A lot of the tips people find for managing their personal budget involve using online banking or spreadsheets. If you’re not comfortable with technology, that can be difficult. Also, if your home isn’t exactly rich with technology, purchasing a new computer or tablet might not be in your budget.
Fortunately, there are a lot of strategies for budget management that take a decidedly low-tech approach. These strategies can be just as powerful as their high-tech counterparts – and can even be more effective in certain situations.
When you’ve established a personal budget, you’ll likely have a certain amount of money allocated to each category of expenses. One low tech management option is to physically place the cash for each category into a specific envelope. It might seem like a small gesture with no real advantage. However, the benefits are numerous.
You’ll always have a good idea how much money you have left for each expense by simply looking at each envelope. You won’t have to manage a spreadsheet to get that information. Also, by paying for everything in cash, you’ll physically feel every purchase. This is often more tangible than using electronic payment methods.
If you’re not going to pay for everything in cash, the next best thing is to use an erasable whiteboard. The best location for the whiteboard is a kitchen or other prominent place where every family member can easily see it. The whiteboard can serve as a running tally of expenditures by every family member.
The problem with most family structures as it applies to budgets is that everyone makes purchases which makes them difficult to track. If family members commit to this method then they should each write down the name and cost of everything they buy. If they are honest and record everything on the whiteboard, then every expense should be easily documented. Also, having a visible running tally in plain view on the whiteboard can give everyone a good idea of how much money is left for personal use.
Another low-tech strategy for identifying budget opportunities involves analyzing receipts. Most people toss their retail receipts and previous bills in the trash as they come in. This limits their usefulness, since the best way to understand monthly spending habits is to look at monthly spending as a total.
Save all of your receipts and old bills for a month. Then, after every expense has been documented, take a good look at every expense. You’ll likely find areas of your spending habits where it’ll be easy to see the possibility to save more. At the very least, you’ll be able to see if your budget plan matches reality.
If computers, whiteboards, envelopes and other budget tracking tools aren’t your thing, you might simply consider developing a series of simple rules for spending. You’ll lose the advantage of tracking your monthly expenses to the exact dollar amount, but on the other hand, you’ll be much more likely to develop positive habits when focusing on guidelines instead of dollar amounts.
For example, a family that purchases restaurant food frequently might make a rule that they can only eat out twice in a month. Another popular rule is to only visit the supermarket once each week. These are especially powerful for families that have problems managing their personal expenses.
These strategies show that you don’t have to be tech-savvy to manage your money. Simple, low-tech approaches to managing a budget are easy to implement, and often have a larger long-term impact on spending habits than sophisticated tracking software. The key is to have a plan, not just spend and then act surprised when you run out of money before you run out of month.