My ultimate budgeting system

“What gets measured gets managed”

Measuring and managing your finances is your best shot at ensuring you’re heading in the direction of your financial goals.

It holds you accountable and helps you make important decisions to improve your results.

So what’s the best way to manage your personal finances?

Budgeting.

When you set a budget, you see exactly where your money goes and you can manage it according to your goals.

I spent months looking for a way to keep my finances on track and there are many budgeting systems out there. I tried downloading bank statements, updating spreadsheets, keeping notebooks and many other methods. I found services such as mint.com but got frustrated that I couldn’t use it in the UK and I was sceptical of the UK equivalents, plus the fact I’d lose my government savings protection, this seemed backwards to me.

Then I came across the popular envelope budgeting system by Dave Ramsey (http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/dave-ramseys-envelope-system). It involves having envelopes for each spending category you have and putting in the budgeted amount of cash each month. I really like the idea and it would be perfect, if it wasn’t for the fact it involved withdrawing large amounts of cash and carrying it around in envelopes, which to me, didn’t seem very practical.

So I spent a while thinking about it, trying to come up with a digital version (I even tried using monopoly money in envelopes instead of actual cash!), I wasn’t happy with any of them. But, eventually, I came up with a brilliant system, and it works!

The System

My digital envelope system uses a simple two tab spreadsheet; a monthly budget and a tracker.

Monthly Budget

This sheet is to create your budget and breakdown your spending into categories. You can choose any categories you like and set your budget percentages accordingly (there are many great resources/rules out there for setting a great budget, such as the personal finance sub-reddits, or the 25% rule for the amount of income spent on rent/mortgage).

A great bonus of this system that I would highly recommend, is adding in extra categories (buckets) for savings and investments too.

You can add other features if you like, or use an extra tab to make a proper breakdown of all monthly expenses (e.g. calculating monthly costs of expenses that aren’t monthly, like car insurance).

Here is a simple Monthly Budget example:

Tracker

This is where the magic happens.

On the left side you have a transactions list according to your bank statements. On the right side you have your “envelopes” in the form of columns, each one set according to your budget:

Simply record your transactions in the left section and also in the associated column for the category/envelope used. So when you receive income, record it on the transactions section and split the amount into the various columns according to your budget. A running total for each envelope is kept at the top, and just like envelopes you can only spend what’s in each column for each category.

And there you have it!

What’s really great about this system is that it’s easy to keep on top of. I spend no more than 15 minutes per week filling in my transactions for the week.

The system is also super easy to update. When your circumstances change or you’ve monitored your budget and want to modify it, you can simply amend the budget sheet and modify the envelope columns in the tracker.

My next step is figuring out a way to automate the inputs and have associated live balances sent to my phone for quick checks before spending!

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed learning about my budgeting system and feel free to ask me for more info or a copy of the spreadsheet! :)