Budgeting is the foundation to financial success. Everything is built on a budget.
A budget is what lets you have fun without guilt. It gives you the power over your money and lets you take control.
These simple budget tips will help you take control and reduce the overwhelm.
Budgeting for beginners can be confusing at first especially the first couple of months. These budgeting tips will help you get started on the right foot with your budget.
Even if you have a budget, but are having a hard time sticking to it or are still wondering where your money is going, these simple budgeting tips will help you with your budget.
A budget will help you pay off debt or save for emergencies or retirement. EVERYTHING starts with your budget.
My #1 budgeting tip is to just start one. Even if you don’t make enough money or you never seem to have enough. A budget is where you will find where it’s going and decide where it should go instead. It won’t be perfect for the first couple of months. Give yourself some grace and learn from your mistakes.
To help you succeed with your budget, I asked 50+ top money experts what their #1 budgeting tip was and why. There are almost 60 budgeting tips here and I was pleasantly surprised that they are all different. There are a few similar concepts but they are all different answers.
These simple yet easy to implement tips will help you stop living paycheck to paycheck and start saving money. So, you can pay off your debt fast!
Low on time? Grab the Top 10 Budget Tips here:
50+ Budgeting Tips From The Top Money Experts
Michelle, Making Sense of Cents:
My top budgeting tip is to be realistic with your income and expenses! What you want is to create a realistic budget. To show you where your money is coming from and where it is going, you need to gather all of your receipts, bank and credit card transactions, and so on. After one month of closely tracking your income and spending, I’m sure you’ll be surprised by your results.
This is the best way to create a realistic budget, as you will truly see where your money is going, and this will help show you how much should be dedicated towards each category in your budget. And, you may be thinking – but I have a good idea already and I don’t need to do this! However, the average person just guestimates everything, and is actually pretty wrong when it comes to what they actually earn each month and how much they actually spend.
Track your net worth!! Budgeting is awesome, but tracking your net worth may prove to be even more motivating (and easy!) to stay on top of every month. It feels good to know how all your efforts are paying off every month, and if you do it *in conjunction* with budgeting there’s no way for it to catapult! Try it out!
The best budgeting tip you can do for yourself and your family is to go through your monthly bills every quarter. So often, life creeps up on us. Little $10 fees here, $12 costs there, and suddenly, you’re paying an additional $50-$100/month in excess charges that are automatically taken out of your Paypal account or bank account and you don’t see them or remember they’re even being taken out.
If every quarter, you go through all your financial institutions and all your monthly bills (calling bill companies to see if you can get them lower), you can save quite a bit! Those kinds of things sure do add up quickly!
Kumiko, The Budget Mom:
Make your budget realistic to what’s happening in your real world. Do the leg work and analyze your spending before you attempt to write down numbers on a piece of paper. Your budget will never be successful unless it’s a true representation of you and what your life really looks like.
Grayson, Debt Roundup:
Don’t get complacent with your budget every month. Always check to see where you can trim the “fat” off certain categories. The more you understand your budget and how it can change, the better you’ll do at actual budgeting. If you think your budget is good, think again, and analyze it to make sure you’re not overspending somewhere. Lifestyle creep can hit you at any time.
Kelan, The Savvy Couple:
Our #1 budgeting tip is actually doing it! So many times we have had family, friends, and readers ask us how to manage their money and meet financial goals. The answer almost always comes back to budgeting. Once you stick to a budget and make it a habit to review every couple of weeks your life completely changes. You no longer get stressed about paying the bills, confused where your money is going, or frustrated that you can’t make any progress on your debt. A budget is not limiting it’s freeing!
Meghan, Family Finance Mom:
Budgets are a living, breathing guide… it’s not something you set up once, and live by for years. The best benefit from a budget comes from reviewing your actual spending relative to your budget every month, learning from it, and making adjustments for moving forward.
Tracie, Penny Pinchin Mom:
You have to revisit it at least once a month. You have the best budget app or the perfect written budget, but if you don’t check it monthly it will not work. Carve out time to sit down and look it over. If you have a spouse or partner, make sure they review it with you because together you can succeed – or fail.
