One of the hardest problem I’ve encountered when I started managing my own money is the idea of budgeting. I’ve tried to “discipline” myself by not spending more than my budget, but I have never been able to make it work.
When buying stuffs, I would feel really guilty spending the money that I would no longer be able to enjoy what I bought. When I don’t spend at all, however, I would feel deprived thinking what’s the point of having money if you can’t even allow yourself to buy simple things you can enjoy.
In one of my attempts at budgeting my money, I purchased a mini notebook to jot down my daily expenses, and after the 3rd day, I forgot to bring my notebook with me to the office. The next couple of weeks, I completely forgotten all about it. I just went on and attempted to save as much as I can on anything and everything I can get my hands into.
I also tried to create a spreadsheet to track my expenses but it was too tedious and it always seemed more of a guessing game than anything else. I would guess how much I spent for this and for that. And somehow, I would always find a way to tweak the numbers just so it would look good.
Until finally, I discovered a neat trick that has not only helped me track my expenses but it’s so easy to implement I can do it in just 5 minutes a month. Yes, that’s per month! It is based from the Secrets of the Millionaire Mind book by Harv Eker which
was also described quite articulately by my good friend Jay in one of his articles.
How To Budget Without Feeling Guilty
Here’s the idea. Create 5 separate buckets (or bank accounts if you can). Each bucket or account would receive a set percentage for all income that comes into your life.
Here’s what the 5 accounts look like for me.
1) FFA (20%) – Financial Freedom Account
2) LTS (35%) – Long Term Spending
3) EXP (20%) – Expenses
4) FUN (15%) – Fun and Personal Growth
5) GOD (10%) – Tithes
Whenever I receive any money either through my paycheck, or a gift, or anything, I would distribute it according to the set percentage by doing fund transfers to my other accounts. Best of all, I can do everything in only a couple of minutes through online banking. That’s it.
Here’s the cool part. After allocating my money to the different accounts, whatever is left in my ATM account would be my EXP (expenses) & FUN (fun & personal growth) for the month. This money is supposed to be spent. This fund allows me the freedom to enjoy and not feel guilty about spending. The funds from my other accounts, serve a different purpose.
A Closer Look On Each Account
Before I proceed, I would like to take this time to explain my budget allocation so you can have some ideas on how you can apply it to your own situation.
FFA is 20%. This is mostly for investments which my wife and I are not expecting to use in the short term (ie. in the next than 5 years). Since I don’t have any debts, this fund is accumulating every month until we find a good investment we can invest on. Once it goes in, this money will only be spent to be invested for future earnings. It will NOT be spent away for any other reason whatsoever.
LTS is 35%. This percentage is quite high because my wife and I are preparing to purchase our own home in the next 1 to 3 years. We know that we would need a huge amount of money to pay for it. The amount also includes money to pay for a car in the near horizon. Note that this is separate from our FFA or investment accounts since our home is NOT necessarily an investment vehicle that give us a monthly cashflow, unless we decide to rent it out.
EXP is 20%. This is where my wife and I are very fortunate. Our transportation expense is practically negligible since we just walk our way from our home to the office. Our water expense is also not that much considering it’s just the two of us using the water. The most we use it for is in doing the laundry. We’ve also been able to bring down our electricity cost after limiting the use of our air conditioner. It turns out, we can actually make do with just the fan at night. I know these are just little things, but when you realize that we are saving a little amount each day, it translates to a relatively significant amount at the end of the year.
FUN is 15%. This is where the exciting part begins. This is the solution to the feeling guilty part. This fund is supposed to be spent for pleasure. Take a vacation. Go for a spa. Buy a good book to read. Attend a personal growth seminar. Buy that cool phone you’ve always wanted. The possibility is endless. And YOU CAN have it as long as it is from this fund. Having been accustomed to saving for quite some time, my wife and I sometimes struggle to spend the money away. Strange I know. But sometimes, it feels like you want to get more out of it. It’s no longer the material product that you want, but the experience. That’s why my wife and I have been planning more vacations lately to go to places we’ve never been to before. Nothing too fancy or expensive. Just the thought of learning new things to keep the hunger alive.
GOD is 10%. This is one area I am still working on. I’d be honest. I sometimes feel like 10% is too much. Other times, I feel I am not giving more. At this point, the fund is still accumulating. This is actually one part I’ve been wanting to put some time planning on. Maybe I’ll throw everything in in one go someday. I need practice to give more. Maybe I’ll just take one day at a time. Being generous with my money is still something
I’m relatively new at.
This budgeting strategy is really simple and easy to do. However, keep in mind that this is just a guide. You can change the allocation to cater to your own situation. For example, if you have some debts, you use all your FFA savings to pay for your debt. Your freedom day would be the day you completely pay off all your debts. If you haven’t saved for emergency fund yet, you can also use the FFA to fund it for you. Note that it is money that should NOT be spent any other way.
If you are living on 110% of your income, try to make more money so you can save some. Or save on things you would not necessarily need so you could at least bring your expenses down to 90% and allocate the 10% to your other accounts. In any case, start with something. There’s nothing stopping you to make your dreams a reality. But you do have to take action.
That’s all for now. Enjoy budgeting your money without feeling guilty. 🙂