then you are not along.

Most people don’t like the idea of budgeting and refuse to budget no matter what financial troubles come their way.  As the economy continues to sink and unemployment continues to rise, many will turn to budgeting to help them whether the recession.

The power of budgeting is perhaps because it can be customized to each family or individual and can quickly adapt as income/expenses change.

Here is an easy tool for creating a budget, Free Budgeting Tool.

In spite of the headaches that budgeting can bring, it is still one of the most successful strategies to get finances under control.  Budgeting has many advantages including:

  • Increase communications and intimacy with your spouse
  • Increase your current and future financial outlook
  • Increase the financial outlook of your children by helping them pay for a better education
  • Improve the success of your long-term goals
  • Reduce the likelihood of suffering a major financial setback, like bankruptcy or foreclosure
  • Reduce the stress and anxiety of you and your family

If you struggle with budgeting, but you want to enjoy the many advantages, then here are a few ideas for easing into a budget.  Easing into a budget allows you to reduce the headaches of budgeting while gaining the advantages.

1) Post Budgeting

Try post-budgeting or creating a budget for the previous month, just to see how you did. This removes some of the pressure of creating a budget for the future that you have to live up to. Post-budgeting removed the pressure to meeting specific financial goals, while giving you insight into how you could improve your financial situation. After a few months, you will begin to change your spending habits just by what you have learned without even trying or feeling pressured to live within a budgeted.

2) Use Ranges

Try creating a budget with ranges for the amounts, that way to don't have to hit an exact number, just somewhere within a range.  For example, you could say that your food budget is between 200-300 per month or your savings is between 50-100 per month. This works great to reduce the pressure of meeting specific financial goals. If you want, you can reduce the width of the ranges over time.

3) Budget Slowly

Try easing into a budget over a one year period. Suddenly living on a budget after years of living without one can be a shock to anyone.  Try setting a goal to migrate into a budget over a one year period.  The first 6-month, just track your expenses and see where you are spending your money without putting any pressure on yourself to change. Then, in the next three months start a list of expenses that you could change and the last three months of the year begin to change your spending.  By the end of the year, you will know how you are spending your money and will be more confident in creating a yearly and monthly budget.

4) Start Small

Try starting with just a few columns. When you start budgeting, don’t get you caught up in calculating every dollar. Just start with a few columns for your major expenses and put everything else into the miscellaneous column. As time goes on you can add more columns to track more categories of expenses. 

This is a great way to start budgeting if you have a hard time agreeing with your spouse on money matters.  Just find three columns that you can agree on and then agree to add one new column per month for the next six to nine months. Before you know it you are planning your financial future together and will soon be enjoying the many advantages listed above.

5) Group Budgeting

Try group budgeting with your friends or in-laws or siblings. This is a great way to learn from each other.  You can compare expenses and ask questions when you see a differences.  I started doing this in college before I even had a family.  I have learned some of my best budgeting strategies from asking questions about my friends’ budgets.  This is easier to do when you are young and don’t have much money or investments or complicated financial matters, but it can still be done at any age. 

A lot of the successful money management programs suggest getting together with several families with similar ages to work on your financial planning. This is the same idea. The only disadvantage is that you have to be willing to be open an honest about your finances. But I say get over it. You will more likely be surprised to find other families in the same situation as you – and that alone can give you a sigh of comfort.

I hope these ideas help you break your fear of starting a budget, so that you can start enjoying the many benefits listed above.

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