Don’t buy on impulse: The frenzied nature of holiday shopping – the sales, the deadlines, the crowds – can lead to some pretty poor spending decisions. A recent study conducted found that 88.6% of American adults have fallen prey to the impulsive online shop, totaling an estimated $17.78 billion on items they haven’t thought through. Take time to research the purchases you’ve allowed for within your budget to avoid wasting money.
Jeff, Dollar Sprout:
My #1 budgeting tip is probably one of the simplest tips you will get: actually MAKE a budget.
I think too many people, when they decide to “budget”, just try to get a rough idea of where their money is going. What ends up happening is that little exceptions are made here and there, until eventually you are right back where you started! If you actually take the time to write down your budget on paper and check in regularly (once a week at first, then once a month), you are much more likely to succeed.
My number one budget tip is making freezer meals! Every four to six weeks I like to make up a whole bunch of inexpensive, healthy and easy freezer meals in one day to use throughout the month. Honestly, it’s hard work on that one day doing all that cooking but is so worth it. It saves me money because first off, I’m not grocery shopping every single week. And we all know that trip to the grocery store can be tempting to add in a bunch of extra stuff that is not on your list. All of a sudden I have a whole cart full of random items I was tempted by. So less trips to the store = more money savings for me.
Secondly, it saves me money because I can find meats on sale and purchase foods in bulk to save money as well. And lastly, having all those meals in my freezer makes dinner time so much less stressful. I find myself grabbing a meal from my freezer, popping it into the Instant Pot or slow cooker and dinner is ready in less than an hour. I’m less tempted to go out to eat because I’m exhausted and don’t want to make dinner that night, saving me money as well. Freezer meals are by far my best money saving budgeting tip
James, Dinks Finance:
Make a budget – they are excellent exercises for understanding where your money is going, but remember that they’re more like guidelines. If you go over a specific category by 5 or 10 dollars, its not something that makes sense to worried about.
Heidi, The Frugal Girls:
Take a hard look at everything you spend money, and try to spend as little as possible. This will ignite your savings rate immediately!
Lan, The Practical Saver:
I like to include savings as an “expense” in my budget even though I already have savings under the “income” category. This may not sound a wise decision, but it works all the time. By placing savings under the expense category, I am able to save more.
I use that savings expense for short-term needs, which means that I prevent myself from dipping my hands into my true savings account. When my miscellaneous budget is used up and I still need to pay some important bills, I use my “savings” expense to pay those bills. Whatever is left out of my “savings” expense at the end of the month is transferred to my true savings.
Amanda, Wallet Win:
Have a budget party…what i mean by that is to make the budget meeting FUN by bringing along a special snack/beverage. make it something to look forward to because IT SHOULD BE! Every budget gets you one step closer to your financial goals and that’s worth getting jazzed about. Too many people make it out to be a drab, dull activity because they don’t see it this way.
Hank, Money Qanda:
You should include a little fun money in your budget. You should have a small amount set aside to just blow with no questions asked. Budgeting is hard, and a lot of us don’t stick to it for one reason or another. Maybe you feel like you have to justify every purchase to your spouse or significant other. But, having a little bit of money that you can spend without worrying can help you stick to the other categories in your budget.
Shane, Beating Broke:
Keep it simple. The more complex you make your budget, the harder you will find it to keep to it, and the harder you will find it to motivate yourself to continue doing the budget. A budget can be a very valuable tool to maintaining you personal finances and working towards your financial goals, so don’t add any roadblocks that you don’t have to.
David, Finance Superhero:
My biggest budgeting tip for anyone is a simple word of caution: Your budget is a plan, so you should plan for it to fail.
I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but the truth is that plenty of things can go wrong and derail your budget in a hurry. Your car will break down a few weeks before Christmas, your kids will get sick at 2AM and need to go to the ER, and the list goes on and on. However, if you take the time to build-up a solid emergency fund, your budget won’t have to take a hit each time Murphy’s Law strikes.
