Money Health

How to Make a Budget Plan Even if You Hate Math

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Between monthly bills, mortgage or rent payments, food, and other expenses, it can be hard to stay on top of your finances. But if you want to avoid overspending and improve your financial future, you need to create a budget.

You may be thinking, “I already track my spending, isn’t that enough?” While this critical aspect of budgeting is a great first step, it’s time to put pen to paper—even if you hate math. Learning how to make a budget plan will allow you to better understand how much you have coming in, lifestyle changes you might need to make, and how you could be working toward long-term goals.

Thankfully, creating a budget doesn’t have to be stressful, even if math makes you cross-eyed. Use these tips to get your money plans in order before the spending sets in.

Let an app do the budgeting for you

For many, the easiest way to create a budget is to let an app do all the heavy lifting. An app can help make sure you’re covering all your bases in terms of income, expenses, savings, and long-term goals.

By simply connecting your credit cards or bank account or inputting specific money goals, the app can tell you how much you have to spend each week or month.

But before jumping into a new app, test-drive a few to make sure the features and interface make budgeting easier for you to manage, rather than more complicated.

Use a simple budget spreadsheet

While budget and money apps can be fun and helpful for people who hate math, they can be too much for those just learning how to make a budget plan. If you’re overwhelmed with multiple dashboards and calculations every time you open the app, you’ll be less likely to stick with it. Instead, you could try keeping it simple by using a budget spreadsheet.

If the idea of creating your own budget spreadsheet feels just as daunting, check out these free budget templates. Choose the one that’s best for your needs, and which will allow you to keep track of your money without getting overwhelmed.

Choose a straightforward tracking method

Keeping track of how much you spent and how much you have left can be one of the most stressful parts of managing money. When creating your budget, choose a tracking method that requires minimal math, while allowing you to stay on top of your spending. One of the easiest tracking methods is ditching credit cards for the envelope system.

Managing this system is simple. Label envelopes for each expense, like groceries, entertainment, and clothing. Decide how much money you have to spend on each category and put those amounts of cash in the envelopes. When you go to buy groceries, new clothes, or some other expense, you only use the money from that specific envelope for that time period. For example, if you budget $75 for grocery shopping each week, that’s all you have.

Use online budgeting calculators*

Budget calculators are a great way to get important math done quickly and easily. For example, if you’re not sure how much money you have to spend after monthly expenses and adding to your savings, a calculator can help you. Here are a few helpful calculators to use as you create your budget:

Focus on the big things

Another option if you want to start simple is to focus on your big spending categories. When creating your budget, instead of focusing on complicated calculations, make a list of major expenses and how much money you’ll need for each one. For things like shopping, give yourself a spending cap for each week or month and use your budgeting app or the envelope method to make sure you stick with it.

Don’t let math keep you from making smart money decisions. Use these ideas to learn how to make a budget plan that will keep you on track with your finances throughout the year.

We can all use a little help

The fact that you’re trying to make budgeting a priority shows a lot of promise for taking control and improving your finances. And luckily, learning how to deal with the rest–debt, money management, and planning for your future–doesn’t need to be hard. At Freedom Debt Relief, we’ve developed a simple to follow guide to help you find the tools you need to move to a better financial future. Get started by downloading our free guide right now.

*Editor’s Note: Freedom Debt Relief receives no compensation from mentioning these companies or any others cited in this post. We link to specific companies to give you some easy to access tools and information which can allow you to start your budget and journey to better financial health.

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Jessica Thiefels is the CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting and has been writing for more than 10 years. She’s written for AARP, Reader’s Digest and Lifehack and regularly contributes to The Financial Diet, Homes.com and more.