You’ve done the due diligence and created a budget (kudos to you, by the way). But despite figuring out how much you need to cover your living expenses, you could still be falling short each month. If that’s the case, consider revisiting your budget once a week, instead of once a month.
As the saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” In many ways creating a budget is like jotting down a to-do list for your money. It’s far easier to create a to-do list for each day or week than it is per month. Plus, your recurring bills are due at different times each month. So consider chunking it down by week.
Here’s how to go about budgeting weekly, not monthly:
Jot Down Your Expenses
If you haven’t done so already, write down all your basic living expenses and the amounts. This typically includes:
Fixed (expenses where the amounts are roughly the same each month)
- Insurance premiums
- Cellphone bill
- Monthly subscriptions (i.e., streaming services, subscriptions to magazines)
- Gym or yoga membership
Variable (expenses where the amounts changes each month)
- Gas for your car
- Public transit
- Food (groceries, eating out)
- Personal and household spending
Don’t forget to include payments that are due only once or twice a year, such as your cloud backup for your computer, or auto insurance premiums. I divide the payment into x months, and include it into my budget.
Figure Out When Your Bills Are Due
Once you figure out what your monthly expenses are, create a schedule for when your bills are due. For instance, your rent is due the first of the month, your credit card payments might be due on the 15th, and your phone and insurance premiums might be due closer to the end of the month. Write down the exact date payment for each bill is due.
Divvy Up Your Paychecks Based on When Bills Are Due
After you map out what the payment dates are, you can divvy up your paychecks accordingly. Let’s say you get paid on the 15th and 30th of each month. If that’s the case, then you might want to pay your rent using money that’s coming on from the first paycheck, and some of your smaller bills from the second paycheck. Here’s an example:
Paycheck 1 (15th of each month) - $1,500
Rent (due on the 1st)
Water and power (due on the 5th)
Gas (due on the 7th)
Paycheck 2 (30th of each month) - $1,500
Insurance (due on the 20th)
Credit Card (due on the 20th)
Cell Phone (due on the 22nd)
Netflix (due on the 17th)
The goal is to divvy up your paychecks so that you spend $750 a week, or $1,500 every two weeks. This isn’t a perfect science, but you’ll have a better idea of how much you’re spending on just your recurring, fixed expenses each week of the month.
If you’re having trouble syncing up the payment schedule for some of your bills, you can reach out to the company and ask to move your payment due date. If you explain that it’ll help you make your payments on time, it’s a win-win situation for both parties.
Track Your Weekly Spending
Now that you’ve handled your fixed expenses, let’s move on to the fun part: budgeting for your discretionary, or variable expenses. This includes groceries, eating out, going out with friends, clothes, and the like.
First, you’ll need to know where your money is going. You can use a money management app or review bank or credit card statements to see what exactly you’re spending your money on.
Find Your Weekly Sweet Spot
It’s what Dan Ariely, the chief behavioral economist of Qapital, calls your “weekly sweet spot.” This is based on your tracked expenses I find it’s easier to focus on your sweet spot for just your variable spending, not on your fixed bills. So let’s say your take-home pay is $3,000 a month, which breaks down to $750 a week. If you’re spending about $500 a week on bills, that leaves you $250 a week for everything else.
While it takes a bit of work and planning up front, you could find yourself having an easier time living within your means, paying off your debt, and saving for the future. If a monthly budget isn’t working for you, creating a weekly one is definitely worth a shot.
Want help with your monthly spending plan? Money Management International (MMI) can help. Our certified counselors can help you create a budget, and provide you with information, tools, and resources to help you with your finances.
Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based personal finance writer who is passionate about helping creatives with their finances. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Mental Floss, Business Insider, and GOOD. She blogs at heyfreelancer.com.