Charrisa, Cook With a Shoe:
My biggest tip is to prioritize your budget with the four essentials, food, lights/water, housing and transportation first. Then list everything else down in order of priority. When you get paid, go down the list and pay everything in order.
Each month create a new prioritized budget and give every dollar a name before the month begins.
Brian, My Millennial Guide:
A wise man once said wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants. To spend less, you should take into consideration that true wealth involves learning to be content with what you have and not being envious of others. It does not involve buying expensive things, but in having few wants. Learning not to keep up with the Joneses is a great way to reduce reckless overspending.
Debbie Sassen, financial coach:
Track your money. People have no clue what they’re spending their money on. Especially in this digital age and due to the use of credit and credit cards, people are totally disconnected from what’s happening with their money, where it’s going and the consequences of their spending choices.
Tracking (when you look at what’s happening) brings awareness. And awareness gives you choice. When you know where you’re money’s going, you can make different choices. You can tell your money where to go rather than it telling you where it went.
Liz, Less Debt More Wine:
My number one tip would be to work with what works for you. When I found myself struggling to stick to my budget for expenses that varied month to month, I found that opening a separate checking account for those expenses and only carrying that debit card around worked a lot better for me, than trying to do something like a cash envelope system. If you’re struggling with budgeting, experiment with different methods and don’t be afraid to make a certain method your own by tweaking it in a way that works for you.
Misty, Not Another Thing:
Automate as much as possible! Make it harder for yourself to mess up.
Amanda, Live Cheap and Travel Often:
My biggest tip is to have a clear idea of your motivation and why you want to stick to your budget and live more frugally. Without a clear ‘why ‘ the hard parts of a budget lifestyle will be that much harder. Having a clear vision of your goals and motivation keeps you going!
Peter, Bible Money Matters:
Make sure you actually track your spending, even if it is only for a month or two. While it can be a pain, it can be an eye opening experience to actually see what you’re spending on eating out, entertainment expenses, shopping and more. Often you’ll be spending much more than you even realized.At our house we knew we were spending a lot on eating out, for example, but until we actually tracked the expense we didn’t really understand just how much. The amount we were spending was enough for a mortgage payment on a small house! Track your spending – even if you only do it every once in a while to get a handle on where you are.
Pay yourself first when getting paychecks. Put the money toward your bills and savings (and other money-saving goals you have) and then use the leftover money on fun outings and entertainment. This process makes it a lot easier to increase your savings every month rather than just saying you’ll save money. Take action and less talk!
R.J. Weiss, The Ways to Wealth:
Expect to fail in your first month. Budgeting is a skill, and with any skill, it takes time to learn. If you go in with the mindset that your budget needs to be perfect from the start you’ll quit. Instead, take the long-term view. Know that budgeting is a skill you want to learn and expect it to be a bumpy ride at the beginning.
The best budgeting tips I can give you is to learn to live within your means as much as you can. When I become pregnant with my daughter, I immediately knew I had to be strategic about how I spend my money moving forward. I immediately cut off my coffee habits (I am pretty sure I was forced to do it due to the pregnancy), but that helped. $4 a day could be spent elsewhere. We immediately canceled cable but I signed up for a cheaper option instead – Netflix and shared the fee with my best friend! Win-Win! I negotiated a better cellphone and internet plan which saved me so much money! And we got rid of the house phone line. As you can see, we did everything to cut down and or eliminate things that we know longer needed or those that were just outrageous. When I eventually went on maternity leave, I didn’t feel as stressed.
Don’t eat your money.Food is easily the second largest expense you have and can become the first easy if you love food. Make sure that you don’t let it. Learn to cook the meals you really enjoy, and if you have to spend more, do so with coupons, lunch deals, etc.
After you have the basics of a budget in place, meaning you know exactly how much money is coming in and going out each month, I believe the #1 tip for continued success is to track your net worth. Even if you’re digging your way out of debt, you will be able to watch your net worth go UP each month after paying the bills. In my household, it was (and still is) our single biggest motivator when we decided to get our financial act together.
Avoid unnecessary deals. Unless the product or service is essential, you lose EVERY SINGLE TIME you purchase a “deal”. Buying a $100 discretionary product at a 50% discount does NOT mean you saved $50, it means you SPENT an additional $50 outside of your budget!
