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When you hear or read the word budget, what's the first thing you think of?
Do you see an endless spreadsheet tediously tracking every penny? Do you see something to fight over? You're not alone.
Too many times, budgets are constraints that tell us what we can't have instead of being a handy way for us to manage our money so we can do what we want to.
The good news is that creating a budget that works for the two of you can be done quickly and easily.
How Tracking Your Spending Helps You Win
Tracking your budget has some great advantages when it comes to working as a couple.
Gives a Clear Picture of Your Finances
Too many times we over- and underestimate what we spend every month. For example I used to think that I hardly spent money eating out.
Since I rarely went to expensive places, I thought I was in the clear. Then I tracked my spending and I discovered that was spending about $200/month for just coffee and lunches out!
Knowing what I was really spending helped me to come up with a plan to cut that in half without feeling like I was depriving myself.
Reduces the Tension with Talking About Money
When you have the numbers in front of you, they gives you objective things to talk about as a couple.
Since money can be a delicate subject, sticking with them can be reduce some tension.
Makes It Easier to Change and Improve Your Numbers
Another tip we've found useful when reviewing our budget is understand that change can be gradual.
If your spouse spends $300/month on video games, look at cutting back by $100 this month. Habits have probably formed for many years, so don’t expect a change overnight.
Free Tools to Quickly and Easily Track Your Spending
To make an important task simpler, there are some wonderful options out there that can track your spending quickly and easily.
Personal Capital: Powerful Way to See Your Numbers
If you want a complete solution that not only tackles your budget, but looking at your portfolio, Personal Capital is perfect solution.
Personal Capital has a ton of free and handy tools, including a cash flow view for your finances, allowing you to see all of your transactions.
Once you are seeing the overview of your spending, you can hone in on problem areas with your budget. You can sign here and try them out.
Mint: Watching Your Stash with Texts
Another tool that we love is Mint. With a few clicks we can check our month to month spending and we can compare them against each other to see where we can improve.
Signing up for Mint is easy and it can pull and organize your financial transaction in one spot.
This feature allows you to customize reminders to keep track of things like paying off debts or saving money.
Tiller: Easy Way to Create a Custom Budget
I'm a big believer that your budget should reflect your goals and your situation.
If the two of you are looking to crate a custom budget,
Tiller can a fantastic solution.
Tiller ties in the customization options of spreadsheets with automated updates from your bank, allowing you to track your money the way you want to.
How to Create a Family Budget Easily
We’ve been married for about 5 years so we’ve developed a little bit of a system with our budgets.
If you two are looking at creating a realistic budget, here are some tips:
- Track your actual expenses. Using Mint makes this step a snap as Mint can have this ready as soon as you entered your accounts.
- Review your actual expenses. Using the helpful graphs and transaction charts, you two can go over everything. Don't argue about the money already spent, just look at where you want it to go next month.
- Create a doable budget. Completely cutting out expenses doesn't work for many couples. It's better to notch down spending and keep to the budget than eliminate expenses and fall off the bandwagon. You want to find a budget that it sustainable to you.
- Save first and/or pay down debt first. You might think saving or paying your debt snowball after you pay your bills is smart, but many times, you're left with hardly anything or nothing to put towards your goal. Instead set up an automatic transfer or payment right after your paychecks come in. You'll be surprised at the results.
- Update your bill pay. For those regular and recurring expenses use your bank or credit union's online bill pay system.
- Review and adjust. Most of the time you won't get your budget right the first time you create it. Review and adjust it monthly until you two are comfortable with the results.
Thoughts on Tracking Your Spending
I shared my tips on getting your budget created quickly and easily. I'd love to hear your tips.
How do the two of you handle, spending, saving, and investing?
Originally published in December 2015. Updated November 2018.