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Everyday Cheapskate: A Simple 3-Step Budget That Can Change Your Life

Mary Hunt on

Budgets are like training wheels: They help you get moving and offer you confidence as you learn how to balance.

I wish I could come up with a better word than "budget" for managing money. While I've made peace with the word, it still conjures up synonyms like whip, drudgery and cruel master. Personally, I prefer the more elegant term "spending plan," but for now, because budget is so universally understood, let's just go with it, all preconceived notions aside.


Search "how to budget" and you'll get a list of options a mile long. While there are many ways to budget, none is perfect. A budget is a tool you develop to fit your lifestyle. There is no single, guaranteed budget method, form or spreadsheet.

Even a template or financial software that fits your temperament and lifestyle is not guaranteed to change your life any more than a power tool sitting on the garage shelf will not put together that new wall unit for you while you kick back and play on your phone. You have to do the work.

Budgets are extraordinarily useful, a lot like training wheels. They can help you get going and give you confidence as you learn to balance. There may come a time that you'll become an expert "cyclist" and outgrow your need for the training wheels -- or you may want to leave them on for confidence and security should you hit a bump in the road.



There are probably as many ways to budget and different kinds of templates, forms and budgeting software out there as there are financial temperaments. And rarely do those kinds of fill-in-the-blank templates work because all of those categories, percentages and preloaded numbers reflect someone else's situation, income and lifestyle. That makes them doomed to fail in most situations.

The only way a budget will ever work for you is if it reflects you. The categories and numbers in those categories must match how you live your life.



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