The lazy person’s guide to budgeting

Let’s be honest – a lot of people know a budget would help their financial situation, but they are just to lazy to keep up with it or think budgeting is boring and restrictive. I get it!

That’s why I came up with the Lazy Person’s Guide to Budgeting.

It’s the same plan I followed when I was coming out of my money moron stage. Only back then it wasn’t a plan. It was just something I did. Nobody taught it to me. I figured it out on my own, and it just happened to work. I didn’t even have a name for it.

Do you hate budgets?

It wasn’t until recently that I realized it’s the perfect solution for people that hate budgets.

Who this guide is for

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Budgeting doesn’t ** work if you’re in debt** and trying to become debt free.

Why not?

If you’re in debt, you’re also living paycheck-to-paycheck. To break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, you need a written spending plan and a get out of debt plan. Short of winning the lottery that’s the only way to do it.

Why budget anyway?

The basic purpose of a budget is to be in control of your money, instead of it controlling you.

A budget will help you:

  • Keep you out of debt
  • Help achieve saving and investment goals

Let’s look at how you can achieve each of those things as simply and lazily as possible.

Gimme 3 steps mister

There are just three steps in the Lazy Person’s Guide to Budgeting

  1. Automate your savings
  2. Keep a buffer in your checking account
  3. Spend the rest

Step 1. Automate your savings

Do something to save for your retirement, a new car, a new house.

  • Participate in your company 401(k)
  • Automatically put money into a Roth IRA
  • Make monthly automated deposits into an investment account
  • Make monthly automated deposits into an online bank savings account

By automating your savings, your money will be out of your sight before you can spend it. It’s the simplest way to save and invest.

Step 2. Keep a buffer in your checking account

The Lazy Person’s Budget requires a buffer to keep you out of debt.

The buffer is a big pile of cash in your checking account that keeps you from overdrafts or not having enough money to pay bills.

When I used this strategy before I ever started budgeting, I usually kept $2,500 minimum in my checking account.

I would pay all my bills every month, including my credit cards.

If at the end of the month I had more than $2,500 in my checking account, I would take the extra and include it in my next mortgage payment. Or save up for a guitar. Or a vacation. Or just blow it.

###Why this works.
It worked for me because my spending didn’t fluctuate wildly from month to month. I doubt your spending probably does either.

For example if you eat out a lot, it’s unlikely one month you spend $500 on eating out, and the next month it’s $900, and the month after that it’s $1,700, right?

What about irregular or unanticipated expenses?

Your car insurance is due once or twice a year. Let’s say it’s $500 every six months.

Every six months if you don’t have enough cash in your checking account your buffer is going to dip down to cover the cost. The following months you’ll need to cut back to get your buffer back to where it to your set minimum.

How much should my buffer be?

Look at your monthly account statement for the account you pay bills.

What’s the average daily balance?

If it’s close to zero, you’re getting close every day to overspending.

My comfort zone was $2,500 in my checking account. I always tried to keep at least this much in there and not go below.

Note the $2,500 wasn’t an emergency fund. It was just an amount of cash available in case I overspent or had an irregular or unexpected expense come in.

What if I do overspend in a month?

If you dip below your buffer, in the next month cut back on something to get back to your buffer amount.

You don’t need a budget to know where you need to cut back. If I ask you where you think you overspend I bet you have a pretty good idea. If you overspend one month, make a conscious effort the next month to spend less.

Build your buffer back up.

Do you need a budget to spend less? When I was using this system, I didn’t. When my checking account depleted beyond the buffer, it was usually to one-time expenses – landscaping materials, guitar gear, computer stuff. Things that I don’t buy all the time. It was easy to make it back up the next month because I wasn’t buying 20 azalea bushes every month.

Step 3. Spend the rest

You’re saving, you have a buffer for overspending. What’s left?

  • Pay your bills
  • Pay your credit card in full each month
  • Spend the rest on whatever you want

How do I keep from overspending?

In my situation, it became a sixth-sense.

But in reality you just keep track of your credit card balance and make sure there is enough in your checking account to cover it and your expected bills.

I used this system for years when I was single and had my first home. And it worked! I never had a written budget. I simply kept a small amount of money in my checking account that I tried never to spend.

As time went on I learned I would have unexpected and irregular expenses. I started to increase my buffer for when they hit. Each pay period I would leave (not spend) some extra in my checking account for those types of expenses.

How is this a budget?

Remember our budget definition from earlier:

The basic purpose of a budget is to be in control of your money, instead of it controlling you.

The Lazy Persons’ Guide to Budgeting accomplishes our two goals:

  • Keeps you out of debt
  • Helps achieve saving and investment goals

If you can achieve those two goals – no matter how you choose to do it – you’re ahead of 75% of the population.

I would much rather you have a lazy budget than no budget at all.


Question: What do you think about budgeting?  Share your answer on Facebook or Twitter.

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