Taking Your Budget to the Next Level

You know about the basics of writing a budget. Maintaining a zero balance income, tracking your daily spending, and monitoring your overall process every quarter or so. But do you know how to take it to the next level?

Once the basics start to feel a little boring, it’s important to keep challenging yourself when it comes to managing your money and making progress. That’s where today’s post comes in: three tips for bringing your budgeting to the next level.

next level budgeting

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Customize your spreadsheet to track everything you care about

Whether you’re using a simple spreadsheet (I like Cait’s spreadsheet, which she lets us use for free) or a pen-and-paper method, you’re tracking your income and expenses and you’ve manipulated some spreadsheet plus and minuses to manage your monthly paychecks. Bravo! The next level is about taking the time to customize your budget even further.

Look into a budgeting software program that will help you get down to the nitty-gritty details (or, on the other hand, one that will let you ignore those details but make more progress).

The key here is that you’re looking for specific numbers you really care about, not just numbers you’re “supposed” to care about, like income and expense. For you, those numbers could be how much debt you’ve paid off over time, or how much debt you have left to pay. Whichever numbers motivate you more, those are the ones to track.

Really think about what you want to spend money on

You might have some fixed costs that aren’t going anywhere (see: college loans, car payment, etc). But what about your food spending? Vacations? Gifts to family members?

The most important thing your money can do for you is take you where you want to be. If you have a partner, sit down and talk about your money. What’s more important to you, being well-travelled or spending money on local and high-quality foods? Do a double check to make sure your budget reflects that intentional choice and you won’t have regrets.

Start tracking seasons, not just paychecks

Christmas budgets are very popular — but consider expanding that to every season coming up that you and your family celebrate. Maybe your family needs a special spring budget because of all the travel you do in the spring. Or, more likely, a special summer budget for birthdays, trips, and vacations. Whatever suits your lifestyle, start planning for it (just don’t expect many others to have a St. Patrick’s Day budget….).

Have you taken your budget to the next level lately? What are you doing differently?

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19 thoughts on “Taking Your Budget to the Next Level

  1. I found a great excel budget that I loved, but wanted to take it to the next level. It had many categories that didn’t apply to me so I cleaned it up first, then I started adding in all sorts of charts. I charted how much I was saving monthly and annually into various accounts and what percentage of my overall income I was saving. Seeing that information instead of just income/expenses really helps keep the motivation alive on a boring part of personal finance.

  2. A few years ago I started doing a Summer budget so that there would be cash for the little extras that come up, whether it be camping or a roadtrip or a round of golf. I also started doing a Back to School budget to have things in place for school fees, supplies, a few new clothes etc. I was amazed at how much stress it took off those times of year.

    • What a great idea! I always wondered how something could surprise you when it happens every year… then I grew up and got a job and Christmas surprises me every year. Summer and B2S are great seasons to have special budgets!

  3. I have a budget spreadsheet that has our monthly and annual expenses, as well as monthly savings goals. There are two times of the year that are higher expense for us, but are not in my spreadsheet: Summer vacation & Christmas. I’ll have to think about how to add these into the spreadsheet, but it should help in the coming years. Thanks for the prod.

  4. I like the idea of seasonal budgets. There’s usually a little traveling, camping mostly, that we do in the summer and I never budget for it. Though camping is inexpensive in terms of taking a trip, it still adds up once you factor in gas, food, and the camp site. Great idea that I’m going to incorporate into my savings plan.

  5. I love your advice about communicating. The key to my budget is that we meet weekly to talk about our spending. That way we each look at the bills together, our investments, and everyone is on top of the process. …plus, because we do it weekly, the meeting lasts about 15 minutes! Bam!

  6. Awesome tips! After a while, budgeting can feel like old hat, but I’ve found if you slack off on it, you’re going to pay for it- literally. I like to update my budget every 3 months or so, or sooner, depending on what has changed.

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