The “Sticky Note” Way of Budgeting

For someone who has “budgets” in their name, I sure don’t talk about them that often ;) But probably because I’ve done enough of it earlier in the years that I now tend to post things up only when I see something different or exciting or unique. Which happens to be today! (Lucky you!)

A lovely commenter by the name of Cat shared a good tip of her own in our post last week on always feeling broke, and I thought it was clever enough to be discussed and shared today :) Here’s how she manages the budget in her household:

I just did my budget for the next 6 months.  I literally do it very… simply.  I take a sticky note and I write down my exact net income per each paycheck with the date per sticky note (that’s 12 of them because I get 2 a month for 6 months).  I hang these stickies up or keep them in my planner.

Under each net amount I start subtracting things that are due, and then I see how much it goes down.  I recently added a new field for “emergency savings” and I try and keep my remaining amount under $200 dollars so I can’t ever spend more than that.  If I have a remaining amount of under $200 after all my bills are paid, I add the amount to my “emergency savings” for that time and then it evens out.

Example: 11/15/12 — $1,000
– $200 student loan payment
= 800
– $500 car payment
– $150 emergency savings
= 150 (spending money for two weeks!)

Then when I actually get paid, my automated emergency savings deducts, and so does my automated student loan and car payments.

Different right? Perhaps a bit too simplistic for some people’s situations, but it’s a damn good starting point for those who just need to DO SOMETHING about their budget and quit slackin’. Not to discount Cats’ way of doing it or anything, I think that’s awesome that she can do it so easily like that! The less fuss the better.

It’ll now get added to my list of other interesting ways to budget too:

In a nutshell, there’s a billion ways to track your money. And you can try one of them, or all of them, or even mix and match, all until you’ve figured out that perfect concoction of do-ability. Whatever works for YOU – the most important thing here. Just because I like being old and stodgy using spreadsheets and bank logins over fancy-pants software, it doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Whatever you can do to STICK WITH IT and keep going strong, the better. How does that saying go? Don’t fix a broken wheel? Wait that doesn’ t make sense, haha… don’t fix a working wheel? Anyways you get the point. Find a wheel that works and then ride it out ;)

And I’ll let you in on another little secret  here too. You know what happens when you start getting good at this stuff and trusting yourself to manage that money of yours more? You can start weening yourself OFF of budgeting so hardcore too! *Gasp* No more tracking every penny and reviewing every Starbucks purchase in fear that your mortgage payment will bounce! Nope. You still have to do SOME work and check in from time to time to make sure everything’s still kosher (I check in only about twice a month now – once in the middle and once at the end/beginning), but you can certainly stay away from daily budgeting hell and rid yourself of all that stress and worrying that comes with it.

I’ve been a LOT more relaxed on my budgeting than when I first started keeping track over 4 and 1/2 years ago. But only because I’ve got a good system down and know how I operate now ;) And when things change (like, say, getting married or having babies) you then adjust accordingly and pay closer attention to the details again until all is right in the world once more. We all make it there at some point, it’s just a more gradual process for some.

Any other cool budgeting methods we should be aware of? Anyone already using stickies??

I happen to have two of them on my computer right now, none of which shockingly have to do with budgeting. One says “Don’t be boring!” – to remind me to make these articles as interesting as I possibly can (I know I know, I let y’all down all the time ;) Thus the need for it!), and the other says: “No mortgages / Max Roths / Max SEP / Max 529” – my four main goals every year now. Some harder to accomplish than others :)

computer sticky notes
Happy sticky’ing y’all!

PS: For a budget that BLOWS, check out this recent article from Money Life and More: The Most Popular Budget and Why It Sucks :)

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  1. Rohit @The Money Mail November 19, 2012 at 5:40 AM

    @J: Simple is sexy! Implementing a budget is a difficult exercise and one of the main reasons in my view people run away from it. So if you can keep it simple (or like you say it Sexy) the more people can adopt making budgets and lead a more disciplined financial life.

  2. Lance @ Money Life and More November 19, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    Thanks much for the mention J. I thought the max 529 meant max sad, which would definitely be a sad way to budget.

    That’s great that your commenter is saving for emergency savings. I think that makes a huge difference from the most popular budget that sucks and on the way to a good budget :)

  3. Catherine November 19, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    This is pretty close to what we do only on regular paper! Every week we do this. Hubby does maintain a speadsheet to track monthly expenses but our individual weeks are done this way :) I like simple.

  4. Stephanie November 19, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Guess I’m old and stodgy with my spreadsheets just like you J$ ;-)

    It’s really more a way of tracking cash flow than budgeting, but it IS nice to look back on the month and see that we met our savings goals and/or stayed under budget in most categories. And since I use the spreadsheet to balance my checkbook, which I do every couple of days (I know, obsessive much??), so I manage to do a pretty good job of keeping spending under control most of the time!

  5. Greg@ClubThrifty November 19, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    As you point out, I think that doing something is always better than doing nothing. Once you get started budgeting, you’ll see the money roll in. From there, it is very addictive.

  6. Budget & the Beach November 19, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    I’m still trying to figure out the best method for myself. I’ve read budgeting books specifically for freelancers, and while some things still confuse me, I’m getting better at it all the time. The most important thing no matter what the system, is always to pay yourself first.

  7. savvyfinanciallatina November 19, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    I’m still working on figuring out our budget. I’m not doing great at tracking what we spend our money on. But I make sure to transfer money into savings as soon as we can.

