5 Steps to Effective Personal Budget Monitoring

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Budget monitoring has a bad rep. Less eating out. Less shopping. You may have to think twice about that vacation to Hawaii. But while moderation is the purpose of keeping a budget, it doesn’t exist to deprive you of life’s best things. Its main purpose, on the contrary, is to keep you happier longer. 

Monitoring your personal budget allows you to see how much money you have coming in along with how those funds are spent. It’s absolutely crucial in maintaining a healthy financial future as it helps you make the most of your money. 

Budgeting is essential, regardless of your economic standing. Anyone who handles money can benefit from creating and managing a personal budget. However, budget monitoring strategies differ from person to person depending on their financial situation.

There are, however, five general tips anyone who is looking to save can follow. 

This article will walk you through the entire budget monitoring process along with tips on how personal financing apps like CountAbout can help make your budgeting considerably easier.

Ready for a healthier financial future? Read on below. 

Selecting a budgeting system

Tracking your budget is essential in staying on top of your finances. Organization and attention to detail are crucial in determining your budget’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to know exactly which budget categories are dwindling so you know what to cut back on.

Here are a couple of ways to track your income and expenses. 

Notebook and pen

This is the most traditional method of budget monitoring, and also the least expensive. This method requires you to jot down all your sources of income along with your daily expenses.

If the balance or give you room to save, then you’re good to go. 

Spreadsheets

Microsoft Excel is a popular choice for budget monitoring. You’ll find a variety of websites that offer free samples of Excel budgeting worksheets instead of having to create one your own.

Spreadsheets can organize your financial details easily while doing the math for you. 

Financial Apps

CountAbout website

By far, the best personal budget management system to use are financial budgeting apps like CountAbout. This versatile platform has a comprehensive suite of tools that cover all bases in managing your finances.

It’s customizable and easy to use, and costs almost half the price of other personal financing apps.  

CountAbout allows you to import files from multiple financial institutions so you can craft an effective budget for your business or personal use. 

See Related: 13 Best Mint Alternatives to Better Your Finances

Five Steps for Budget Monitoring 

There are a plethora of budgeting strategies and tips – some will work for you, while others will not. There are, however, five rudimental steps in creating an effective budget. Going through these tips step by step is integral as they build on one another. 

Step 1: Set your goals

Bullseye arrow

In budget monitoring, there are two types of financial goals: immediate and long-range. Focusing on how to use your money on the daily are immediate goals, while saving and spending money over years are long-range goals. Both of these goals are integral in budgeting for one reason: how you spend today will impact how much you’ll save later in life. 

To set these goals, it’s essential to find out what goals will address necessities and which goals will cover luxuries. After determining these two, you’ll be able to prioritize which financial goals you should focus on first. 

To help you better categorize immediate goals from long-range goals, here are a few tips. 

  • Immediate goals will include expenses that come in a recurring basis. These may include your rent or mortgage payment, bills, food, child care, household supplies, and car loans.  
  • Long-range goals could include investments, retirement savings, or charitable donations. 
  • Once you’ve created a budget for immediate goals and cut extraneous expenses, you can use whatever is left to save towards paying down high-interest debt or an emergency fund. 

How CountAbout can help: 

CountAbout budget dashboard

When you begin budgeting monitoring, creating and executing a budget is integral. CountAbout allows you to create a working budget so you can manage your expenses better. After creating a budget, you will then be able to enter your monetary transactions.

And here’s where CountAbout’s very specific categories come into play. 

CountAbout allows you to properly categorize your income and expenses so you can help track the flow of money on a monthly basis. With a recorded transaction history, you’ll be able to better estimate how much money you will spend in a year as well.  

Step 2: Calculate your income and expenses 

After establishing your financial goals, you’ll have to conduct a personal budget analysis in order to achieve them.

A great way to do this is to evaluate your income and expenses. Most people create their budgets on a monthly basis as most bills pile in on a monthly schedule.

Begin by listing out your monthly income sources (e.g. salary after taxes, bonuses, child support, alimony). If you don’t have an exact amount of your monthly income, find an estimate. 

