Remember, everyone’s personal situation is different, so the approach you choose should fit with your financial situation and life stage.
How can I manage my expenses?
Managing your expenses is a first step to achieving your financial goals. Understanding where your money is going will help you get a handle on what changes you need to make to ensure you’re living within your means and making your money work for your future.
To start, creating a spending plan is a useful tool to manage your expenses. To do so, you’ll need to track your spending so you can figure out where your money is going every month. For a typical household budget, spending items are usually categorized into necessity expenses (essential expenses, like food) and discretionary expenses (non-essentials, like eye cream).
Note that the non-essential expenses are the ones you can better control. The easiest way to reduce them is to do so gradually while balancing your quality of life.
Once you get a handle on your spending habits, it will be easier for you to define your spending goals and set a limit for each expense category, with the goal of having cash leftover in your budget every month.
You should also include a savings allocation in your spending plan to make sure that you don’t spend all of your money.
Once you’ve organized your budget plan, you should re-evaluate it every month to make sure that you’re on track.
Budget managing apps
There are a lot of apps out there that can help you manage your budget. They all have different methods and functionalities, so it’s important to understand what they offer and which features are most important to you.
First up, we have Mint and Fudget. Both of these apps are free and user-friendly. They use the estimated budget technique: at the beginning of the month, you estimate your expenses for each category. You then follow the monthly evolution of your estimated budget with what you’re actually spending and make adjustments as needed.
Mint also allows you to import your bank transactions automatically, making it much easier for you to manage your finances all in one place.
If you’re willing to shell out a few bucks, YNAB is also a great option for managing your budget. Just like Mint, it automatically imports and categorizes your transactions. The difference between the two apps is in the budgeting technique: YNAB uses an envelope method—a time-tested technique since before the invention of the computer!
What’s an envelope method? We know you’re at the edge of your seats so we won’t keep you in suspense: with the envelope method you assign a job to each of the dollars you earn. By doing this, you categorize your available money instead of basing it on the money you think you earn. You then spend according to the money you have available.
As added value, YNAB also offers educational content such as podcasts and blogs, so you can keep learning about how to gain control of your money.