  8. Mandy @MoneyMasterMom November 19, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Simplicity is beautiful, and Clearly Cat is making it work. Some people may require more structure, but others work better with a little flexibility in the budget. My advice, find what works for you and stick with it! Being boring sucks :)

  9. Angella November 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    I’m a bit ocd about the budgeting. I use a notebook, similar to the sticky method. Every Friday I write down balances, bills, etc. I’m paid weekly, the husband is biweekly. I also use about 8 different spreadsheets as well. It seems like a lot, but seeing all the numbers has definitely helped keep us on track! Starting off simple is a good way to get into it, it takes awhile to find the ‘right method’ for yourself/family.

  10. Holly@ClubThrifty November 19, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    We just use an old boring zero sum budget. Since we only get paid once per month, we budget once per month for all of our expenses and the remainder gets instantly transferred to savings or mortgage prepayment. I just use a notebook and a pen, nothing fancy. As long as something works for someone, that is all that matters!

  11. Carol in Mpls November 19, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    Has anyone used the concepts in Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Balanced Money Formula’? If so, have you found this to be more of a philosophical approach to strive for, or was it something you could do easily from the start? I’m curious to see if anyone found it to be a way to approach getting to your desired goals (emergency fund, investments, etc.) in a flexible fashion.

    I’m in transition back to school, and then down the road new work. For the time being my budgeting process is a little bit of a mish-mash of ideas, muddled with some practicality.

  12. Crystal November 19, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    I agree that as long as you’re doing SOMETHING, that’s all that matters. I used to be terrible with my money and am now suffering from it (I used to earn $75K a year when I was younger and single and didn’t save any of it) because I’m a SAHM with only hubby working and we struggle to make ends meet. We use YNAB and it has completely changed how we manage our finances. We keep it simple, have categories, set our budget for that month or pay period, and stick to it as best as we can. Yay for budgets. I love budgeting!

  13. MakinSense Babe November 19, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Love “Don’t Be Boring!”
    I need one of those notes…..done.
    Maybe I’ll get a mohawk.

  14. K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! November 19, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    Doing something is absolutely doing better than nothing! I am an excel gal with formulas and the whole bit when it comes to my spending and savings plans. But it works for me and it makes managing my money easier and dare I say fun? ;)

  15. J. Money November 19, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    @Rohit @The Money Mail – You know it! All you gotta do is get *started*!
    @Lance @ Money Life and More – The “most populuar budgets” DO suck ;) Great way to think of it like that in your post…
    @Catherine – Cool to hear! I’m glad you found a way that works :)
    @Stephanie – I believe you’re the only person I know that still balances a check book too ;)
    @Greg@ClubThrifty – Oh hell yeah it! I was hooked when I stated seeing it GROW every month rather than stay stagnant or worse, decline! I’d thought for years it was growing and I was doing a-okay, but it wasn’t until I started tracking it and comparing that I knew I was in trouble ;) And it’s been on the up and up ever since
    @Budget & the Beach – That does help :) I think I’d put “always tweaking” as my main priority though cuz life rarely stays the same!
    @savvyfinanciallatina – That’s half the battle right there!
    @Mandy @MoneyMasterMom – Yeah, no more boring-ness. There’s enough of that out there ;)
    @Angella – Haha, nice… Is it bad that that kinda turns me one? :)
    @Holly@ClubThrifty – Another perk of pen and paper? You can never lose ’em in a computer crash! :)
    @Carol in Mpls – I’ve never even heard of it myself, but hopefully others chime in who have and share :)
    @Crystal – Hooray! And I can tell you that the founder of it (Jesse) is an INCREDIBLE human being too. I met him at this year’s financial blogging conference and we really hit it off. Great overall guy – I’m glad his baby is helping you! :)
    @MakinSense Babe – That would be too much sexiness to handle :)
    @K.K. @ Living Debt Free Rocks! – FuN?? With money? Blasphemy!

  16. Cat November 19, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    @JMoney, Thanks for the shout out, I’m glad you liked my original comment.

    I have to agree with all the comments that doing something is always better than doing nothing. I also have to say that I am a HUGE fan of spreadsheets- I have one for every workout I do tracking distance, time, pace, additional exercises, calories, etc as well as one for every horse I ride and what we worked on during our ride. I love having goals and keeping track of things, but for money, its easier for me to take a super simple approach, like I described.



  17. Finanical Black Sheep November 19, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    I am with K.K. as I love Excel spreadsheets all the way… to the bank! HA! I have way too much fun with my spreadsheet and figuring out where my savings will go, that I had to limit the amount of times I update it. I used to EVERY day, but now I am only allotted 2-4 times a month, depending on if there is a huge emergency (like hospital) or not. I got mine directly from Microsoft and then tweaked it every day for about 2 years lol. It makes life so much easier now that I have it just right. :D

  18. Edward Antrobus November 20, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    Budget? Nah, I just track cash flow and net worth. That tells me if I’m going in the right direction.

  19. J. Money November 21, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    @Cat – Haha… I didn’t know you liked spreadsheets that much! You get cooler by the comment ;)
    @Finanical Black Sheep – I had to curb my own spreadsheet touches too as it got a little insane ;) Now only twice a month – I’m on a record!
    @Edward Antrobus – True true, that certainly helps.

  20. JM @ NJFCU November 26, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    This really is interestingly simple. For sure, anyone can have a try at this approach but then again, it depends on how well you know yourself as well as what your current situation is. If you’re single without that much financial obligations, and have the tendency to overspend, I believe this method of sticking notes is a simple first attempt to practice budgeting. Thanks for including your other methods too, J. Cheers!

  21. J. Money November 26, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Glad you found it interesting :) There’s all kinds of good ways to do this stuff, eh?