The next step would be calculating your expenses. These fall into three categories: variable committed expense, fixed committed expense, and discretionary expense.  

  • Fixed expenses have a fixed amount that you pay monthly, such as rent or mortgage.
  • Variable expenses vary month after month, such as groceries or gasoline.
  • Discretionary expenses are optional expenses for leisure. Eating out, paying for your gym membership, or watching a movie are examples of discretionary expenses. This type of expense is the first to go if you have no budget left for fixed and variable expenses. 

How CountAbout can help:

CountAbout records

CountAbout allows you to import files from your bank and a plethora of financial institutions to help you develop a working budget for various uses. 

The platform allows you to set different categories to track your finances. Unlike other platforms, CountAbout’s categories are beautifully specific.

Under the income section, you can set your Bonus, Reimbursements, Interest Income, Rental Income, or Paycheck. 

Under the expenses section, you can set expenses for entertainment, personal care, education, auto and transport, and bills and utilities, among others. Each category comes with subcategories that allow you to micromanage your expenses. 

See Related: How to Drastically Cut Expenses – 12 Proven Methods

Step 3: Analyze your spending

The main goal of budget monitoring is to ascertain that your expenses fall below your income. If you have more money going out than coming in, then that’s your cue to make adjustments.

While this doesn’t mean you need to penny-pinch, you may need to revisit your discretionary cost category to see what expenses you can let go of.

Here are some tips on how to manage your expenses. 

  • Record all your purchases and deposits. 
  • Download and/or print out your monthly bank statement.
  • Calculate your own withdrawals and deposits to ascertain that your bank hasn’t missed anything. Make sure that your check records are the same as your statement. 
  • Go through your monthly statement to check what has cleared and what hasn’t. If you see a deposit that hasn’t cleared, you’ll have to subtract it from your balance. Checks that haven’t cleared will be added to your balance until they are cleared. 
  • Look through your bank statements for fees you’ve been charged. You may be able to call your bank and ask them to remove some of these fees once you see them up close. 

How CountAbout can help: 

CountAbout categories

CountAbout’s scheduling feature allows you to schedule your payments and work them into your budget. This helps you stay on top of your immediate goals such as making recurring payments.

If you have a monthly phone bill coming out, CountAbout can account for that.  

With scheduling, you can track your recurring payments, see your remaining budget, and track all ongoing payments. Users may also generate a copy of their budget during the coming months.

If you know what you’re spending for, you can make better financial decisions. 

CountAbout report creation

CountAbout’s Report Creation tool allows you to generate six types of reports: category report, account report, tag report, and compound report. The category report allows you to track expenses in each category, while the account report tracks your income and outgoing cash flow in a specific linked account.  

Tag reports generate reports of tags you assign for your expenses, while the compound report is a combination of all three.

To generate a compound report, you need to select a date range while choosing which of the accounts, categories, and tags you want to include in the document.

Users may also compare their compound report with their budget to see how they are faring financially. 

Step 4: Make adjustments

Once you’ve monitored your income and expenses for some time, you’ll be able to determine which areas of your budget need adjusting.

Go back to your income and expense calculation and check if any of the initial inputs you made were off.

Continue making adjustments while balancing your inflows with outflows.  

Here are a couple of tips on making adjustments. 

  • Verify sources of additional income and adjust your categories accordingly. If you were recently promoted, consider increasing your discretionary spending and the amount you store in your savings account. If you’ve been laid off or relegated to fewer hours, you need to consider cutting back on a few categories until your income is restored. 
  • Don’t forget to save. Most financial planners advise that everyone should have savings that amount to six months of their total income. This should be enough to tide you over during emergencies or job loss. Avoid the temptation of dipping into your emergency fund by opening a separate savings account. 

See Related: 7 Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget 

Step 5: Commit to your budget 

There’s a great deal of discipline required in sticking to a budget: overspending can be tempting, and the need to consistently record your income and expenses are sometimes so tedious that you’d want to completely forget about it. 

Remember, budget monitoring keeps you away from being stuck in a financial rut while allowing you to enjoy life’s little luxuries. You’re doing this to stay happier in the long run. 