If you’re married, living together, or thinking about marrying someone, do a budget together before every month. Even if one person earns more of the money or one person is “good with money,” you will both stick to your budget better because you both had a say in where the money should go. You’ll learn a lot about one another’s habits and values by deciding where your money should go together.
My husband and I were both teachers, but because we budget together before every month, we’ve paid off $60k in student loans, put down $50k on our home, cut our income by 60% so I could stay home with our kids, and paid cash for 4 vehicles.
It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t fail at budgeting. A budget is a living document (a plan) that helps you get the things you want in life. Carrying out your plan takes practice + tweaking, and that’s normal for everyone. To make it better each month, track your money AS you spend it and adjust for things that weren’t in the budget (instead of chalking them up as unusual expenses.) Stick with it and you’ll have a plan that works for your financial life.
View your savings as a bill you need to pay, before you pay any other bills. Paying yourself first is a key way to improve your finances. Not only does this help grow an emergency fund, but it helps provide a foundation for your future. It doesn’t matter what amount you start with, just set up an automatic transfer to your savings account. Just remember, as you find more savings or earn more you should increase the savings to maximize your efforts.
Keep Your Budgeting System SimpleDon’t have more than 20 to 23 categories in your budget system. Someone came to us with a budget that had 40 categories in it. We explained that this would become very difficult to work with on a regular basis. Keeping it streamline will better ensure that you will stick with it.The simplest budget that we’ve seen only has 3 categories and they are done in cash.The idea is to take the areas where you most commonly overspend and manage only these categories with cash envelopes.For most people these categories would include:– Groceries– Entertainment/Recreation (eating out, movies etc)– Clothes
Make sinking funds a key part of your budget process. Too many people struggle to pay for regular or planned expenses like Christmas gifts, new tires, or a house repair you know is needed. The magic of sinking funds is that you not only plan ahead for these, but you save ahead of time. You’re able to pay for it when the time comes so that you don’t have to dip into your emergency fund or rack up credit card debt to cover the costs.
Have a category for “things forgotten about” or “unexpected expenses”. This is different than having an emergency fund. It can cover things like a parking ticket, a membership fee that you forgot you had, a birthday present you remember you need to get, and things of that nature. You don’t have to have a lot in the category fund, but this
will help prevent you from going over budget or needing to dip into your emergency fund or savings.
Stop using money as a tool to make you happy.
When we use money as a vehicle to get our needs met, it typically leads to out of control spending and massive debt. Learning to identify what you need when your angry, sad, happy, celebratory, lonely, bored and all the other emotions that can cross our minds at any given moment is the best tool to help you stop using money and shopping to give yourself a boost.
This isn’t always necessarily easy. It requires you to be able to recognize in the moment what you’re doing and make a conscious choice to do something different. Just like with emotional eating, recognizing what’s happening is the first step to ending the use of money and shopping in this way.
Next time you find yourself using money as a mechanism to make yourself feel better, grab a paper and pen and jot down what’s going on. Identify what emotions are being triggered and the event that is triggering them. Then brainstorm ways in which you can get your needs met without resorting to shopping. Next time it happens you will be better prepared to make a different choice.
Remember, you can’t shop your way to happy.
Lance, Money Manifesto:
My number one budgeting tip is to start by building a budget you can live with. In the beginning, you may be motivated to try to cut out as many expenses as possible to try to boost your savings as high as you can or pay off debt as fast as possible. Unfortunately, building an unrealistic budget will just make you hate budgeting. If you hate budgeting, you won’t continue to budget. Budgeting is a great tool to help you make smarter decisions with your money, but it should not be viewed as a negative process to make your life miserable. Instead, budget a little bit of fun money and be realistic with your budgeting categories in the beginning. As each month passes, look for ways you can optimize your budget without reducing the value you receive.
Amy, Daily Successful Living:
When preparing your budget always, always, always leave yourself a little bit of wiggle room. You don’t want a huge miscellaneous fund, but I’ve found that if I leave a small amount of wiggle room in my budget then it is easier for me to handle the unexpected last minute expenses.
