You’ve seen the straight way to budgeting. Make a spreadsheet with about 100 spending categories, allocate a specific amount for each item, and then track every dollar you spend by diligently placing each expense in the appropriate category. Boring!
Money conversations with your partner, or even yourself, may begin like this: “How much was the bill at that restaurant last week? What did we spend in Palm Springs last weekend and does that go in the “entertainment” or “travel” category ?”
Seriously, who has time for that!? Gays and lesbians are efficient. Time needs to be maximized so more time is left for leisurely activities. We need things to be simple. That’s why budgeting has always been a problem. It’s too much time and effort.
There is a different way though, a gay way to budget. Just follow these simple steps:
1. Start with your monthly take home pay. This is the amount actually deposited into your checking account. Federal and state taxes, 401(k) savings, health insurance premiums, and other payroll deductions have all been paid.
2. Subtract all of the bills that must be paid every month. This includes things like rent or mortgage, cell phone, cable, Internet, car insurance, electricity, gym dues, student loan payment, credit card payment, and any other recurring fixed expense.
3. The amount leftover is how much you can spend on everything else: groceries, gas, dining out, cocktails, toiletries, Target, Costco, haircuts, and whatever else you buy during the month.
Pretty easy, isn’t it?
The final trick is to track your “Everything Else” amount during the month so you don’t overspend. You’ll know when to start cutting back at the end of the month when you’re about to break the budget.
The easiest way is to set up a one-item budget at Mint.com to track your spending each month. Just lump all the Everything Else expenses together and let Mint keep a running tally. All the instructions on how to do this are on the website. Mint’s smartphone app is pretty solid so you can check your up-to-date spending while shopping.
The old-school way, and just as effective, is to save your receipts each month. Put a small (and decorative) box by the front door and drop in the receipts right when you get home. Make sure to save all those ATM withdrawal receipts! Add up those receipts at the end of each month to see if you spent more or less than your Everything Else amount.
No spreadsheets, no budget for every expense, and no time-consuming tracking system for every dollar spent. It’s simple and easy. Now that is a way gays can budget!
Steve Doster, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Planner offering fee-only, hourly financial advice for do-it-yourself investors. Visit his website or his Facebook page to see his favorite personal finance article of the week.