This post first appeared on Forbes.com
You know you shouldn’t spend more than you make. You may feel intuitively that you’re wasting a lot of money on inessentials. Yet the last thing you want to do is spend your leisure time entering in receipts for every latte you drink or every pair of socks you buy. How can you get control of your spending without dedicating your life to it?
First, let’s state the obvious. Tracking every penny doesn’t work for a lot people. It doesn’t even work for every person in my household. My husband Ben couldn’t care less about tracking. He humors me and reviews the joint, color-coded spreadsheet that I create every month. But he’s satisfied if he has enough money to contribute to our joint expenses, save the necessary amount to meet our retirement goals and buy stuff for himself.
Ben follows an approach I call bucket budgeting. Instead of tracking everything he spends his money on, we created a system where he splits his money into buckets (figuratively, we don’t have actual buckets) and keeps his spending within those lump sums. This allows him to prefund his expenses, keep his spending in check and avoid having to track every penny, which I love but he hates.
This approach also assumes that you’ve assessed your values and goals around money. If not, start there. You can then use that assessment and this spending system to make sure that your spending your money on what means most to you. Here are the steps to setting up your system.