It’s time to get real. Budgeting is no fun. It’s a necessary evil that we do day in and day out because it’s… necessary. At times, we warm up to it, like when we freaking rock our monthly goals or grow our savings or become debt free. We may briefly dub ourselves king and queen of budgeting and have the townspeople in our pretend kingdom chant, “All hail budgeting!” in the streets. No, that would be weird. But most of the time, budgeting’s a no fun, messy, frustrating, complicated affair.
Johnny and I have
probably definitely overshared on the topic of budgeting — ways to budget, using Mint, tracking our net worth, and where we keep our money, etc. But we’ve never actually compiled it all together and explained how we keep things simple and straight in our day to day. So here’s a major spoiler: we’re actually pretty lazy.
So ready for more oversharing? Yay! Here are our main budgeting tools and how we keep them simple in our crazy lives.
This app is our go to day-to-day tool. It houses all of our budgeting categories, and we use it to record our spending in real-time. As soon as I buy groceries, I enter the amount and the store I shopped at into our “Groceries” category. If I forget to enter an expense on the spot, I sometimes find myself entering items in bed right before I go to sleep. But we don’t use every feature the app offers or get overly concerned about tracking every little penny:
- We always round up or down to the nearest dollar.
- We don’t keep track of any of our checking/savings/credit cards or other accounts in the app.
- We only track our projected budget and our actual expenses. There are separate sections of the app for bills and income, but we don’t usually use these.
- At the beginning of each month, we adjust the budget as needed, depending on whether portions of our spending needs changing.
- Yes, it’s requires manual expense tracking and that’s how we like it.
In short, the entire purpose of this app is for us to be aware of our spending and to have an easy way to record it. That’s it. It’s not where we reconcile all of our finances. If it gets too granular or time consuming, we know we won’t do it.
Mint is our big-picture budgeting tool. We have all (and I mean all) of our accounts connected to Mint. Here’s an idea of what I mean:
- Emergency fund savings
- Business checking
- Business savings
- Health savings account
- Credit cards
- Roth IRA investments
- Taxable investments
- 529 college savings plans
- Car equity
- Scooter equity
YouTube-famous cat equity(still waiting on this to pan out)
It’s hard to keep track of all that stuff otherwise, so Mint is a great tool for keeping it simple and knowing exactly where all of our accounts stand. If we want to know exactly how much we have in liquid cash right that second, Mint will tell us. If we want to know how our retirement accounts are shaping up, Mint will tell us. You get the idea. We check it one or two times a week. And by “we,” I mean “Johnny.” He’s the nerdier one.
Tracking Net Worth
Johnny has this super nerdy net worth tracking spreadsheet that we use to reconcile our finances from month to month. He opens it up on the first of every month and manually enters in all of our account balances. Creating the spreadsheet in the first place took some time, but now it just takes a few minutes to enter our balances using Mint as a reference point. The spreadsheet does its thing, and we’re able to track how much money we gained (or lost) from one month to the next. It’s a great way for us to start each and every month knowing where our finances stand overall. Did we save as much as we hoped? Why or why not? After our move and some extra business costs, we were dreading computing our August net worth. And we didn’t end up liking what we saw. But it was a good reminder for us to buckle down in September and really watch our spending.
Keeping a Paper Trail
While spending with cash can be a good way to control spending, we actually avoid it. We prefer to do as much as our spending as possible with credit cards. They’re all synced on Mint, so we can see their balances and transactions at all times. And if we forget to record our spending, it’s easy to reference it. We’re able to rack up points or airline miles, and it’s really nice to have a paper trail of exactly what we bought. I can’t just splurge on pillows from Target without Johnny knowing — which is actually a very, very good thing. It’s easy for cash to be spent anonymously with no accountability of where it went, at least for us. And while we spend mostly with credit cards, we do it within the confines of our budget. We also make sure to always, always, always pay them in full at the end of each month.
We get our utility bills and phone bill e-delivered to Johnny’s email, and paying them is his responsibility. While we’re all about joint finances and discussing our spending as a team, we do break up certain responsibilities in order to keep things organized. I completely manage our meal planning and grocery spending, for instance. When it comes to paying off our credit cards each month, on the other hand, that’s on Johnny. By knowing who’s taking charge of certain areas of our budget, we never find ourselves wondering if a bill was paid or overspending on food because no one planned what to eat.
Our number one goal is to simplify our budget as much as possible (hellooo, we couldn’t live without our Everything Else category), while still keeping track of everything. The time we spend on budgeting is minimal. And while it’s always in the back of our minds (as well it should be), our system keeps us from feeling like budgeting is laborious or a burden in our day-to-day life.
So that’s how we KISS (keep it simple, stupid) and make budgeting work for us. What’s your budgeting system, and how do you make it work for you?