How to Budget in Less than 20 Minutes a Week

One of the most common misconceptions about budgeting is that is takes a l-o-n-g time. Most people who do not learn how to make a budget do so because they believe they don’t have the time to budget. But, if your budget is doing its job you should be able to budget without a major disruption to your schedule.

While some people work for different reasons, most people work to pay the bills. Some even hate or begrudge their jobs. Yet they continue to put in 40 plus hours a week to earn money to pay the bills. However, for most people, taking 20 minutes a week to budget could dramatically reduce their expenses which would also decrease the need to earn so much money. Remember, a penny saved is more than a penny earned.


5 Steps to a 20 Minute Budget

1. Set up the budget.

Yes, this part of the process will take more than 20 minutes. This is where you actually make your budget and set budget categories.

Time commitment every 2-3 years: 1-3 hours.

2. Keep a written record for every purchase.

Collect receipts every time you spend money. If you don’t get a receipt, just take a receipt you already have and make a note on the back of the receipt. Include the item purchased and total cost.

Time commitment per transaction: 0 seconds if they give you a receipt and 20 seconds if they don’t.

If the average person makes 10 purchases a week where they don’t get a receipt, it will cost them 2 minutes of their week. You can also use tools, such as Personal Capital to automate tracking.

3. If married, schedule a budget date one day a week.

Yes, call it a date. When you’re on the same page with your finances, your marriage will be better.

Have one person enter the information and the other read the information from the receipts you’ve been collecting. You Need A Budget is also a good computer budgeting program. My wife reads the charges and I enter them.

Time commitment per week: When the computer is on, you can enter all our receipts in about 15 minutes.

4. Analyze the budget once a month.

At the end of the month, you’ll need to review your budget and make changes if necessary (i.e., you overspent on a category). When you start to get a handle on budgeting, you’ll need to decide how you want to use unspent money.

There is no point in keeping a budget unless you plan to change spending habits based on your monthly spending totals. Review the budget and make the necessary alterations.

Time commitment per month: 10 minutes.

5. Make changes only when necessary.

Each month use the same amounts in each budget category. For simplicity just take the same budget and use month to month. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. On occasion, however, changes must be made. They might be significant changes like the loss of income or minor changes like family visiting for a week. Reallocate some dollars to cover the new charges.

Time commitment 1 hour per year.

Final Tip: Keep it simple.

If your budget is taking more than 30 minutes per week, it is way too complicated so it will be hard to stick to your budget. Setting an alarm for 25 minutes and complete all of your budgeting in that amount of time. When the clock is ticking, we always seem to work more efficiently. After you master 25 minutes, try doing it in 20 minutes. Once again, when put to the text you’ll find a more efficient way to budget.

What tips do you have for budgeting efficiently? Do you think it is possible to budget in less than 20 minutes per week?

Photo by Aaron Geller.


By , on Jun 28, 2013
Craig Ford Craig Ford is a fulltime missionary in Papua New Guinea who writes Money Help For Christians and Help Me Travel Cheap, a frugal family travel blog. He is the author of Money Wisdom From Proverbs, has a Masters of Divinity degree, and (most importantly) eats homemade pizza with his family every Friday night.


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  1. Jam:

    I totally agree it this when you spend your time on budgeting it shall be as simple as possible and not overdo. Really good resource here. Thanks for the tip

  2. This 20-minute budget is amazing. It’s not a laborious process after all. Besides, these five steps are easy to follow. Budgets can really help you to save money.

  3. I really agree that when budgeting you should try to keep it as simple as possible. Making it too difficult or complicated will cause you to lose sight and not want to follow it. My wifey and I go over our budget weekly and review it quarterly for major changes. I track everything online and put it in spreadsheets.

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