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Need Help With Your Budget? Try a Weekly Budget

Budgeting is so important, but so hard to develop as a habit.

You can faithfully crunch numbers once a month, only to find out you’re consistently spending more than you planned. I know, because it happens to me. That’s why I find breaking your monthly budget into a weekly budget can be really helpful.

Why a Weekly Budget Helps

For me, figuring out how much money I have available in a week is much more manageable than a whole 30 or 31 days.

While it’s true a lot of our expenses recur monthly; most of these expenses, like our rent, mortgage, or car payment, are fixed.

Unless you really have an income shortfall and don’t earn enough to cover your monthly bills, it’s not these fixed costs that blow our budgets – it is variable, sometimes discretionary spending like groceries, clothing, gas, and entertainment.

For example, if you set a budget for the month of, say, $150 for dining, and blow more than half of that on a nice dinner the first week of the month, it can be really tough to keep track of how your lunches out the next couple of weeks are eating away at that budget.

But if you break that $150 into approximately $34.60 per week, you might see that your dinner the first week meant that you would have to go the next week spending only half of your budget, or $17.30, on any weekday lunches or takeout.

Another benefit of having a weekly budget is making weekly, rather than monthly, credit card debt payments or savings contributions. Doing this can actually save you (or earn you) additional interest. Although the amounts are generally small, weekly contributions are also helpful psychologically, as you can begin to see your continuing progress towards your financial goals that much sooner.

How to Create and Use a Weekly Budget

You may not wish to bother breaking down monthly fixed expenses into weekly amounts, but doing so can be a good exercise in seeing where your money actually goes. If you’re paid weekly or bi-weekly, breaking monthly bills into weekly amounts can also help you set aside funds from each paycheck to go where they are supposed to.

Just in case you forgot the shortcut for changing monthly amounts into weekly amounts, multiply the monthly figure by 12 and divide by 52.

Whether or not you break down your monthly bills, the number you definitely should break out is the money you have left, after your monthly bills, debt repayment, and savings, that you spend on everything from food to gas to entertainment. After all, these are the areas in which we are most likely to overspend.

There will be times when you are going to go over an amount on your weekly budget. For example, if you only fill up your car three times a month, one fill up will be more than your weekly gas budget. That’s OK, as long as you subtract the difference from the following week. Similarly, you can roll over any money you don’t spend into the following week.

When you do this with a weekly budget, you begin to see very quickly how each purchase is a trade-off. Will you want a nice dinner this Friday, or a couple of take-out dinners next week? Do you want to drive down to see your friend 100 miles away this weekend or pop around town going shopping?

Do you budget weekly? How has it helped, and what have you found challenging about it?

Next Wednesday check out the budgeting topic to read: “Budget Busters: The Expenses You Never Think About”. Need a reminder? Please subscribe to my RSS Feed.

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. Hello, I was wondering what I could do to get rid of one of my debts as soon as possible. My goal is this year. I have two debts 1) timeshare owe $12,000 payments $275.00 month and 2) my vehicle owe $20,000.00 payments $547.20 month. I work part-time which pay well. I am in grad school part-time also. I am currently looking for full-time employment. What do I need to do?

  2. I budget weekly and have for the last year. It makes every expense seem so much more manageable. When you look at the expenses monthly it seems like alot. Weekly budgets especially help with adding to savings.

  3. 5) For the most part, my budget is monthly, but I do budget weekly for entertainment and other variable non-essential costs. Basically I allow roughly 3% of my bi-weekly paycheck/week for things like lunches, movies, gifts, golf, and clothes. The rest of my money goes to bills, groceries, retirement, a small buffer in my checking account, and a general savings account I attempt to never touch with a few exceptions (such as if I wanted a new car, needed car repairs, home repairs/improvements, Christmas shopping, and so on). If I don’t spend the entire 3%, it rolls over to the next week. Sometimes it works out that I have quite a lot saved up in my little entertainment fund and can make a large purchase, other times I really have to think about bringing my lunch to work that day because I’ve already spent my allotment for the week. So far I’ve still managed to live a pretty fun life.

    I’ve been trying to save up for a $650 purchase for about 2 months now, but other things keep taking precedent (such as going on a wine tasting tour this weekend). It’s actually a bit frustrating… I know I could just go buy it (and 2 years ago I would have), but then that kind of blows the whole idea behind a budget. As frustrating as it is saving for this item, I’m pretty proud I haven’t just broken down and bought it. And because I’ve taken this mindset, my general savings account and my retirement accounts are doing extremely well, and I’m proud of that too.

  4. I spent a year in Canada and when I came home (the UK) I was pretty much broke, had no house and no job. I spent the majority of the summer living on my mates couches and limiting myself to £5 a day maximum. For instance, £3.50 will buy you 12 potato waffles, 4 cans of beans and 2 litres of orange juice. With this in mind, I gave up drinking (a pint on average being £2.20) and had to eat as many calories in a few meals as possible. I kept to the budget for 2 months and barely overspent. Whn I restarted university, I continued my new frugal lifestyle and it has definitely helped me out financially. Though I had to do this out of desperation for money, in the long run, it really is beneficial.

  5. I have never thought of budgeting weekly. Although the idea is not new, I have always budgeted monthly. That hasn’t always worked out so well, so maybe weekly would work better.

  6. I want to budget weekly but how do you do it when bills that are paid monthly are due at different times? Its confusing to me!