How to Create a Budget in Under 10 Minutes a Day
May 17, 2012
One of the biggest reasons people don’t have a budget is because of time constraints. Especially when it comes to starting your budget, gathering all of the information you need and picking a budgeting program or designing your own budget spreadsheet can be time consuming.
Luckily, a budget doesn’t need to be very complicated to be effective. And if you follow these steps, you can easily manage your money in less than ten minutes a day. In fact, if you’re efficient, you may be able to budget in as little as ten minutes per week.
Start by Getting Your Finances Organized
Nearly all of the transactions that you need to make a budget are included in your checking account and credit card accounts. Actually, your credit card payments are also included in your checking account, so for a more simple budget, you can track your finances by simply keeping a running tab of your checking account.
Most people pay their bills a few times each month. When you do, simply list all of your transactions in a spreadsheet. In your spreadsheet, add a column for each transaction with the date, source (ATM, debit card, check number, or direct deposit), amount, account balance, budget category and description. Make sure that you check your online banking so that you can add any debit and direct transactions to your spreadsheet.
If you also want to show some detail about your credit card transactions, you can add this too, but you should use a separate list so that you don’t account for credit card spending twice. This part of your budgeting can usually be done in a few minutes per day or less than a half hour per week.
[Ben’s Note: This is one of the reasons why I ;put most of our expenses on our Blue Cash credit card and use online bill pay for most everything else. Being able to download and analyze all your spending in a spreadsheet or personal finance software makes it easy to see where your money is going.]
Summarize Your Spending Once a Month
Now that you’ve got a list of all of your major financial transactions, use it to create a monthly budget summary. A budget summary is really very simple. It shows your income and expenses for each category. To compute it, you already have all of the information in your checking spreadsheet.
If you are good with spreadsheets, you can easily create a pivot table that will summarize the transactions for you in just a few clicks of the mouse. For help with this step, you can use a video tutorial on how to create a budget spreadsheet.
When you are finished with this step, you will have a summarized list of each expense and income category. It is essentially a simplified budget, but it is all you really need. If you want to create a more detailed or easier to read budget, continue to the next step.
Enter the Summarized Information Into a Budget Template
The previous steps shouldn’t have taken long to execute, so you may have some time left to make your budget a little more detailed and easier to read. After all, one month’s worth of expenses typically doesn’t include things like your annual property taxes, income taxes, and insurance payments. That’s because many expenses only come up once or twice a year.
To account for these, you can enter the information you calculated in the step above to a household budget template. This will add a portion of the annual fees into each month’s budget so you can have a better picture of where you stand financially. This step could take as long as an hour or two to set up the first time, but each month after that you should be able to do it in just a few minutes.
While this method of budgeting is very simple, it is effective because you can easily customize it and keep it as simple as possible. This will save you a lot of time as compared to other budgeting techniques, and is a great way to start organizing your finances in the hopes of saving more money.
Chris Snelling has been writing articles about money related topics for over twelve years. His most recent endeavor has been creating Budget Ways, a resource devoted to budgeting and saving money.
All posts by Ben Edwards