Budgeting is an effective method of tracking money habits to see where you can improve, but not everyone approaches it the same way. There is a wide range of budgeting personalities, from those who don't know much about budgeting benefits to those who have been using it for decades to build wealth. In reality, many of us fall somewhere in between, managing some things well while having room to improve over time.
One helpful tool for figuring out where you fall on the spectrum is to test your budgeting personality. Are you a budgeting guru? Could you use a little help? Do you know why budgeting is important?
Take this quiz as the first step to boosting your budget IQ.
1. When I hear the word “budget,” I think:
A. What’s a budget?
B. What a way to ruin my fun!
C. Oh, that thing? I should probably get back to using one again.
D. I owe much of my money success to my budget.
2. I track my income, saving, and spending by:
A. I don’t track any of these things
B. Waiting for the bank to call about my overdraft, then try not to spend for awhile
C. Setting goals that I sometimes follow through on
D. Using a budget app or tool to track every penny every month
3. Talking about money with my loved ones usually ends in:
A. Nothing, because I don’t ever talk about money
B. Embarrassment, arguments, or frustration
C. Promises to do better in the future
D. A good idea of the financial situation and a solid plan for moving forward
4. When I get my next paycheck, I will:
A. Buy some things for me, then pay as many of the bills as I can
B. Pay my bills, but that’s all I can do
C. Take care of responsibilities, then use the small amount left to meet a money goal
D. Not do anything because my bills and savings goals are set up to be paid automatically
5. If there was one word to describe my money habits, it would be:
Now, count up your totals to see what your money personality is. If you chose:
Mostly A’s: Baby budgeter
Let's face it, you really need a money makeover, and a budget is the best tool to get you started on the right path. Even if you have never used a budget before, sitting down and tracking all your spending for the last month can tell you where your money goes, so you can make the important changes needed to thrive. If you don't have a way of tracking your money, consider a Netspend card. Not only does it work as a digital record of all your purchases, but you won't get into further debt by only spending the money you have.
Mostly B’s: Casual budgeter
You know what a budget is, but you've strayed far from the path of money management. It may be that you're afraid of facing your money issues, or you just got too relaxed with your money behaviors. Whatever the reason, now's the time to start budgeting again, and late is better than never. By signing up for a budgeting app, like Personal Capital or Mint, that sends out daily alerts and notifications, you won't fall into the habit of neglecting your budget again.
Mostly C’s: Born budgeter
You’re a budgeter at heart, and your efforts have kept you from serious financial ruin. That’s something to be proud of, but you still have work to do. There are two ways to free up space in the budget: save more or make more. Whether you pick up a side hustle to make some extra cash this holiday or cancel all those unused streaming channels, you can make a difference in your budget. What can you do with those extra dollars? Consider adding some to your rainy-day fund or paying down expensive debt. You won’t regret these wise financial moves.
Mostly D’s: Master budgeter
You're so good at budgeting; you should teach a class! With a healthy budget set up, you are making the most of your money and meeting goals that will matter down the road. You likely have an automated payment system for bills and savings, and you check on your budget often to catch costly mistakes. All of this is something to be proud of, but you can still benefit from tools that help your money grow over time. A high-interest-rate savings account is one way to turn those good money decisions into more money down the road. The dollar saved by budgeting today can become more dollars in the future.
Bonus budgeting tips:
Tracking where our money goes is just part of keeping a budget. You can also try these budgeting methods:
Write when each bill comes due every month on a calendar so that you never pay a late fee
Break up big expenses (like car taxes or your annual eye exam) into smaller monthly chunks, and set aside that money in the months leading up to the purchase
Check your transactions for recurring subscriptions you don’t need anymore
Watch out for free trials by setting a notification on your phone for when you need to cancel them
See if you can avoid monthly banking fees by having your paycheck auto-deposited. (Or, better yet, have it added to your Netspend card, so you can earn interest, too.)
Make more frequent payments on credit card debt so you pay it down faster. Even weekly payments of $10-20 can add up over time.
Don't forget that some budgeting apps also show your credit score. Knowing where your credit stands can help you stay on top of your money goals and can also alert you to problems with your credit profile (like a fraudulent account opened in your name.)
Budgets are an important tool for every part of life and aren’t just limited to those with money challenges. Knowing how to follow a budget can empower you to spend money in the way that matters most while helping you avoid costly money mistakes.