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Types of Budgets: What Is Your Budgeting Style?

budgeting types
Table of Contents  
  1. Reverse Budgeting
  2. Balanced Money Formula
  3. The Envelope System
  4. Budget Management Tools

Budgeting sucks. No one really wants to do it. It’s hard to stick with, it’s a chore to review it every month and it makes you feel like crap when you spend way too much on lattes. But, you’re an adult so you need to do it. There are a few types of budgets, which one is right for you?

We’re getting back to basics of budgeting. Both Thomas and Andrew have been off the rails with their own budgets so get ready for some confessions. They will discuss different types of budgets, how they work and which ones are the least painful.

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Reverse Budgeting

This budgeting method focuses on savings goals. Instead of setting up budget categories to look at your spending, create savings goals and whatever is left you have to spend. Start allocating money at the top of your priority list and work your way down.

Pay yourself first. Retirement, savings, and emergency fund are put aside first. Next are fixed expenses such as mortgage/rent, utilities, car payment, etc. Third are non-fixed expenses.

Anything that can fluctuate from month to month, such as groceries and gas. After that comes debt payments. Anything that is left over can be used for fun stuff like eating out, travel, fancy coffee or whatever else you like to treat yourself with.

Balanced Money Formula

You may have heard the balanced money formula also called the 50-30-20 rule. It’s a budget framework outlined by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren in their book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. It is a very simple type of budgets.

Fifty percent of your take-home pay goes towards fixed expenses and necessities like food, housing, utilities and ideally all this should be should be kept at 35%.

Thirty percent of your take-home can be spent on wants like eating out, treating yourself to a new dress, electronics, etc.

The last twenty percent goes right into retirement accounts, savings and emergency funds.

50-30-20 rule

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The Envelope System

Ah, the good old envelope system. This was a great way to keep your budget and savings goals in check before budget management tools were created,

This method may seem is old-fashioned, but it’s great for those who are you are just starting out on their financial journey. Also for people who need to whip their financial ass back into shape.

This is a cash budget method so you won’t need to check credit card balances to see how much you spend. Start by looking at what your monthly cash flow is and what you have been spending in different categories.

Once you know those numbers, get our your envelopes allocated your expenses. Every dollar has a name and a job. $200 for groceries, $75 for gas, $150 phone, etc.

envelope system

By giving yourself a set amount of money in your envelope to use towards a specific category, it will help you control your spending. When there is no more money in the envelope, you can not spend any more in that category. If you absolutely need more money, cut from another category to cover the access.

Budget Management Tools

Personal Capital – This is the Mint.com for investors. They will track your investments, analyze your investments and suggest ways to improve things like your 401k allocation. I use this as a tool to monitor my diversification and risk levels. This is for more advanced investors.

Mint – Create budgets that make sense today and set you up for success tomorrow. Receive alerts for unusual account charges, and get custom tips for reducing fees and saving money. We also wrote a book to help you get started called Mastering Mint.

You Need a Budget – The most popular “envelope system” approach and frequently mentioned as the best alternative to Mint.

Varo – Intuitive and personalized solutions for simplifying and automating routine planning and transactional tasks, creating ways to make it really easy to control spending, set and achieve savings goals, and reduce debt.

Pocketsmith – PocketSmith is personal finance software with cash flow forecasts. Understand your money and its potential. Start saving today.

There are major differences between these types of accounting softwares, so be sure to review them carefully beforehand.

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