Keeping a budget: importance and solutions

Keeping track of my budget

importance of keeping a budget
Tools to keep track of a budget. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

Few people recognize the importance of keeping a budget, until the financial consequences of not keeping a budget catch up to them. The importance of keeping a budget lies in its preventative function: a budget is not unlike a safety alarm, which alerts its owner about possible financial problems.

Tracked spending will show patterns and trends. Once the patterns and trends in spending are detected, they can be monitored, and, if needed, managed. Without a budget, the tracking and monitoring of spending would be impossible.

The best budget manager for beginners likely is Excel. Excel spreadsheets are easy to use and organize and are highly customizable. Most households own the Excel programme, or a free alternative to it.

Keeping a budget on Excel can be as simple as three columns. One column for the date, second for the money spent or earned, and the third for the title of the inflow or the outflow of money.

keeping a budget with excel
Simple budget keeping with Excel. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

The power of keeping a budget in Excel lies in the ability to customize spreadsheets according to the user’s needs.

Expenses can be grouped into categories, separated by sheets, organized alphabetically, and more.

Inflows of cash can also be organized similarly to expenses. Or, they can be separated, kept track of, and shown graphically for easier pattern detection and decision-making. Excel spreadsheets are really useful for visual information showcasing and analysis.

Nonetheless, Excel formulas shouldn’t also be forgotten. They can be really useful for keeping track of budget patterns, and spotting anomalies.

Excel budget keeping can also be done on the go. A cloud account can help to access a budget document from any place, just with an internet connection.

Some other useful software for budget keeping includes Google Drive, Dropbox, and other cloud file services. They allow to access documents that are stored on the cloud, and edit them on the go.

A budget manager does not necessarily have to be a software program. It also can be an app. Keeping a budget on an app will let the budget keeper to easily track expenses and income from their smart phone or tablet.

Keeping track of a budget on an app also opens up possibilities for automated budget keeping. There are apps than can be used to automatically take care of a salary or any other income, based on the budget keeper’s needs.

Budget tracking software is not the only choice for keeping track of a budget.

Keeping a budget worksheet is also a solution for keeping track of a budget. Budget worksheets are printouts, which are easy to find on the internet. They  usually are high customizable, and many of them are personalized for different life periods or households. A budget worksheet is a good option for budget keepers who like an easy access to their budget. A worksheet also has the ability to edit it without having to use electronic devices.

Keeping a budget involves…

Part of keeping a budget involves regular updates to it. A budget that is updated rarely, is unlikely to reflect the financial situation of its keeper clearly. Some budget outflows can end up unaccounted for. This process is likely to create many mix-ups in the budget. A larger quantity of mix-ups can lead to the budget being hard to analyse, or even to read at all.

Regular updates to the budget also contribute to a disciplined approach to budget keeping. Undisciplined budget keeping and irregular budget entries can lead to the budget keeper feeling less responsible for their own financial situation. When a budget keeper doesn’t feel a sense of responsibility for their own budget, they are more likely to overspend.

Moreover, regular budget updates contribute to easier and earlier detection of bad spending patterns. Disciplined budget entries are just like medical check ups. Financial problems become easier to detect if a budget is regularly updated and analysed. Hence, regular updates are a very important part of keeping a budget.

Another important part of keeping a budget is the algorithmic process. Having predetermined responses to certain actions will help to handle budgeting easily. It will also help to save time. A simple response algorithm is an essential part of keeping a budget. Not only having an entry algorithm will reduce the time it takes to make a decision, but also will cultivate a disciplined approach to budgeting.

part of keeping a budget
Algorithmic budget keeping. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

If a budget keeper knows the action to take after a certain financial trigger, they will have an easier time budgeting and keeping track of their finances.

An algorithmic approach to budget keeping can be implemented with an app. Apps that produce predetermined responses to certain triggers, are the best choice for algorithmic budget keeping. An app like IFTT (“If This, Then That”) can be customized to produce responses to certain financial triggers. Some savings apps can also be used to produce certain, useful for budgeting, responses .

Budget keeping is impossible without strategic goals. A simple goal, like “saving $1,000 every month” will be hard to achieve. Firstly, a simple goal does not take into account the possibility of a change in the financial situation. Moreover, simple goals are hard to achieve, as they come without a response mechanism.

Strategic goals, however, are an integral part for successful budget keeping. A strategic goal, like “Saving 20% of salary after the bills are paid, more than 33% months of the year” comes with a response mechanism (20% of salary after the bills are paid) and has room for change in case a financial situation changes (20% of salary, and not a predetermined sum).

Keeping within budget

The main issue why most people start budgeting is difficulties with controlling spending. Everyone’s incomes are limited, even if they reach 6 or 7 digit numbers. Thus, keeping within a budget is a problem any person can experience.

People having budgeting difficulties, however, shouldn’t worry. Keeping within a budget is possible with some simple tips and strategies.

Strategy #1: Battling with your own worst enemy.  The first strategy of keeping within a budget is severely limiting spending. How to do this? After receiving their income, the budget keeper should immediately allocate a portion of it to a savings account, or to invest it. Only the remaining part then is allowed to be spent.

This strategy is perfect for people who want to keep within budget, and also to start investing. Let’s say a budget keeper needs to keep within budget, but he or she has difficulties with controlling their spending. If they invest 50% of their salary, they will only have the remaining 50% of it to spend on expenses. The invested part will then remain untouched.

If the only goal of a budget keeper is to keep within budget, then severely limiting spending through savings or investments, is the most straightforward way to do it.

