It seems a little silly to even be discussing why one should use a budget tracker. But to make sure we cover all of our bases, let's start with the why.
A budget tracker is a tool to help you achieve financial goals. Say that again, it is to help you achieve your financial goals.
Goals, of course, can vary dramatically. You might be trying to figure out how to afford your first house. Someone else might be saving for a new car. Another person might be trying to pay off credit card debt or student loans. Yet another person might be trying to save up an emergency fund and so on.
A budget's purpose is to help you achieve your goals. But how? Ultimately, a budget needs to tell you what you can and cannot afford. It needs to help you make decisions about how you will spend the money you have right now. It needs to help you understand the repercussions of your spending. For example, if you buy new shoes this month, what will that do to other parts of your budget later in the month and what will it do to your longer term goals.
The beauty of a well thought out budget is that it can help you achieve your short and long term financial goals.
We get it. We used to budget the way you probably are right now. And the problem is, it doesn’t work because it doesn’t hold you accountable for your spending. The majority of budgeting options out there are based on a “set it and forget it” mentality. You tell the app (or spreadsheet), I want to spend $600 on groceries each month. Then, usually at the end of the month, you get an email that shows you how you spent $750 on groceries. Whoops! There goes that month’s budget. Next month you vow to spend a little less, determined to get your budget inline.
Does this story sound familiar? We’ve seen it with countless people; the “set it and forget it” methods don’t actually help you achieve your financial goals because the approach is reactive, instead of proactive.
If you are going to achieve your financial goals, whether they are big or small, your budget is going to have to do a few things really well.
Also needs to be able to help you handle unexpected events, medical expense, car breakdown, etc.
Ultimately, your budget needs to tell you if you will be able to pay for each upcoming expense. Notice how we say, “upcoming expense” – this is because the budget must be proactive. You need to see if you have money available for the expense that is coming up, not the other way around. If you spend, then look to see if it is working for your budget, you’ve lost. The damage is done.
How much can we afford to spend right now on xyz?
How much progress am I making toward hitting my goal. For example, if I’m trying to save up $5,000 for a new car, how much do I have saved up right now?
If I spend some unexpected money, let’s say on an impulse buy for a new all-track quad-runner hill-jumper, how will that affect my budget?
These types of questions do more than just let you know if you are sticking to a budget. They help you understand your spending as it relates to your personal financial situation. As we've said before, it doesn't help to retrospectively say, "oh, I overspent in my dining out category." We need to understand the consequences before the spending the happens.
Our app, Banktivity, has a built-in budget tracker that will help you reach your financial goals. Banktivity, available for Mac, iPad and iPhone, makes it easy to always be able to answer the important questions you have about your budget.
We know that finances can be stressful. We've helped hundreds of thousands of people get their finances on track and we can help you too.
Banktivity's budget assistant walks you through setting up your budget.
You'll be asked to enter your bills and recurring expenses like your rent.
Enter your regular expenses, like groceries, dining out, entertainment, fitness/personal care, etc.
Tell Banktivity about the odd months where you have big expenses due to events like birthdays, anniversaries or the holidays
Once you've told Banktivity about your bills and other expenses, it is time to turn on the "the magic" of budgeting with Banktivity, which means it is time to turn on Envelope Budgeting. If you need a quick primer on Envelope Budgeting, check out this page we put together.
Envelope budgeting is tried and true method for achieving your financial goes. It's proactive instead of reactive so you'll know exactly how each expenditure will affect your budget (or not). With a Banktivity's budget tracking it isn't about spending less, it's about spending right.