You probably already know that a budget can help you control your cash flow and check important financial boxes, like affording your expenses and saving for the future. That said, if you just really don't like budgeting, knowing that it's good for you doesn't make it any easier to stick with.
When budgeting feels like pulling teeth, switching things up and rethinking the term "budget" can help you overcome resistance and find a money management style that works for you. Here are four budgeting ideas for people who hate budgeting.
1. Use a Budgeting App
If your major aversion to budgeting is the chore of sorting through, categorizing and tallying up your spending, let a budgeting app do the heavy lifting. Use a top-rated budgeting app that links automatically to your bank account to import and sort transactions by type. This way, you can more easily keep an eye on your spending in each category to ensure you're spending within your limits.
2. Think Systems, Not Goals
Do you ever feel caught in a cycle of making commitments to cut back or start sticking to a budget, then quickly falling back into old habits? One way to flip this pattern on its head is to stop focusing on goals and start focusing on habits.
Author James Clear, who wrote "Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones," puts it this way: "You don't rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems." To put this philosophy into practice, you'll replace bad financial habits with improved ones. For example you could replace overspending on online shopping with using a purchase waiting period before you buy something.
Rather than focusing on large, ambitious goals, you just focus on creating immediate, repeatable processes that work for you. In action, systems for improving your financial stability could include:
- Setting up autopay for all the bills you're able to, including any debt payments
- Coming up with a weekly or monthly savings amount, and then setting up automatic transfers each payday to make sure you're paying yourself first
- Setting up spending alerts on your credit card, or even keeping funds for discretionary spending in their own separate bank account
As you can see, all of these systems are specific and simple. But they also achieve important aims of budgeting: affording your expenses, curbing overspending and saving money.
3. Try the 50/30/20 Rule
Some budget plans can feel excessively rigid, but the 50/30/20 system takes a looser approach to categorizing spending. With this budget, you'll aim to allocate half of your after-tax income toward housing, bills and other necessary expenses. Then, you'll put 30% toward spending and 20% into savings or debt repayment.
As long as you have a solid plan for where your money is going, you may find that you don't necessarily need to track every dollar you spend. If it works for you, taking this more flexible, low-effort budgeting approach may feel less daunting.
4. Make Budgeting More Like a Game
If the word "budget" elicits feelings of boredom at best and dread at worst, finding ways to make managing your money more fun could help.
"Gamification" is the practice of applying game-like qualities to the tasks of everyday life. It often looks like adding challenges, visuals and rewards to everything from work to chores to your finances. For example, you can gamify your debt payoff plan to incentivize making larger payments and getting out of debt faster.
You can gamify the act of budgeting to make each step feel less like a burden and more completing a level in a video game. Here are some ideas:
- Make budgeting feel like playing your favorite video game using finance gamification apps like Qapital and Fortune City. The cycle of setting a goal and being rewarded for completing it can be a great motivator for some.
- Make sure your targets and corresponding rewards are clear. For example, if you spend no more than $300 on dining out in a month, then you can treat yourself to a small retail purchase you've been eyeing.
- Embark on a savings challenge to push yourself to save more money. For example, try the 52-week money challenge.
- When you need to cut back, try a no-spend challenge for a weekend—or longer.
Keep Experimenting With Budgets
If you self-identity as a budget hater, you're not alone. And so long as you're spending less than you earn and saving the difference, then you may have nothing to worry about. But if your financial life has room for improvement, a shift in mindset could help you find a budget system that works for you.
There are budget plans for different "spending personalities" and approaches to budgeting that don't require extensive bookkeeping, such as financial minimalism. At the end of the day, it's up to you to make your own rules for how you manage your money. Experiment with different approaches and types of budgets until you find a system—or a blend of systems—that works for you.