Do you make a monthly budget, and stick with it to keep your expenses down? How often you spend hours budgeting every penny you earn and spend? It gets tiring soon for most people, as number crunching is hard. Money itself has powerful emotions attached to it. So if you hesitate making budget because of underlying emotions towards money, you will find this article useful. It covers the best way to budget under 10 minutes a month. It helps you get out of debt by paying off high interest debts first, save for emergencies, and live a life without constant money worries.
Table of Contents
What is a Budget?
In simple terms, budget is a tool that sets the boundaries for your money. It does not mean that you can not break the boundaries for emergency situations. It means you’ve a fair idea of how much money you need to live. Some people call it spending plan. Spending plans are useful because they focus on the amount of money left after meeting your basic living needs or reach a goal that you’ve set. This is important if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck and need to monitor your money outflow and inflow.
Budgets are great for people who have moved past living paycheck-to-paycheck and can now have some more room for other activities. E.g. investment, buying a home or just taking a long vacation. If you’ve been saving or budgeting for a long vacation since 2020, you must’ve saved quite a good chunk. Thanks to Pandemic, none of us made any long-term vacation or travel plans.
How is spending plan different from budget?
Spending plans are simple to set up. Well, for most people at least. In this plan, you find out how much is your income from all sources, minus your basic living expenses. So income can be your pay check, side gigs, selling stuff on eBay, interest earned etc. The basic living expenses include shelter, food, health care, clothing, and business needs. Spending plan focuses on needs and wants.
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For example, if you are a stay at home wife, you don’t need an extra car. If you are not going out to work for a job, or you work from home, you don’t need an extra car. That is your want. But, for a work from home gig, your computer and internet are needs. Within that need, the basics are important. So, a fancy MacBook Air is a want but a simple computer with enough memory and all the required pieces of software in it is a need. You got the point?
Spending plan should not take you over 10 minutes to set up. But many people complicate it as they have too many wants aka shiny objects that temporality blind their vision to the most essential needs. That is where the needs vs wants tracker helps. In fact, if you use this tracker every week or a month, you do not even need to set a complicated budget.
Just enter your needs. They can be home rent or mortgage, basic food grocery budget, travel, health, education (if applicable), communication (basic phone and internet) and allocate your income to these categories. Everything else goes into wants column. Spend your money on wants first and then move to wants.
But remember, many of your needs such as college fees or health expenses may not come at the start of the month when you receive your paycheck. So, you need to plan for them in advance. Here the sinking funds come handy. Just create a sinking fund or a goal fund for the expected expenses (these are again needs) and save in that fund every time you get the paycheck. You may notice that some months, you are not using up the money in this sinking fund. This gives you an idea that you can call it a want. Your needs will require paying for them every single month.
After meeting your basic needs, you can now use the balance for other important tasks. For example: set up savings, pay off credit card debt, start a new business, or meet other life goals, such as visit Paris or go on a world tour.
But I digress. We come back to the point of budgeting. In reality, budgeting or spending plan is just a different mindset, so whether you use a spending plan or a budget doesn’t matter. Choose one or the other. I’m a frugal person. I don’t enjoy spending or anything to do with spending, unless it is on books or herbs. So, we will stick with the word Budget in this article.
How to set up a simple budget that works every time?
Most financial counselors recommend the 50/20/30 rule for the budget. You can find 50/20/30 rule calculators online to play with too. I created a simple spreadsheet for my family. Download it below.DOWNLOAD BUDGET WORKSHEET
To make this budget under 10 minutes, understand how it works.
- Consider your after-tax money. If you are doing a job, your employer gives you paycheck after deducting tax (yikes. I never liked that). So, it’s easy for employees. But, if you are self-employed, you need to take out the money from your income for quarterly tax payments to Uncle Sam (Yikes too. But I rather pay quarterly taxes than be an employee. I guess I just don’t like to pay taxes. Who does? But I pay them every year. Hand over heart!)
- 50 Percent of Your Income Goes to Needs
- 20 Percent of Your Income Goes to Investments and Paying down Debt
- 30 Percent of Your Income Goes to Wants
In the end, you will get 3 simple columns in the budget. NEEDS, SAVINGS and WANTS.
No need for complicated budget software programs, apps, integrations with bank and blah blah. But I know you will complicate this simple budget if you are used to the complicated budgeting systems. Well, the only reason you are reading his article is that those complex budgets did not help you. If they did, you will not waste your precious time learning about writing budget from yet another person on the internet.
Let us make it simpler. You just can not make it harder.
- basic utilities,
- minimum loan payments, and
- basic emergency fund ($1000 in cash).Needs are anything that will keep you and your family healthy and safe. So, don’t forget to include your home security system if you live in an area where there are incidents of robbery or riots. That $49.99 a month for ADT home security service is helping you and your family safe. So, it is your need. But, if you are living in a NY skyscraper with the paid security service in your HOA, you are just spending extra for home security. And, if you are living in a NY skyscraper, you may not even read how to budget under 10 minutes! Who am I kidding?
Let’s move onto savings category.
Savings includes investing money in a savings account, stocks, bonds, growing your emergency fund, or paying down debt. Most people include the emergency fund in a separate saving account. But I still consider it as a need. Because everyone gets an emergency at a certain point in their lives. A $1000 basic emergency fund is a need. So let us move it there. DONE.
Start saving for extra emergencies after saving $1000 for basic emergencies. You can save for a month’s worth of living expenses and increase it up to a year’s worth of living expenses.
There is no limit to savings. But let just say you want to enjoy life as well. So, here comes the next category.
We can define wants as expensive clothing, designer makeup, bigger home and yard, and a fancy car over the basics. You can also include the stock market investment if you’ve extra money left to play the market. NOTE- never play the market. Learn the basics of stock market investing from trusted financial experts. Practice with paper trading for at least 1000 trades (Practice as if you are investing real money- that is the key). When you get confidence from 1000 good trades, invest in the stocks with the money you don’t mind losing. I write from personal experience.
That’s about it. Your budget is ready under 10 minutes. All you need to do is to stick with it every day.Discipline will make you a millionaire!
Without discipline, no budget will help you. Weak spending habits will keep you in debt forever. I wrote a separate article on money saving habits here. In fact, before writing a budgeting article, I wrote about money saving habits. Without the good foundation of money-saving habits, budget will never work.
Related Article – Top Daily money saving habits.
Follow these habits. I would say follow them daily and come back to this article to set up your simple budget.
Budget is the most important tool in your financial independence journey. Even if you don’t aim to retire early, it will keep you from making unwise life decisions. So, get very clear on your needs, and your wants. Most of us are two years old at heart, but we know the difference between wants and needs. For each person, it’s going to be different, but needs to keep you alive, and wants are for pleasure. With this basic understanding and good money saving habits, you will soon be on your way to get out of debt and stay out of debt, forever. I’m rooting for you.
Please share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions to improve the budgeting task.