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Angela Colley is a financial writer for Money Crashers Personal Finance, an online resource with tips for budgeting, saving for long-term goals, and planning for early retirement.
For years, I kept track of my financial budget on a piece of paper in my desk drawer. It was an okay system, but it didn’t allow me to track my financial goals. I just didn’t have the time to compare my spending with my budget each month.
Then I got a smartphone and discovered the Easy Envelope Budget Aid (EEBA) app. Now I stay on top of my finances, stay within budget, and always have enough money for what I need. It took me a while to work out a budgeting system using the EEBA app, but now I have great system, and you can too.
Here are some tips you can use to get the most out of the EEBA app:
1. Create Plenty of Envelopes
A well-organized tracking system makes it easier to make a budget, and to know exactly where your money goes. The EEBA app utilizes “Envelopes” as a method of creating budget categories. When I first started budgeting, I used one Envelope for my house, one for necessities, and one for extras. Now, I have 10 Envelopes to cover everything I buy through this Envelope Budgeting System.
The EEBA app helped me to understand that I need to spend less money on extras and dining out. You can quickly add Envelopes using the EEBA app to help you stay on budget. Use all of the Envelopes you think you might need when you start using the Easy Envelope Budget Aid, and don’t hesitate to add more as you need them.
2. Record Cash Expenses
To stay on track with your financial goals, make sure to record all of the purchases you make in cash. For example, if you spend $60 on food from the local supermarket, record the expense in your “Grocery” Envelope to get an accurate count as to how you spent the money.
3. Use the Split Category Feature to Maintain Accurate Records
I often make two types of purchases at one store. For example, I may purchase both food and household products at the grocery store, or buy gas and drinks or snacks at the gas station. The EEBA app suggests categories for my spending based on previous purchases that I’ve made from the same store. This saves time, but may not always give you an accurate report.
Whenever I buy items from the same location or retailer that must be categorized in two different Envelopes, I make sure to use the “Split Into Multiple Envelopes” option. Having an accurate account of your expenditures helps you stay abreast of budgeting goals.
4. Don’t Forget to Record Expenses You Paid for With Your Credit Card
Track all of your spending, including credit cards, in your budget. When I first started using EEBA, I budgeted for my credit card bill. However, I didn’t include what I spent on my credit card in my monthly tracking. This made budgeting easier, but it didn’t honestly reflect my monthly expenditures since I had several hundred dollars of untracked expenses every month.
Now I track everything I spend on my credit card, as well as what comes out of my banking account and what I pay for in cash. Nothing goes unnoticed, and I keep better track of my budget.
5. Record Gifts and Other Unexpected Income
I should probably admit that I quickly blow through gift money, unexpected bonuses, and tax refunds. I look at this income as free money, and often spend the money without considering my budget.
However, I should use the money to make sure I’m staying on track, or save the money to help me with my financial goals. For example, if I am in the red in an Envelope or two, I could use my free money to cover those expenses for the rest of the month. I could also put the money aside and save it for a rainy day.
6. Quit While You’re Ahead
The green bars in the app show you how well you’re doing, but they also have a downside: If you stayed within your budget, you might get tempted to spend a little extra at the end of the month. After all, you planned to spend the money, so what’s the harm? If you’re in the green across the board, entirely debt-free, and have plenty of savings, you can probably spend the last of your allocated income without any negative repercussions.
However, most of us have something better we can do with a little extra money. Personally, I use mine to help pad my emergency savings account, but you can use yours for paying off your debt, or just to give yourself an extra cushion next month.
Following a budget helps you maintain control of your finances. The EEBA app offers an array of helpful tools to make it even easier to customize your budget. Create your own Envelope categories, customize the way you track your spending, stick to your favorite budgeting tips, and you’ll be a budget guru in no time.