But budgeting is so… meh!
We all know that we should budget, but keeping record of our spending is a terrible drag at best!
With hundreds of software tools out there, anyone who sets out to find one that works will quickly find that they all suffer the same problem: it’s tremendously tedious and time-consuming to fill out in painstaking double-entry accounting detail every transaction that you’ve done in the past month.
Okay fine, I’m being unfair.
- Firstly, you shouldn’t be waiting until the end of the month to do your financial reconciliations
- Secondly, most of the software available these days don’t require you to capture double entries
Nevertheless, the point is not entirely invalid, it still is quite a hassle to have to capture and categorise your transactions, even when they’re automagically imported from your bank account.
A whole lot of effort in… but what do I get out?
Apart from the high cost of record keeping (which at the end of the day anyone could live with if they get value out of it), there’s also the questionable efficacy of the output from most of those tools. That is, they seem to simply put nice charts and stuff on top of the data that you have to so meticulously capture, representing the same information in various formats and making it look pretty – but they don’t seem to answer the most important question for anyone who is maintaining a budget:
“How much do I have left?”
There are many kinds of financial tools that you could employ in order to understand and improve your spending habits:
- Accounting provides the basic after-the-fact information about where and when you spend, and how much
- Budgets then take those historical spending trends and use them to come up with plans for how to improve our situation
- Forecasting can take that a step further and let us project our planned spending into the future in order to see the compounded benefit of such improved habits
All these are Good Things ™… However, for most of us who have to turn our dimes while waiting for the next paycheck, that’s just a little too much, for a tad too little. Accounting? Budgeting? Forecasting? I’m pretty sure I lost everyone except the accountants at “financial tools”.
No, for us mere mortals it really is enough to know how much I have left, or more specifically, left after I’ve paid the bills that I have to pay, and after I’ve put money aside for groceries and gas and such… in other words:
“How much do I REALLY have left?”
Then again, it’s not enough that there are ways to get to that answer… what’s more is that we need to get to the answer with the minimum amount of effort possible. We want something that combines just the bare minimum of accounting, and the bare minimum of budget planning, and the bare minimum of forecasting.
Enter the Pocket Budget Sheet
After a lot of searching I came up with nothing, and ended up creating my own spreadsheet that does just enough to give me what I need. I’ve been tweaking this sheet for well over 10 years now, and I still periodically resume the search every year or so to see if anything new is out there that addresses my concerns.
There still isn’t, though… so I decided to put this one “out there” for whomever can derive benefit from it. It’s entirely free, but I would ask for your feedback, whether you find it useful or useless, and any other comments or suggestions.
It is based loosely on the “Cash Envelope System”, because it’s an old-school system that Just Works ™. I don’t link to anything because there seems to be quite a bit of claim around it out there but I’m pretty sure that it’s one of those systems that’s just been with us since forever. You can simply Bing or Google the term to learn a whole lot about it if you wish (including where it comes from, I imagine).
…at least now you know why it’s called the “Pocket Budgeting” sheet, right? 😉
Sounds cool, where can I get one?
Well, I’m so glad you asked…
- Grab the download pack containing the template and sample sheets here
- Then head on over to this blog post for details of how to get it set up and running.