When you have a fun and easy budget, it becomes easier to stick with it until you gain some momentum and see some progress. I’m probably one of the few people who can honestly say that I love my budget. And I don’t just mean that I enjoy looking at and analysing numbers (and it’s not because I’m an accountant!).
I mean that the whole process of budgeting is something I enjoy doing. I could (and have) easily spent an hour with my budget, turning the pages over delicately, filling things in neatly and looking over my expenses.
To say that this is a rare sentiment is probably a bit of an understatement. Most people avoid budgets or think they’re a boring and burdensome chore. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. With the addition of a few essential items, your budget can be as fun and easy as mine. You don’t need to spend hours on it like I do if you don’t want to. I complete the most important tasks in my budgeting routine in only 15 minutes a day. The rest of the time is just for fun!
While there are some principles of personal finance that I’d recommend sticking to, your budgeting process isn’t one of them. The last thing I want is for you to give up on your finances because you find it mundane or difficult. You’re free to design the process to suit your needs and your life.
A good budget is the first step in the Paper Money Co Freedom Framework. It’s the foundation for lasting financial freedom. The more enjoyable and easy your budgeting process it, the more likely you are to stick with it and make progress towards your goals of financial freedom. There are so many benefits of budgeting that will change your life, so I don’t want you to miss out!
I like to do all the calculations in my budget manually. You can choose to use the calculator on your phone or even create a spreadsheet for all your budget calculations. I prefer to do it all manually for one key reason. Having to calculate everything manually takes more effort.
And when you have to sit there punching in every dollar and every cent, it’s much easier to notice how small transactions can add up. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a maths whiz to be able to do this – I’m certainly not. You’ll only need a few basic calculations: adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
Online banking & apps
What would I do without online or mobile banking? I detest having to go to the bank, so online banking is perfect for me. I can schedule all my bill payments, manage my direct debits and easily transfer money to my savings account within a few minutes.
It’s also much easier to notify the bank when you’re travelling, raise transaction disputes and block lost cards.
Online banking also allows you to quickly check your transaction history without having to wait for a statement. This helps me keep on top of my expense tracking since I tend to lose receipts! I also regularly check my transaction history and balances to make sure there have been no fraudulent or duplicate charges.
Thanks to the power of the internet and modern smartphones, it’s now easier than ever to shop around for the best deals. For large purchases, I try to do my research and compare prices before I get to the store (if I can’t buy it online). But sometimes, you just don’t have the time.
You need to buy something urgently and you don’t have the time to shop around but you still want a good deal. I’ll whip out my phone in the middle of the store and start comparing prices or looking for deals.
Having the calculator on your phone while you’re out and about is also handy. I like to add up the cost of my cart and apply any discounts ahead of time so that I know I’m within budget when I head to the checkout.
All my spending is either online or by using cards. I know that cash envelopes are popular and while they have some benefits, carrying cash is not for me. It’s inconvenient for me to constantly have to withdraw cash and deal with the change. I also feel much safer when I don’t have cash on me.
I prefer to carry my cards in a small, discreet card wallet. It’s light and easy to put inside small handbags. I also don’t have to worry about getting flustered at the checkout while I hold up the line trying to count change and put cash back in my wallet!
Fun colours & highlighters
When you’re tracking your expenses manually, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of numbers and get confused when you’re trying to add it all up. I use Mildliners to colour code my expenses in each category and keep track of what I’ve already totalled. The colour coding is also a great visual way for me to see which category makes up the majority of my spending.
You can use any highlighters you want, but I prefer Mildlinders since the colours are…well…mild. Another option would be to use a different coloured pen for each category when you write in transactions on your expense tracker.
Adding a splash of colour also creates a fun and easy budget that you’re excited to update and analyse.
Fun budgeting workbook
The most essential tool on my list of must-have items has to be the Budget Workbook I designed and created for myself. It’s a fun and easy budget that contains my entire financial plan – from my goals to my net worth. I use it to create a budget for each paycheque, track my expenses and analyse my finances.
Most importantly, it’s been flexible enough to accommodate big changes in my life. I created it while living in Germany on secondment from my full-time job. While Mr Bear and I were there, we did a lot of travelling so our budget looked a lot different from what it is now. However, it still gave me the same awareness and understanding of my finances.
The last of my must-have items is white-out tape. Since I do my budget and calculations manually, I often make mistakes. White-out always comes to save the day. I don’t always love the way it looks, but it means my budget is accurate and free of errors. It’s a quick and easy solution that doesn’t leave any mess.
Sure, if I used a spreadsheet instead of paper, I wouldn’t have this problem. But the benefits of doing everything manually far outweigh the small inconvenience of having to reach for the white-out.
I’m much more aware of the financial consequences of my choices when I do my budget manually because I have to write it all out by hand and punch the numbers into a calculator.
Our brains process things a little differently when we physically write something out, instead of typing it. When you do make mistakes, white-out helps you remove it in a matter of seconds.
There are some principles of personal finance and budgeting that apply to everyone regardless of what their finances look like. Your daily budgeting routine isn’t one of them. Budgets are the foundation for achieving financial freedom. Make it easy and enjoyable to dedicate your time and energy to learning about managing your finances. This increases your chances of success in building a financially free future.