Laura, Mom Envy:
My best tip is to find a budget organization system that works for you and stick with it. Whether it’s the envelop system, an app, planner, etc.
My #1 tip is to expect to change your budget after you’ve created it. Don’t expect perfection. Oh, and don’t quit. Budgeting is the most important factor in financial success. I’ve been budgeting for years and just this month I had to change my budget. I moved money from one of my goals so that I could order my kids’ school photos that I loved. We homeschooled for two years, so that budget item was long gone and forgotten. Budgets aren’t set in stone!
My #1 Budgeting Tip: Go Grocery Shopping With A List. I feel like the quickest way to break your budget during the month is to go grocery shopping unprepared. Grocery shopping with a list can really help you get the food you actually need and keep it all under budget. When you walk in that store without a list you end up aimlessly walking down isles grabbing things you “think” you need. We all know that what you think you need and what you actually need are rarely the same. You’ll end up spending more money than you budgeted for on food that will just sit in your pantry. Next time you go grocery shopping, put in the extra effort up front and make sure you have a list to help stay on track and under budget. Sticking to a grocery list can save you hundreds of dollars on groceries each month!!
Karen, Lightly Frayed:
My best budgeting tip is to not buy into the belief that expensive outings are a necessity or that they are even more fun than low-budget ones. I have saved my family thousands of dollars by hosting creative home parties, and organizing low-budget Spring break activities for the whole family.
Jenny, Living Life Loving Us:
I would have to say that the monthly budget meeting is by far our most helpful tip.The monthly budget meeting isn’t just about numbers. It’s about revisiting your goals, values, and plans and making the money you have coming in work towards achieving those things.Each month my hubby and I sit down and go over the following month’s budget. We look at our expected income and outgoing, including any irregular expenses like yearly car insurance payments or annual vet visits, and we adjust the budget accordingly.
Whatever it is, as long as you’re prepared for it then it’s manageable. Is it a 3 paycheck month? Hello ‘extra income’! It’s very rare that something comes up during the month that can’t be cash flowed through our miscellaneous budget line because we take a step back and prepare each month. This allows us to have clear eyes on where our money is going. FAR more importantly, we talk to one another. Budgeting and Financial Independence isn’t a recipe. It’s not something that you follow to a ‘T’ and become a millionaire.
It’s a personalized, ever changing plan that is individual to you, your family, and your situation. The key is talking about it, getting excited about something you are trying to achieve together. This single step is what keeps you motivated to stay on track month after month after month. You don’t feel deprived because you focus your money on your goals (which are ever changing). Whether your goal is to pay off a debt, retire early, or travel the world, it’s something you are striving for and willing to work at. Feel like you have cut back too much on groceries? Think you could afford to spend less your clothing budget? TALK ABOUT IT. The monthly budget meeting is your chance to get back on track and stay motivated. Budgeting isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle change!
Elena, Making Midlife Matter:
You will slip up. That’s a given. Evaluate why it happened and adjust your budget if necessary. You can even add a category for incidentals to your budget. Do whatever it takes to get back on track. If that means getting an accountability partner, do it! Don’t let a $100 mistake turn into thousands and quickly erase all the progress you have made.
Tia, Financially Fit and Fab:
A budget is a working document and every month is different! For example, its October so you may have additional expenses due to Halloween. That’s why it’s important to review your budget at least once a month and make updates as necessary.
Liv, Funding Cloud Nine:
Stay consistent! It’s really easy to get excited and pumped about budgeting one month, and then bored of it the next. Yo-yo dieting doesn’t work; neither does yo-yo budgeting. Don’t take a break from budgeting, even if you have a “bad”/expensive month. Find a system that works for YOU – it could be a free online budgeting software like mint.com, a paid program like YNAB.com, spreadsheets, or good old pen and paper. And then put in the work – consistently use your budgeting system each and every month.
