Chris Cookley

New to budgeting? Give it three months

No matter how well you think you know your spending, if you’re not already budgeting, I can promise that you really don’t. Sure, you know what your rent or mortgage is, you might be able to guess how much gas you buy each month, and food is, well, honestly, it’s probably a mystery. If you aren’t budgeting, I’d wager that you just don’t know.

This makes starting to budget really hard. Not only is it difficult to develop the habit of tracking purchases, which is an essential component of budgeting, but guessing what to allocate to each category will be almost impossible.

There’s good news here. It’s only impossible the first month. The second month, you can see where you went wrong and adjust. Your numbers will still be off, but they’ll be closer. After the second month you can refine further. Your third month may still be wrong in a few places, but not by much. And after that third month, you’ll basically be there.

The first three months are hard, but if you just work through them, adjusting as you go, your budget will straighten out. It will become the foundation of your financial system.

If you’re looking for a budgeting software to use, I recommend YNAB. It’s what my family has used for six years, and it’s great. That’s a referral link, so I’ll get a free month if you sign up through it, but it won’t cost you any extra.

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