Budgeting programs are a complete waste of money. There, I said it! Why spend upwards of $100 on a program whose entire function is to suck your time away and make you miserable? Sure, we all need to manage our money, plan for our expenses and save a little. It doesn’t have to be difficult though.
I’ve always found that a simple sheet of notebook paper, or a spiral-bound notebook and a pencil take far less time to manage and have no learning curve like financial software does.
The easiest way to control your finances:
Set aside fifteen minutes a week, grab your notebook (and your partner if they are interested) and write out your expenses and your income. If your budget changes because of a birthday, a new loan or a new account just add it in. When you pay a bill, check it off on the paper.
Having that simple written guideline is enough for most of us. It tells you approximately what you will want to spend on groceries, school expenses, bill payments, etc. If your budget changes, scratch it out or erase it and reconfigure. That usually takes about five minutes and you’re back on track.
Tricks of the trade:
Use cash as often as possible – it means that you won’t have to balance your checking account very often, and you will know at a glance how much money you have left.
Post your budget where it’s visible to everyone in the family. This usually keeps kids and partners from asking for things that aren’t in the budget. We post ours on our refrigerator. Anytime someone asks for something not in the budget, I walk them over to the fridge, and see whether or not I can easily adjust to give them what they want. If it’s just not possible, I tell them so – it’s all right there in black and white. It saves on hard feelings, bounced accounts, and makes everyone feel like they are a part of the process.