After taking out a sum for necessary expenses, the rest of the income then should be allocated to investments. Another precaution for keeping within budget, can be investing into investments which discourage the investors from selling them too early (e.g. stocks).

keeping within budget strategy
Strategy to keep within budget. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

Strategy #2: Only the necessities. A less severe strategy to keeping in budget is only allowing expenses for necessities. Paying only for basic food, utilities, and not spending money on anything else, is a certain way of keeping within a budget.

If a purchase makes the budget keeper doubt whether it is a necessity, the keeper just has to ask themselves if the purchase is essential for survival. If it is not, then it shouldn’t be bought.

Tip #1: Avoiding sales. Sales do help to save money and find great deals. Yet, they also encourage consumers to buy, which can negatively affect a budget.

Tip #2: Starting investing. Once a person starts investing and seeing gains, other expenses will pale in comparison to the delight investing gains bring. Unneeded purchases will disappear after a budget keeper will start investing.

Tip #3: Following the crowd. It can be hard to make the right financial choices, when others aren’t making the same ones. Finding like-minded individuals and news sources will help to keep within budget.

Keeping track of a household budget

Keeping track of a household budget involves having a tight control on all of the money outflows. The more people a household has, the harder it will be to account for the outflows. Thus, without a strict supervision, a household budget will be hard to keep track of.

A strict supervision does not mean a strict control of the purchases. Rather, it means that one person in a household should act as a budget manager.

A budget manager will be responsible for keeping track of the expenses, and the entries to the budget spreadsheet. Although having a budget manager, and having to keep track of expenses, may not sit well with all of the members of a household, it is a worthy cause.

If household members are enthusiastic about budget keeping, then the solution to budget keeping becomes far easier. A spreadsheet with the ability for many people to edit it, would be the right choice for keeping track of a household budget.

Proper home finance management through a household budget can bring a whole household together. After seeing how powerful home finance management is, the members of a household will have another common interest amongst themselves. Moreover, budgeting for an enjoyable goal, such as vacation, will create a team with a common goal.

keeping track of household budget
Keeping track of a household budget. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

Home finance and budgeting can be easily taken care of by using simple solutions that modern software offers. A shared spreadsheet or a document in the cloud – all it takes to take care of home finance and budgeting problems.

Keeping a food budget

Keeping a food budget starts at the refrigerator. Writing down the often used groceries and favourite meals is the first step to keeping a food budget.

The next step to keeping a food budget is finding out the lowest prices for often used groceries. After finding out the lowest prices for these groceries, the budget keeper should form a plan of action for buying them. Some products are cheaper during certain times of the year. Groceries should be bought with that thought in mind.

Grocery stores also play a role in keeping a food budget. Certain grocery stores have better deals on some products, compared to others. Keeping a food budget will be easier, if some groceries are only bought at stores which have the best deals for them.

A food budget should not only have room for healthy foods. Everyone craves unhealthy snacks or meals sometimes, and a food budget should have leeway for it. Thus, allocating even 5% of a food budget for unhealthy foods, will satisfy not only the stomach, but also the wallet of a budget keeper.

An important part of keeping a grocery budget is using food grown by the budget keeper. Growing own food can significantly reduce the grocery budget part for fresh herbs, small vegetables, and spices. It can be as easy as growing rosemary on a windowsill, and as difficult as tending tomatoes in the backyard. Either way, keeping a grocery budget does not necessarily have to focus on the best deals and discount for food in stores. Growing own food helps to minimize the groceries bill. It also allows to eat food that is 100% organic and home-grown.

The best way of keeping a food budget low is planning meals ahead of time, and using products which have already been bought. Planning meals ahead of time helps to avoid impulse purchases. It will also leave enough time to find the best prices for groceries.

Impulse purchases are often made because of marketing impact, rather than out of genuine consumer needs. Preventing impulse purchases is very important in keeping a food budget low.

Using products which have already been bought first, is an essential step for keeping a food budget low. This practice not only ensures that food will not go to waste. It also helps to a keep food storage stocked appropriately, and prevents overstocking of food.

Keeping fit on a budget

Many people would love to get fit fast. Yet, most weight loss and exercise plans often cost a lot of money. Is keeping fit on a budget even possible?

Fortunately for money savers, keeping fit on a budget is not only possible, but also easily doable. Easy tips can help to get fit fast, and without breaking the bank!

keeping fit on a budget
Keeping fit on a budget. Copyright: Money Bear Club.

The first step to keeping fit on a budget or getting fit fast is a cheap exercise regime. Costly exercise regimes rarely are better than cheaper one. Exercising for free can be as good or even better than spending a lot of money on expensive exercise. A cheap exercise regime won’t cause hurt to the wallet. It can also help to lose weight faster.

A weight loss exercise plan is important for keeping fit on a budget. Impulsive training and dieting can negatively affect budgeting, while not helping to lose weight at all. A clear plan with numerical goals, strategies to achieve them, and the dates when they should be completed, is the way to keep fit on a budget.

A weight loss exercise plan shouldn’t necessarily be written to include the smallest details. Yet, a detailed plan will encourage personal accountability. Moreover, carefully planning exercise and dieting will also promote disciplined spending related to weight loss.

Without a weight loss exercise plan, a budget keeper risks to overspend on expensive workouts and dieting plans. A clear and a detailed weight loss exercise plan, together with strategic goals, will help to keep fit on a budget.

Budgeting and discipline

Properly keeping a budget, no matter for which purpose, will help to save money and keep track of money inflows and outflows.

Yet, budgeting is impossible without discipline. While budget keeping contributes to a person becoming more disciplined, starting to keep a budget also requires discipline.

Thus, the solution to successful budget keeping may not necessarily lie in the methods and strategies. Personal accountability and perseverance in the face of financial challenges,  likely is the secret for keeping within budget.

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