Identify your long-term goals first and work backwards into a current budget that puts you on the path to achieve them. Too often we create budgets the way we think that we are supposed to and generally cut out as much as we think we can live with. Looking only at this short term can lead to resentment and then outright budget rebellion by splurging or treating ourselves. Budgeting with the end in mind marries the short-term to the long-term to create a plan with zero regrets.
Cara, The Financially Free Life:
Choosing one is really difficult but if I had to choose one, it would be to live below your means. The easiest way to get in over your head is by spending money like it is going out of style. Have a plan, make that plan one where you are living below your means, and then stick to the plan! Figure out a system that works for you (whether you track in an app, on paper, with cash envelopes) and make sure you are consistent with it.
Kendall, Perfect Cents Living:
My #1 budgeting tip would be to budget from a place of abundance. Your mindset is everything and if you’re budgeting from a place of scarcity, your budget is sure to fail. Constantly focusing on the lack when it comes to your money reinforces thoughts of “I never have enough”, which leads you into a perpetual cycle of being in a scarcity mindset. When you budget from a place of abundance you are accepting of the money you have and are giving your money a place to go (instead of wondering where it went!). You save and spend your money from a place of positivity. A few tips on getting into an abundant mindset is to practice gratitude, accept where you are in this present moment, and shift your negative thinking towards neutral or positive thoughts. Practicing this mindset is a great way to attract more abundance into your life and actually ENJOY your budget, rather than dread it.
Tawra, Living on a Dime:
Don’t spend more than you earn, period, NOT EVER!
Kristin, Cents and Purpose:
Your budget should reflect your financial goals. Setting clear financial goals is like creating a blueprint for your budget. Prioritizing your spending and saving accordingly will help you budget with purpose and reach your goals quickly! Be sure to track your progress and make adjustments when necessary to keep you moving forward!
Automate everything once you have a plan. Whether you are trying to pay off your mortgage in 5 years or saving for retirement. We all need to automate the plan for a better change at success. We are all really busy and to think that we are going to remember to save a certain amount every paycheck, or put away extra money for that trip we want to go on just never seems to happen. Get out of your own way and start to automate the things that are most important. It will free up your brain and lead you to success faster than if you were trying to do it all manually.
Find a bill you can cut in half, like cell phones or cable bills. For the last 2 years, I had been paying $250.00/month with Verizon Wireless for 2 cell phones. I paid the phones off right before Fincon and switched service providers and now my bill went from $250.00 per month to $90 per month.An annual savings of almost $2,000.This is important because sometimes we forget that it isn’t all about budgeting, but also how to decrease things we already budget for, to increase monthly cash flow.
My number one budgeting tip is to align your spending with your values. How you spend your money and your time says a lot about who you are and what you value. But it’s also easy to get into bad or even unconscious spending habits. That is why it’s a good idea to regularly review your spending to ensure you are spending money on what matters to you. So don’t let anyone tell you not to buy a latte because that adds up to $100 a month or over a thousand dollars a year. If you can afford it and you value it, then do it. On the other hand, find ways to cut expenses on things you no longer use or no longer value. A good place to start this process is to review your recurring expenses, subscriptions, and automated payments. Those tend to be the easiest to forget about, even if you no longer use or value them.
Know where your money is going. Too many people make a budget, don’t meet it, and wonder what happened. I highly suggest tracking your expenses- without making any changes- for a month, then setting up a budget.
Monica, Redefining Mom:
My tip is this: Always project out your yearly income so you know where you stand financially at any given time. For those of us who own our own businesses, that’s especially important. Since our income isn’t pre-determined, we need to have a good idea of what will be coming in whenever possible. I use a family budget spreadsheet to keep tabs on our household’s cashflow. I set up our yearly cash flow on a bi-weekly basis and project out all of our expenses for the entire year. As each week closes, I update the projections to real numbers. This helps us keep a pulse on any surpluses or deficits we are running for the entire year. We can make better financial decisions this way.
These budgeting tips are simple yet an effective way to stop living paycheck to paycheck and reducing your financial stress. Change doesn’t happen overnight but if you can commit to using at least a few of these tips one month at a time, you will save money and start controlling your money.
For more budgeting help, check out Budgeting for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide plus get your free budget worksheet.