I remember writing this reminder on the office whiteboard–Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good.
Too often we want to do something just, exactly, right and if we don’t have the time or the knowledge to get it exactly right, we don’t attempt it at all.
This makes sense when you are creating an artistic masterpiece or preparing a speech to be delivered to hundreds of people.
It doesn’t make sense for many personal finance tasks including preparing a budget or tracking spending. Rather than seeking out perfection, Nike’s slogan of Just Do It would be more appropriate. Just sit down and do something. it won’t be perfect but it can be tweaked next week, next month or next year.
Preparing a budget is an art, not a science-there’s no right answer. It is based on your best guesses.
For budgeting expenses, you can summarize your line items. Think House Payment/Insurance/Taxes, Utilities, Home Improvements, Car Payment/Insurance, Fuel/Service, Spending, Vacations. 7 categories total to start. If you decide you want to break it down further, you always can.
My first post-college budget had 4 line items: Car payment, spending, rent, food. Now, I budget 20 expense categories because I like to break utilities out and I have line items for two homes and a boat.
For tracking expenses, you can use the same summarized line items or provide additional breakdowns like spending-groceries, spending-dining, spending-gifts etc. I break my spending budget down into about 15 sub categories for my tracking but that’s more detailed than most would want.
I prepare my budget for the full year but you can prepare yours for a month or a pay period if that makes more sense to you. The most important thing is to just do it.
Need help getting started with your budget? Here are a bunch of templates and recommended on line budgeting sites.