10 Things You Can Do if You Hate to Budget

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  • Some people find budgeting boring or complicated.
  • There are many financial moves you can make to take the place of budgeting, like automating your savings and keeping larger expenses on the low side.

You'll often hear that budgeting is the key to managing your money well and meeting your savings goals. But let's face -- budgeting can be a drag. You have to first create your budget, keep tabs on it, and continuously adjust your budget to account for changes to your bills. So if the idea of setting up and sticking to a budget doesn't appeal to you, here are some other things you can try that will allow you to get to a good place financially.

1. Automate transfers to a savings account

A big benefit of budgeting is that it can become easier to carve out money to put into your savings account. After all, if you're not spending your entire paycheck month after month, there's more opportunity to save.

But budgeting isn't the only option for boosting your savings. You can also set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings at the start of each month. That could lead to successful savings efforts because a chunk of your money will be taken away, so to speak, before you get a chance to spend it.

2. Sign up for your company's 401(k) plan

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, signing up to contribute is a great way to ensure you're building yourself a nest egg for retirement. The great thing about 401(k)s is that they're funded automatically with payroll deductions. So if you commit to saving a certain amount of money each month, by the time your paychecks get to you, those contributions will have been taken care of.

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3. Put IRA contributions on autopilot

It's also possible to automate contributions to an IRA (or at least you can in many cases). If you don't have a 401(k) through your employer, or if there's something about your company's 401(k) that you just don't like, such as the fees it charges or its limited investment choices, then an IRA may be a better choice for your long-term savings anyway. And automating your contributions is a great way to make sure you're meeting your investment goals.

4. Put money into an FSA

With an FSA, or flexible spending account, you commit to contributing a set amount of money for the next year's medical expenses. Like 401(k) plan contributions, FSA contributions are deducted from your earnings before you get paid, and they go in tax-free, which is another benefit. By using an FSA, you'll have dedicated funds set aside for medical spending as you incur healthcare costs. And you won't automatically land in debt when medical bills arise unexpectedly.

5. Fund an HSA

If you're enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (which, for 2023, is defined as an individual deductible of $1,500 and a family-level deductible of $3,000), then your plan may be compatible with a health savings account, or HSA. HSAs are worth participating in because they allow you to save for healthcare costs in a tax-advantaged manner, and they're funded similarly to the way FSAs are funded.

The difference, though, is that HSAs don't require you to spend down your plan balance every year, whereas FSAs do. That gives you more flexibility while helping ensure you have money available for medical bills.

6. Keep your rent or mortgage low

RentCafe reports that the average U.S. rent is now $1,702. If you're not into budgeting, a good bet is to keep your large expenses on the low side, and that includes housing (which might actually be your single largest monthly expense).

When buying a home or renting one, it's generally a good rule of thumb to make sure your housing costs do not exceed 30% of your take-home pay. But if you're not going to budget, you may want to keep that expense to 20% or less of your income so you have more wiggle room with other bills.

7. Buy a less expensive car

The average new car price in March was $48,008, according to data from Kelley Blue Book. But the less you spend on a vehicle, the lower your car payments are apt to be. That could help you avoid going overboard on spending on a whole -- even if you aren't following a budget on a regular basis.

8. Don’t dine out more than once a week

Even if you generally avoid high-end restaurants, dining out is pretty much always going to be more expensive than cooking your own meals at home. If you don't want to worry about overspending but you're also not looking to budget, pledge to keep your restaurant meals to a minimum. One such meal per week might be reasonable, but beyond that, you may be pushing it.

9. Opt for frugal entertainment

If you're the type of person who insists on going out multiple times a week to clubs or seeing concerts, then you may have to budget to avoid landing in debt. On the other hand, if you make a point to spend very little on entertainment, you can potentially get away with skipping the budget and just sticking to frugal choices, like streaming services that don't cost very much and low-key gatherings with friends at someone's apartment.

10. Work a side hustle

The danger of not following a budget is spending more money than what you earn and racking up costly debt in the process. But if you're able to boost your income, you can generally cover your bills with more confidence. So it may be worth it to pick up a side hustle not just for the extra money, but for the option to know that you're able to pay your bills without stress.

In 2022, 40% of U.S. workers had some sort of side hustle, according to Zapier. And the gig economy is still in good shape today. So think about your skills and schedule and find a side job that works for you, whether it's driving for a ride hailing service, tutoring, or walking dogs. You can even find a side hustle you can do from home if that's easier for you to manage.

Budgeting actually isn't super difficult, and there are different budgeting apps that make it pretty seamless. But if you're set against it, you can make these moves instead. And with any luck, they'll allow you to get to a great place financially and stay there.

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