Dust Off and Clean Up Your Budget With These 5 Steps

A father and child clean their home.
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Remember your budget?

You know, that spreadsheet that’s been collecting dust? That app you haven’t logged into in months?

If this sounds like you, your budget could use a little TLC.

If you spent the spring deep cleaning your house and purging your closets, now it’s time to clean up your budget.

Here are five steps to refreshing your money management system. No rubber gloves or disinfecting spray required.

1. Wipe Away Unnecessary Expenses

Tidy up your spending habits by purging wasteful expenditures, like that gym membership that you never use or that free trial you forgot to cancel.

Scan your bank statements from the last several months to identify recurring costs to get rid of. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for other problem areas in your budget to correct, like repeated impulse buys at your favorite store.

2. Update Your Spending Limits in Each Budgeting Category

A budget is not a static system. The spending limits you set when you first started your budget may not fit your life today.

Go through all your budget categories and see if your spending projections align with your actual spending. For example, if you’re exceeding your spending limit for groceries every month, it may be time to make an adjustment to your budget. You may have been underestimating your spending all along.

3. Make Sure Your Spending Matches Your Values

You work hard for your money, but it’s easy to let cash slip through your fingers without a second thought.

How you spend your disposable income — what’s left over after bills and necessities — should reflect what’s important to you. Values-based budgeting is a money management approach that factors that in.

Take some time to reflect on your spending and determine whether or not it aligns with your values. Adding room in your budget for fun money will make you more likely to stick to your money management plan.

4. Consider Switching to a Different Budgeting Method

There’s no one right way to budget. If you’ve been struggling, switch up your approach.

The zero-based budgeting method is great for people who want to keep close tabs on every dollar spent, while the 50/30/20 method corrals your spending into three broad categories. 

You can ditch monthly budgeting with a paycheck budget or spread your expenses out more evenly with the half payment method.

The calendar method helps you stay on top of upcoming expenses and payment due dates. The cash envelope system prevents people from swiping their debit cards past their spending limits. 

You might even find success combining a few budgeting methods, like this woman did.

5. Get Help to Maintain Your Budget

Cleaning up your budget is the first step. After that it’s all about maintenance.

The right tools will help you keep your finances organized. A budget binder stores all your important documents in one place — stuff like your spending log, your debt tracker and a calendar of your upcoming bill due dates. You can purchase pre-made binders or DIY your own.

If you prefer an app over the pen-and-paper approach, there’s a plethora of options available. Check out this list of our favorite budgeting apps.

Having an accountability buddy will help you stick to your financial goals long after the season’s changed. The Penny Hoarder Community is a great place to connect with like-minded budgeters. Find a money buddy there who won’t let you slack the next time you want to ignore your budget.

Feeling overwhelmed? Create a budget that works for you with our budgeting bootcamp!

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.