Money Health

5 Tips for Creating an Easy Budget 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. So if you want to avoid overspending, you need to create a budget.

You may be thinking, Well I already track my spending, isn’t that enough? While this critical aspect of budget is a great first step, it’s time to put pen to paper—even if you hate math. Experts at EveryDollar explain why a budget is so important:

“Your budget is your plan for the upcoming month. You’re planning the money you haven’t spent yet. When you keep receipts or use your online banking to see what you spent last month, you’re doing just that—looking at last month. Look forward and back—not just one or the other,”

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 spending sets in.

Let an App Do the Budget for You

For many, the easiest way to create a budget if you hate math is to let an app do all the heavy lifting.

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 the budgeting math easier for you to manage, rather than more complicated.  

Use a Simple Budget Spreadsheet

While budget and money apps can be fun to use—and helpful—for people who hate math, they can be too much. 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, keep it simple by using an Excel Spreadsheet or Google Sheet.

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 the one that 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 the envelope system.

Matt Bell, contributor at WiseBread, explains: “For discretionary expenses, where spending can vary and you have to be more intentional about managing your spending, you’ll use envelopes—one for each category such as groceries, entertainment, and clothing.”

Managing this system is simple. Label envelopes for each expense and then put in the amount of cash you have for them. 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

When creating a budget, instead of focusing on complicated calculations, make a list of these major expenses and how much money you’ll need for each one.

For expenses 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.

Create Your Budget Now

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

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.