As someone who has experimented with many different budgeting methods — the guilt-free budget, zero-sum budget, and the 50/30/20 budget, to name a few — I had pretty much given up on maintaining a strict budget and keeping a close watch on my spending. It felt tedious, time-consuming, and at the end of the day, what really mattered was staying on top of savings goals.
That is until my friend Ari, who is a financial coach, suggested that we all should budget weekly, not monthly. Ari, who is a self-described reformed party boy who once went on mini spending binges on weekends, found that resetting your budget on a weekly basis could help you not only keep track of your expenses, but also help you save.
A few years ago, I decided to give budgeting weekly a whirl. Budgeting weekly has helped me be more realistic about my expenses, and give me a little more wiggle room each month. These days, I do a combination of a guilt-free budget and “pay myself first,” and spend the rest, along with budgeting weekly for my discretionary expenses.
I separate out my discretionary expenses
To keep my savings and discretionary spending money apart, I move a set amount of money each week to a Qapital account that I use solely for spending.
Qapital has a “weekly sweet spot” feature where you can determine how much you can spend each week, and monitor your spending on a weekly basis. First, I figured out my fixed expenses such as rent, utilities, subscription services, and insurance, and how much I wanted to save each month for emergencies, vacations, and retirement. Whatever remained was what I had to spend each month. Last, I divided that number by 4.3 (which is how many weeks are in a month), and that would be my weekly spending budget.
Keeping money in a separate checking account makes it less tempting to tap into my savings before I truly need it. Plus, it makes it easier to keep track of how much I have left each week.
I stash money to cover credit card payments
During the pandemic, I started to shop more online and use my credit card to cover purchases. To help cover my monthly credit card payments, each time I make a purchase with my credit card, I move money from my Qapital account over into my main checking account, where my credit card purchases are paid out of.
Say I spent $30 buying pet food online. I would move $30 from my weekly spending account to my main checking account. This helps me avoid feeling blindsided when I receive my credit card statement, and I have an easier time paying my credit card balance in full each month. Plus, the majority of the time I’m using money that I already set aside for discretionary purchases.
I save what’s ‘leftover’
When I have money left at the end of each week, I save it. Ari suggests spending it so that you can enjoy yourself and not feel deprived. I often feel like I have enough wiggle room to spend on a few random purchases a month, and would prefer to put that money toward a savings goal, whether it be a splurge fund, vacation fund, or to add to my emergency savings. While how much I save each week varies, it helps me save at least several hundred dollars a year.
It helps prevent going into panic mode about money
Budgeting weekly, combined with a “pay yourself first” approach to savings, helps squash concerns I might have about running out of money by month’s end. It can be hard to budget for an entire month, especially since bills are due at different times of the month, which means how much you need each month can differ. Also, it helps me save anything “leftover” from my weekly funds.