The first rule of making a personal budget — keep it simple

Send to Kindle

Rules. No-one likes rules. But we all realize that if we didn’t follow traffic rules and stop at a red light, our streets would be chaos. If you want to have a successful personal budget, you have to follow the rules (in this case one simple rule).

Many people believe that there are a lot of rules to follow when making a personal budget. People believe you must work on your budget every day, and keep track of every penny you spend, or else your budget won’t work. Most people think budgets are a lot of work.

Most people also believe that budgets are hard. They think you need to be an accountant to be able to create and maintain a personal budget.

Budgets can be a lot of work, but they don’t need to be, if you follow the First Rule of Making a Personal Budget: Keep it Simple. Yes, like a lot of things in life, the KISS rule applies to your personal budget.

Don’t try to create a complicated series of linked spreadsheets with fancy graphs and tables. Don’t try to master the most complicated personal budgeting software. Don’t believe that you have to go to school and study bookkeeping and accounting to make your budget work for you. Keep it simple.

Start with a blank piece of paper, or a blank spreadsheet, and make a list of what you spend money on every month. That’s right, you are not making a budget; you are making a list — how easy is that?

Most people can’t even make a list of what they spend each month, because they have no idea what they spend their money on. No problem. Keep it simple. Get a pencil and a piece of paper, and carry them with you everywhere. Whenever you spend money, write in down. At the end of a normal week, you will have a good idea of where you spend your money.

You could then take your week’s worth of notes and make a monthly budget. But, to make your budget even simpler, do a separate budget for every pay check, or make a separate column on your spreadsheet for every paycheck. That means if you get paid every week, have a column for every week.

Then, make a plan for how you will spend every paycheck. It’s much simpler to decide how to spend your paycheck this week than it is to try to budget for the next six months.

Read that sentence again: make a plan for how you will spend your money. That’s the only reason for making a budget. By keeping track of where your money goes, you can make a plan to spend your money where you want to spend it.

If you keep it simple, your budget will be a success. And remember, if you don’t follow this simple rule, your personal finances will be a mess, and you could have to declare personal bankruptcy. So keep it simple, because proper budgeting is the best personal bankruptcy alternative.