See Related: Different Types of Income You Need to Know

More about CountAbout

CountAbout’s robust features make it one of the best tools to include in your budget monitoring process.

Here’s more about what this powerful software can offer. 

Integrations 

CountAbout is a budget monitoring app that’s one of the very few budgeting tools that can import data from Quicken and Mint.

If you’re one of the many people who use Quicken or Mint to track their spending, CountAbout can import your data easily. After logging in, you’ll get options to have it done automatically.

Apart from importing from Mint and Quicken, you can also important transactions in real-time from over 12,000 financial institutions.

This means you don’t have to manually input and track each purchase you make. 

CountAbout Pricing 

CountAbout comes with a free 15-day trial where the user can test out the platform’s features.

Those who want to continue can select any of the following paid options.

Basic Plan

Pricing: $9.99 annually

CountAbout’s Basic Plan includes all the platform’s features, except for automatic downloading of credit card, banking, and financial transactions. Users will have to enter the transactions manually.

All users who sign up for CountAbout’s Basic Account can try out CountAbout Premium free for 15 days. After the trial, users will then be asked to continue with either the basic plan or the premium plan. 

Premium Plan

Pricing: $39.99 annually

CountAbout’s Premium Plan offers all the platform’s features.  

Add-ons

Users can purchase add-ons once subscribed to either premium or basic packages. You can add images to your transactions for $10 a year additional, or generate, send, and track invoices for $60 a year additional. 

Simplifi

Besides using CountAbout, Simplifi is another great money-managing app that can turn your finances around. It is a fresh approach, by Wirecutter, to better management of your finances.

As a product of a trusted market leader (makers of Quicken), this personal finance app is designed to ensure you are always on top of your finances. It also makes it easy for you to achieve your financial goals and plans with confidence.

The app comprises some of the best money management and budget monitoring tools in the market, to guarantee streamlined finances.

Simplifi Features

Unlike other personal finance apps, Simplifi gives you a comprehensive view of your finances. For instance, it allows you to set up watchlists, which helps you to track your expenditures. Also, the app enables you to define your savings goals, helping you to achieve financial freedom.

Here are the main features that make the app unique:

Custom Watchlists

If you want it customized, Simplifi is the app for you. Instead of the usual one-size-fits-all plan, the app allows you to tailor your watchlists based on your spending and personal financial goals.

Comprehensive and Intuitive (all-in-one)

This budget monitoring app is the best in these fields. It gives you a comprehensive view of all your investments, bank accounts, credit cards, and loans on a single dashboard that is easy to understand.

This makes planning relatively easy and financial growth pretty achievable.

Bills and Income Tracker

When you want to track your income or expenditure, Simplifi offers the best solution. Knowing how much money you make and how much you spend every month is the beginning of a healthy financial life.

You can’t manage your money if you don’t understand these two cash flows. And, the Simplifi personal finance app offers the best tools for this.

A Positive Approach

The app uses a glass-half-full attitude, helping you achieve the set financial goals with ease.

Flexibility

With Simplifi, you can easily customize your money management. It allows you to create new categories, set your own limits, watchlists, and expenditure plans, without hindrances.

Zero Ads

You won’t have to worry about too many annoying ads. Simplifi offers an excellent, ad-free experience, allowing you to effortlessly achieve your goals.

Simplifi Pricing

If you want to make sure that what we are saying about Simplifi is true, the app offers a 30 days trial period. During this time, you will have access to all the money management tools that the app offers for free.

If you are satisfied with what you see, you can choose either of these two affordable pricing plans to continue.

Monthly Plan

This one goes for only $3.99 every month and gives you access to all the features mentioned above.

Annual Plan

If you want to save some bucks, this plan allows you to do just that. When you subscribe to the annual plan, you end up paying just $2.99 a month, allowing you to save up to 25%.

Both of these plans will give you a free 30-days trial period without having to pay a dime.

If you are tired of unorganized financial records, Simplifi gives you a chance to have all this sorted out. Get to see all your incomes and expenses from a single organized dashboard.

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