There are a number of budgeting methods out there. Thankfully, you can always cater your budget to what your current needs are. For the most part, people find it easiest to set up their budget around when they get paid. Because many people get paid bi-weekly, the bi-weekly budget set up is the most common. Here’s how to set one up.
Different Budgeting Methods
When it comes down to it, there are five different types of budgeting methods to choose from. Depending on where you are in your personal financial journey, each has its perks.
- Line item budget: This type of budget is what people generally think of when they imagine a budgeting system. Think excel sheet with different expenses on each line. A line-item budget can be detailed and is generally good for beginners to get an idea of their expenses and incoming cash.
- Proportional budget: Proportional budgeting has you divide your budget into three main categories: needs, wants, and savings. Then you assign a percentage to each category. Typically, your needs and savings should be the highest percentages while you keep the “wants” relatively low.
- “Pay yourself first” budget: You’ve probably heard personal finance blogger after personal finance blogger telling you to pay yourself first. This budgeting method is built around that idea. You decide that you are going to save a certain percentage of each paycheck, let’s say 25%. Then you build the rest of your budget around what is leftover.
- Envelope budget: The envelope system is pretty old school. To do this, you have a set amount of money designated for each budget category and you put that cash into envelopes. In the digital age, you can do this by setting up different “envelopes” via online banking. The goal of this method is to make the cash in each envelope last throughout the entire month.
- Zero-sum budget: The zero-sum budget is what we will be looking at for our bi-weekly budget setup. At the end of each month, you will have spent all of the incoming money you have. Now, that doesn’t mean you will be spending frivolously. You will still have a line for savings and potentially even your investing contributions.
The Bi-Weekly Budget
So, how do you set up a bi-weekly budget?
Depending on your own personal needs, a bi-weekly budget may not work for you. You may benefit from a weekly or monthly setup more than bi-weekly, especially if you get paid more (or less) often. For us, we have our main income come in every two weeks and we set up a zero-based budget to make the most of those paychecks. Here’s how we set it up…
- First, print out a calendar or buy a planner. We use a planner for ours. This makes things more visual.
- Start plugging in your expenses to the calendar. Think about what expenses you have each month and how they are divided up throughout the month.
- Take varying expenses into account as well. If you have regular recurring expenses that aren’t on a monthly basis, make sure you take note of them and plan for them accordingly. The best way to do this is to set money aside into a sinking fund for these.
- Save! You should always have a line item for savings. Whether you are building an emergency fund or sinking funds, save some money out of each check and put it in your budget.
- Track your spending. Once you have what you think is a good budget in place, begin to track your spending to be sure your budget is accurate and will work for you.
Choose What Works For You
The last item in setting up a bi-weekly budget is possibly the most important. You have to choose a budgeting method that will work for you. Track your spending and get familiar with your finances. Doing this will ensure you are being realistic in your expectations. Similarly, if you are paid on a weekly or monthly basis, a bi-weekly system may not be the best option for you. Take all of your personal needs, financial goals, and expenses into account to find the best budgeting method for you.
Readers, what budgeting method do you use?
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Amanda Blankenship is the Director of Social Media for District Media. In addition to her duties handling everything social media, she frequently writes for a handful of blogs and loves to share her own personal finance story with others. When she isn’t typing away at her desk, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, husband, and dog. During her free time, you’re likely to find her with her nose in a book, hiking, or playing RPG video games.