What are Spending Plan Tools?

worker with tools

Most people are just not motivated by creating or using a spending plan. Research has shown that 20 – 30 percent of the U.S. population does not use a spending plan. According to a Debt.com survey of over 1000 people, almost a third did not use a spending plan because they felt they did not have enough income. They may have felt like they did not have enough income to use a spending plan, but it’s a good practice to use one anyway, and the spending plan tools below can help you create and manage your spending plan.

What are Spending Plan Tools?

A spending plan tool is simply anything that helps you manage your spending plan. They help you stick to your spending plan and accomplish your goals. Sticking to your spending plan is increasingly important given today’s economic situation.

Additionally, having the right tools is essential when tracking expenses and monitoring income. Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank by buying expensive software or anything like that. From old-school methods to the latest financial applications, there are many tools out there. Below are a few of my favorites.

One of the Oldest is the Envelope System

In the envelope system, you develop your spending plan, cash your check, and distribute your paycheck funds or the funds you created the spending plan for into different envelopes. Next, label envelopes with all your spending categories and put the money into the envelopes. Then you spend the money out of the envelopes for your different spending categories. This method is really good for sticking to your spending plan because when a category or an envelope is empty – it’s empty and there is no more spending in that category unless you make some adjustments to another category.

Spending plans are living and breathing, they change, but an empty envelope is not necessarily a reason to change the spending plan. Perhaps you need to adjust a spending category and spend less in it so you can spend more in another. 

The Spending Plan Calendar as a Spending Plan Tool

This one is my favorites. I am in the process of creating my 2023 spending plan calendars. If you are interested in purchasing one, let me know.

The spending plan calendar is a calendar you use to track your income and expenses by date. To use this tool, pick a day and time during the week. Once a week, and during that time, track your income and expenses in the calendar. The goal is to get into the habit of doing this. I call this working your money. 

Due dates go on the calendar and serve as weekly or monthly reminders to make payments and help to avoid being late. Sharing with your family ensures the family understands the financial priorities of the household. It will also help you feel more in control of your financial life.

Many times, when there are money problems, money going out is the problem, not the money coming in.

There are other tools such as spreadsheets and financial applications you can use to track income and expense categories. Use whatever works best for you. I suggest that you try one or two until you find one that works and helps you start reaching financial goals

Not everyone relishes the idea of proactively managing money and maintaining a spending plan. However, creating a spending plan and sticking to it are key steps toward reaching financial goals large and small. Spending plan tools can help you manage your money better.

Five Tips for a Better Spending Plan

Creating and working on your spending plan is a way you manage your money better, and below are five tips for a better spending plan. 

There are many benefits to creating a spending plan. 

For all the pitfalls and changes that come when creating and working with a spending plan, here are some tips that can help.     

Step 1.   Call your budget a spending plan.

Instead of calling it a budget, call it a spending plan. I do not know what it is but when most of us hear the word budget, we think of bad things, lack of control, and things we can’t do. 

So instead, call it a spending plan and think of it as a way to be a better steward of your money. Just planning to spend your money, a spending plan, sounds like you are doing better.

Before you receive any money from a paycheck or any other income for the pay period, you want to sit down and “plan to spend” that income. On purpose, you want to plan out where all your paycheck will be spent. Often, we do not plan to spend our money and end up letting others spend our money for us as we buy things that we do not plan to. 

Step 2. Track where your money is going.

It’s difficult to effectively manage your money if you do not know where it is going.

Tracking your spending lets you know exactly where every dollar is going. From the grocery store to the gas pump, tracking your spending will tell you where your money went. Tracking allows you to have a more accurate spending plan because now you know how much you spent at the grocery store last week or month. Sit down once a week with your receipts and write down where it was spent, how much was spent, and what the money was spent for. 

You will see patterns in your spending that you did not notice before and behavior that you will want to change, and that is the key to managing money better, changing behavior.

Step 3. Cut your expenses.

Once you track your expenses for a while, you will have a much better understanding of how, where, and what you are spending your money on. You are not ready and able to cut unnecessary expenses. 

Get radical and go into deal mode and use coupons to save money. Make a list for all shopping trips and never, never, never go shopping hungry. Business is very adept at getting you to spend your money; it’s called marketing. Instead, stay home and read, exercise, or do some yard works to keep your mind elsewhere. Even try car polling and taking your lunch to work.   

Take a good hard look at all your spending and see where you can cut.  

Set up some financial goals for yourself like an emergency fund or a Christmas savings account. Find a way to keep your goals in front of you. Tape them to your bathroom mirror. Keep a copy of them on the dashboard of your car. Take them with you when you are out and about. Refer to them often, they will help you stay on track and prevent impulse buying.      

Step 4. If need be, increase income.

If you have less money coming in than going out, and after cutting expenses, you still have part of the month left after the money is gone, you may want to try and increase your income. A second job to help pay off debt is not a bad in the short term. 

Be sure to have a plan or goal for the money that you make at a second job and stick to the plan. If it’s to pay bills, then it’s to pay bills. Maybe you start a small business doing something you like to do or do well for extra income. The possibilities are endless.    

Step 5. Use spending plan tools to help you manage money better.

So, you ask, “What are spending plan tools?” A spending plan tool is something that helps manage the spending plan. 

Probably one of the oldest and best tools is the envelope system. 

In the envelope system, you develop a spending plan, cash your check and distribute your paycheck funds into different envelopes with your spending categories labeled on the envelopes. When a particular envelope is empty, its empty and no more spending in that category.

There are other tools such as calendars which help you to keep track of payment amounts and due dates. It’s a helpful way to estimate how much money will flow in and out in a given month. Some people will use spreadsheets to track the different spending categories.

Whether you use all these tips or none, do something different to manage your finances. Do not keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result; that’s insanity. How do you manage your spending plan? Comment below and subscribe to get spending plan and financial management tips.