Remember that financial New Years resolution you made? Well, it's time to check in.
The million-dollar question: how are you doing on your money management goals so far?
Don’t worry if you’ve slipped — 92% of resolution-makers drop the ball. But if you’re among the 30% of people who truly want to spend less and save money in the New Year, putting some budgeting tools in play can make all the difference.
Use these five free money management methods to improve your saving savvy.
1. Budgeting spreadsheet
Numbers on paper (or screen) is a tried-and-true way to wrangle your finances. Money Under 30 offers this awesome spreadsheet to get you started. First plug in your income, expenses, and savings. Then, jot down your spending in each budget category as you go along. Simply keeping tabs on where your money is going may be all you need to save more of it. Test this method and see.
2. Kiplinger's household budgeting worksheet
Kiplinger offers a fantastic plug-and-play budget generator. This money management tool is a Ghost of Christmas Future for your finances — it’ll show you the long-term impact of your monthly spending and saving. The budget worksheet comes pre-populated with a lot of common expense types, so you won’t have to spend an entire afternoon customizing it.
3. Dave Ramsey's envelope system
No surprise to see Mr. Ramsey on the list as we’re pretty big fans of his. Dave’s envelope system is a hands-on approach that makes budgeting feel real. At the top of each month, lay out envelopes for each budget category and fill them with that category’s allotment in cash. Spend only that cash, and “when it’s gone, it’s gone.” Once you get a handle on your spending and return to the convenience of your debit card, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for what each swipe means.
4. The 80/20 rule
You might’ve heard about the 50-30-20 rule — spend 50% of your take-home pay on needs, allocate 30% for wants, and put 20% away. “But,” you ask, “what’s a need and what’s a want?” About.com’s Paula Pant says you should go ahead and save 20% while you figure that out. Set up an automatic transfer at your financial institution or pick a day or two each month to manually move that money into savings.
It’s the most important and powerful money management tool of all. For instance, you can’t turn your restaurant spending into grocery spending overnight. By taking a good hard look at where your money is going, you can use budgeting to create better habits. In this case, set a goal to spend $XX on groceries one month and increase it slightly each month after. Sound cool? Now, try it with savings.
Saving more is about finding the right tools and creating the right habits — two things that won’t change overnight, even if the year does. It’s an ongoing conversation between you and your money, month after month. On that note, tell us: what are some of your go-to budgeting tools? Free methods only, though. Paying money to save money defeats the point.