Budgeting doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Many people relegate budgeting to the lowest depths of their lexicon and refuse to utter the word at all. Well, here are some ways to make budgeting less painful so you can realise the long-term benefits of more discipline in your financials and maybe have some fun while doing it:
- Treat It Like a Real Business Budget (Bonuses Included!) – While it may seem like extra work to set up a real business-like plan, it’s only once! By setting up a serious budget either via spreadsheet or various online budgeting resources, you can run your personal finances like a real business. This has a few side effects. For one, you’ll take it more seriously. But also, many people like to set goals and measure themselves against these goals over time, especially if they’re competitive. This goes for everything from weight loss to distance running, so why not apply it to financial improvements? The fringe benefit is when you exceed your plan (save more than you had initially planned), and pay yourself a bonus! This could go toward anything from a special gadget to a dinner out to a weekend getaway. If you don’t build in incentives, you may not be setting yourself up for success to begin with.
- Automation and Batch Processing – One of the biggest excuses people invoke for avoiding a new responsibility or breaking a bad habit is that they just don’t have the time to take on more. So, focus on time-saving activities in your budgeting activities. I try to automate everything I can. Any time I have to make a trip to a bank I question whether I could have set up direct deposit or electronic transfer, especially if it’s a recurring transaction. Next, I set up all my investments to be automatically deducted from my paycheque and bank accounts so I never have to write a cheque or log into an investment site to transfer funds. Finally, I “batch process” many of my activities, meaning that I intentionally avoid doing certain things for days on end, and then do them all at once. With finances, this means, I pay all my bills only twice per month. I make all my phone calls on the same day (if I’m questioning a bill or haggling over a lower fee for a service or whatever it may be). I also log into my financial accounts and do my net worth only once per month. By setting aside time just once per month to do things, I save myself the time from the inefficiency of constantly digging up paperwork, phone numbers, the cheque book or whatever it may be throughout the month. Batch processing works!
- Using Multiple Accounts – Some people like to use a physical “envelope system” to set up different accounts for everything from groceries to vacation funds. But many banks now offer various “sub-accounts” as part of their appeal, so it’s worth evaluating if you can have your routine paycheque deposited into a main account and then have small funds shifted into sub-accounts to fund certain parts of your budget. When that account runs day, that’s it. You have to plan accordingly and sacrifice, but many people find that this instills the discipline needed to meet their goals.