How We Manage Our Budget

When it comes to money, everyone seems to be chirping about how hard it is to buy a house in Australia and that it’s impossible to get ahead these days.

I’m by no means on the BRW Rich List, but I simply don’t believe it’s that much harder to get ahead with money these days than 50 years ago. I reckon it’s more about the quality of life we’re used to. Multiple jobs? Working your way up in a company? These are foreign concepts.

ANYWAY.

Rant over. What we can do about our situation is manage the money we do have as best we can. Here’s my budgeting process that has helped us to no end.

1. Move your spending accounts to a bank that categorizes transactions

The key to the whole process is about visibility. If you can see where your money is going, then without any extra strategies, you’re already way ahead. Once you have a picture of your spending habits you are positioning yourself with better perspective to make informed decisions.

Bank accounts that allow you to categorise spending is the easiest place to start.

2. Get an app to track live as you go

Bank accounts now sorted, you’re set up for a regular review of your spending which we’ll talk about in a moment. This doesn’t help that much though with seeing where things are at on the go.

It may be double handling, but I find manually inputting every spend into an app as I go really helpful to keep that clarity around where my money is going.

I use a great app called Back In Black. It has functionality to connect multiple devices so a couple can both track spending by inputting individually but seeing everything comprehensively.

3. Make a time in your calendar to review your budget every fortnight

This is the key habit to get on top of your budget. Everything else can go well or be average for a while, but as long as you create this habit and stick with it I promise you that your spending habits will be revolutionized.

I start my fortnightly budget review by jumping into my bank accounts and categorizing everything I’ve spent in the last fortnight. This might sound arduous but it only takes fifteen minutes. Remember, you’re not categorizing stuff from three months ago, it’s all recent spending.

Plus, if you can’t remember what it was for, just open Back In Black to find the transaction so you can correctly categorise it.

Once I’ve categorized all expenses from the last fortnight, I run a simple report through online banking that lists each category and how much we spent.

A good list of categories to start with could be:

-food and dining

-retail

-entertainment

-auto and transport

-travel

-bills

4. Create and habitually update an excel spreadsheet during the fortnightly budget review 

The next part of the budget review is to create an excel spreadsheet where you keep a running record of your income and expenses. If you hate excel (I love it) then don’t despair. Keep in mind that you now have a really neat report on your expenses which is what you’ll use to input expenses.

Everything to this point has helped you to:

-easily review spending (bank account categories)

-easily track spending live (app)

But you need the excel spreadsheet because it helps you to link where you’ve been with where you’re going. The excel spreadsheet is where I come up with budgets for the following fortnight.

So I open my spreadsheet and I have two rows for every fortnight – forecast and actual. I fill in the ‘actual’row with the amounts from the bank report as well as inputting income. I then have some basic formulas further down the row that calculate whether we saved or spent money across the fortnight and then another formula to add that to the starting amount for the fortnight to give a new running total.

I finish the row of ‘actual’ and at this point … wow … talk about a clear view of your finances! Then I fill in the forecast row with fixed bills for the coming fortnight (I track dates etc in Back In Black) and create my budget amounts for each category and an estimate of the running total at the end of the fortnight.

Once I write in these budget amounts on the spreadsheet I open Back In Black and put the budget amounts next to each category. Now I’m all set to go into the next fortnight with my live tracking of Back In Black to consistently have clarity around my budgets and how much I’m spending in comparison.

Like I said, I know it sounds like a lot of work, but the real gold is in the perspective you gain. Anyone can make foolish decisions about money without knowing it if they don’t have their head around their spending. But if you can implement these simple habits and processes and make non-negotiable parts of your routine, then if you stuff it all up you’ll only have yourself to blame.

I’m off to go look for a fifth job to help me save enough to buy a one bedroom shack in Alice Springs.

Actually, nah stuff it. I think I’ll go do my spreadsheet instead and then in a few years when everyone else is still whining in their new shoes, standing next to their bank-owned unnecessarily nice car with a takeaway burrito in their hand …

I’ll be tapping away furiously doing my perpetual fortnightly budget review sitting in a house that I own.

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