Are you struggling to keep up with your budget? There is an easier way than paper and pencil or spreadsheets. In this guide you'll learn how to automate your budget. With a swipe on your phone, you'll know exactly how much you have to spend and exactly where all of your money is. The perfect solution for the active millennial.
This is part 3 of a series on budgeting. If you haven’t already checked out the first parts you can check them out here:
Part 1 - How to Create a Budget in 5 Steps With Spreadsheet Download
Part 2 - How to Create a Budget in Mint in 6 Steps
Part 3 - How to Create an Automated Budget With Level Money
Part 4 - How to Create a Budget in YNAB (You Need a Budget)
Budgets are sometimes hard to stick to. They can be time consuming.
Let's be honest, they are a pain to do manually and not many people like them.
I use to be like many people out there who never created a budget. I was drowning in debt. I was constantly getting hit with ridiculous overdraft fees. I looked at my bank balance to see if I had any available balance to spend and then cried when I got slammed with big bank fees again and again... Well I didn't cry, but I wasn't happy..
Eventually I decided to create a budget. I went all out with complicated spreadsheets and eventually software. It worked!
I was saving money and spending what I had BUT.... It took a lot of time and work to maintain that. Far more than most people are willing to spend on it. So... I decided I needed to find a way to automate my budget. Turning it into a system that manages itself so I could focus on other important things in my life.
That's what I'm going to teach you today. Don't panic!! This will be a lot easier than you think!
So why would we automate your budget?
Maybe you currently don't have a budget. Be honest with yourself. Deep down you know you need a budget... No more big bank fees and the comfort of knowing you are in control of your money and not the other way around.
Those two things alone probably make you want to start a budget.
On the other hand you may be a personal finance enthusiast and you've already got a sweet budget in a spreadsheet or maybe you're using a cool software tool like, "You Need a Budget".
That's awesome! You may not need to automate your budget but, if you want to have more time to focus on other important things in life you should think about it. Just hear me out...
Check out what I'm doing. If it's not for you that's cool. Keep rolling with what your using.
If you're still with me, great! You know you need a budget, you know how a budget works, and you're interested in automating your budget.
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Let's get started. But before we do, we have to choose a tool to make this work. There are a ton of great budget tools out there. Some of the most popular and best tools are:
- You Need a Budget
- Level Money
They all work well and have great features. Some are better than others at certain things, but for the purpose of automating a budget we'll use, Level Money.
You could certainly use other tools and I cover all the options for a more hands on approach in other guides, but for this article, Level Money has given me the greatest results in having a hands off automated system for budgeting my money which is what I chose to help automate my life and money.
So... if you're still with me, let's get started. The following steps are only for initial setup. Work a little harder upfront and prosper in the end!
STEP 1 - CONNECT YOUR BANK ACCOUNT TO LEVEL MONEY
The first step is to connect your bank so it can import your transactions.
As soon as you bring up the app you'll be able to choose your bank from the list and then log in with your online banking credentials.
Place a check mark next to your checking account and press "Done".
STEP 2 - CREATE YOU BUDGET IN LEVEL MONEY
Press the "Spendable" button at the bottom of the screen
Press on "Calculate my Spendable"
Level Money uses the most common personal finance formula to create your budget and determine how much you can spend as seen below:
Income - Bills - Savings = Spendable
STEP 3 - ADD YOUR INCOME TO YOUR LEVEL MONEY BUDGET
So, first it will attempt to find all of your reoccurring income. It's pretty good at automatically detecting it from your bank history, but if it doesn't, you can go ahead and add it manually by pressing "Add Income" at the bottom and selecting the income from the list.
If it has not already occurred, you could even manually add it with whatever you estimate that income to be.
STEP 4 - ADD YOUR BILLS TO YOUR LEVEL MONEY BUDGET
Next, we'll add all of your reoccurring bills. Make a list of all your bills for the month and add each of them. If they have already occurred in your bank history you can add them by simply selecting them. If not you can simply enter the amount you expect it to be. If it changes frequently like, for example, your electricity bill, it will automatically adjust your budget each month for you when it sees the new amount!
Next, we'll choose how much you'd like to save per month. Put in whatever your comfortable with or what you've already chose to save. It could be 5%, 10%, 15%, or whatever you are comfortable with at this point. (I'll cover this topic in much more depth in a future article) This will automate the savings process for you and make the struggle to save so much easier. You've finished creating your budget!
Find Out What You Can Spend
Now we've got the result we were looking for! One of the major goals of the budget is to determine exactly what you can spend safely and that is what you will get on the last screen.
By pressing on the "Spendable" button at the bottom of the screen it will instantly calculate how much you can spend today, this week, and even this month. With a couple swipes on your phone, your budget, and your spending money is calculated for you automatically with no work on your part! You now know exactly how much you have to spend safely without affecting your bills or driving up big bank fees!
Know Exactly Where All of Your Money Is Going
Not only have you automated your budget, but you can also review your spending to see exactly where our money is going on the Insights page. Press the Insights button to access this page. From here you can create individual trackers to track where your money is going. For example, you could create a Fuel tracker to track exactly how much you spend on fuel or even a Restaurant tracker to track how much you spend on restaurants each month. This is a great way to monitor how much your spending and know exactly where the money is going.
In addition to the trackers you will also see a graph showing how much your spending total in comparison to last month and a graph showing the balance of your bank account.
How Would This Work in My Daily Routine?
So how exactly would this work day to day? Rather than continuing to give you a long speech on how automation will change your life I thought it would be best to simply show you a typical day using this technique. You'll quickly realize how it could change your life.
6:15 AM - Wake up.
7:20 AM - I stop at Starbucks before going to work. I take a quick glance at my phone to see that I have $37.20 free to spend today. My favorite latte is $4.95 so I'm good!
7:54 AM - I get an alert on my phone that a check has been deposited into my checking account for $1,214.57. Awesome! Doesn't really affect me because I already know where my money is going and how much I can spend safely but I always enjoy seeing new income come in.
8:22 AM - I decide to grab a bagel and orange juice from the office cafeteria. I know I have plenty of daily cash still available from checking earlier so I go ahead and grab them for $2.89.
12:11 PM - Time for lunch with a colleague! We head over to Chipotle to grab some burritos. Just to make sure, I glance at my phone and see I still have plenty of spendable money for the day. I checkout with my burrito and a lemonade for $8.25.
5:13 PM - As I'm leaving for home I get a text from from my fiance who asks me if I can grab some drinks for dinner tonight. No problem, I stop at the grocery store and pick up a pack of drinks and a bottle of wine for $16.72.
7:32 PM - After dinner while sitting with the family I notice an app in the iPhone app store that I've been wanting on sale for $.99. I've been watching it for a while. Knowing I still have some cash available for the day I go ahead and get it.
10:12 - Off to bed with no money worries to keep me up at night.
It's that simple! I know exactly how much I can spend guilt free because all of my bills and savings have already been accounted for. The sense of freedom from spending without guilt is an amazing feeling that can be absolutely life changing if embraced. Take the time today to automate your budget and simplify your life forever! Now go and automate your budget!
CREATOR OF LET'S AUTOMATE YOUR MONEY