Recently personal finance news headlines have been flooded with news of budgeting app, Mint, shutting down in January 2024. With over fifteen years in business and millions of users, this leaves many searching for where to go next for their budgeting needs.
Maybe the idea of using a budgeting app does not resonate with you. Perhaps the word ‘budget’ holds a negative connotation in your mind as it did with me for a very long time. I have vivid memories of my parents going through receipts and line by line through the checkbook, manually entering each number onto a spreadsheet on our home computer, and then saving to a floppy disk to revisit again the next month.
Now as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I can sense the same feelings a client or prospect has when they hear the word ‘budget’ as part of our meeting discussion. I have found over the years that hesitancy around budgeting comes from the overwhelming feeling of where to start, or fear that you are doing it wrong. If you find yourself falling into one of these two groups, I hope that the following bits will give you the encouragement to see budgeting in a different light.
#1: Don’t get bogged down in the ‘lingo’.
If you search for budgeting methods on your internet browser, you will find dozens of articles with different approaches of how to ‘best’ budget your money. You’ll hear terms like ‘the envelope system’, ‘the no-budget budget’, and ‘the 50/30/20 budget’, and so on. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by all the jargon when all you are probably really trying to do is be more responsible with your money and have an idea of where it all goes each month. Take away all the fancy names and a budget is simply a guideline created to make sure that the money coming in is equal or greater to the money going out each month.
#2: There is no one size fits all for tracking your finances.
Just like how people have different learning styles, you can expect people to approach budgeting differently. If you’re someone who is always within reach of your smartphone, a budgeting app may be the best way for you to regularly check in with your budget. If you work in Excel often, you may be happier checking and logging your monthly numbers there. You might find that an online program like Quicken best automates your transaction review and budget organization. The key is finding a system you’re comfortable with and sticking to it. Keep in mind that no matter what system you decide to use to track your finances, it’s going to take some legwork to create. Be realistic with yourself that you’re not going to have every line item figured out on the first day.
#3: Your budgeting habits will change over time.
I believe there is a common misconception that if you begin budgeting you’re going to have to continuously do it the exact same way for…well forever. In reality, what your budget may look like at 30 with kids will look different than what it does at 60 as an empty nester. Your budgeting habits will change. When you first begin budgeting, regardless of what that budget looks like, it’s a good idea to check in at least weekly so that you can keep yourself within the parameters you created. As budgeting becomes a regular habit, you’ll most likely find that checking in every few weeks or at the end of each month is enough to maintain a healthy budget.
The holiday season is upon us and while a new family budget may not be the present that your family hopes to receive, know that financial awareness and security are gifts that will keep on giving. If you’re unsure where to start or want trusted help, seek out a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.
Published in the Victoria Advocate
Sara Potts is a CFP® Professional and Lead Advisor with KMH Wealth Management, LLC.