3 Ways to Start Budgeting

Budgeting doesn't have to be stressful. Let's use Broke Betty as an example. The last step to help Betty increase her Financial FUEL is encouraging her to track progress. She’ll need a simple way to track her Financial FUEL and lots of encouragement along the way. Some people are great at sticking to a budget. Unfortunately, Betty isn’t one of them. She’s tried to budget, but found herself falling off the wagon repeatedly. Explore these tips and tools that will help Betty track her money.

  • Focus on frequency, not amount: Betty has always been told to set a budget that tells her how much she can spend by category (e.g., $300 for groceries, $100 for entertainment, etc.). Staying consistent and keeping track of the amount in each category can be overwhelming. Instead, Betty can focus on frequency and get similar results. For example, instead of budgeting $300 for groceries, Betty can count the number of times she goes to the grocery store. If she goes two to three times per week, she can cut back to one or two times per week. Sure, she’ll buy more each visit but, overall, we’ve seen that Betty will spend less. More importantly, reducing frequency is a metric that Betty can easily track and change. (This applies to dining out, food delivery, and Amazon shopping as well.)
  • Go all cash: Cash is hard to hide. Betty will see cash leaving her hand. Encourage Betty to autosave 1% of her paycheck and use cash for as many expenses as possible. She can set aside rent, utilities, and other auto-bills. The remainder of her expenses, such as eating out, groceries, gas, etc., should be all cash. Yes, it’s less convenient. This makes spending harder – a welcome barrier when she’s trying to save money.
  • Budgeting apps: There are tons of budgeting and personal finance apps. One app is not better than another. Betty should choose the app that helps her focus on her budgeting pain points. The list below would be a great starting point for Betty.

Helpful Apps

Calendar Budget

  • Those who like visuals. Uses a calendar representation of your account balances, income, and expenses.
  • Cost: 30-day free trial and then $7.99/month        


  • Trying to break the check-to-check cycle. Uses a calendar system to track your spending instead of tracking spending by categories. Main concept is daily cash management.
  • Cost: Free version with limited functionality and paid versions from $4.99-$6.99/month      


  • Followers of the envelopes system who want an easy to use app. Multiple family or household members can log in to the same account.    
  • Cost: Free version with limited functionality and a Plus version for $8/month or $70/year        


  • For couples. Connect bank accounts and track balances, bills, spending. Couples can also create custom categories, bill reminders, and household spending limits.    
  • Cost: Free        


  • Comprehensive budgeting and automated spending tracking. Mint also offers credit monitoring.    
  • Cost: Free        

Personal Capital    

  • Net worth and wealth tracking.    
  • Cost: Free for basic tracking        


  • Cost cutting. Trim negotiates your bills, contests your bank fees, cancels your old subscriptions - all done for you!  
  • Cost: Mostly free. If you enroll in Bill Negotiation, they will charge you 15% of the total first year of savings.        


  • Doing it all. Tracks spending, gives you an overview of your accounts, and can cancel subscriptions and negotiate lower payments on phone, cable, and internet bills for you.    
  • Cost: Free to use with a Premium option ranging from $3-$12/month        

YNAB (You Need A Budget)    

  • Super budgeters who want to follow zero-based budgeting    
  • Cost: Free 34-day trial, then $14.99/month or $99/year

It's up to Betty - the choice is hers. It will likely take 6 to 12 months for Broke Betty to have consistent, positive financial fuel.