4 Budgeting Skills Examples from Real People

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Have you ever checked your bank account to see if you have “enough money”? If so, then you need a budget. And the best place to look for real-life budgeting skills examples is the personal finance blogosphere, specifically money writers.

Whether you're just starting out with your first budget, or looking to refine your existing methodology, let's first talk about why you need a budget.

  • The amount you spend isn't something you want to guess because you want to know exactly how much you have and where it's going.
  • If you have a budget in place, you know you have the money to pay your bills.
  • Without a budget, you feel regret almost as soon as the money is gone: You have no idea if you have money in your account and no idea if you will be able to pay needed expenses because of today's splurge.
  • Budgets also keep marriages together. If you and your spouse differ on what to spend on, then you need to have an open conversation about what's really important to you both. If you both agree to spend money on something, then when that money is spent it won't lead to an argument (hopefully).

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Popular Budgeting Systems 

#1 – Envelope Budgeting Method

For your monthly budget, you put physical cash into envelopes, writing what each envelope is for, such as “rent” or “groceries.” With envelope budgeting, if you run out of money in one category and want/need to spend more, you have to remove cash from another envelope. That means if you overspend on groceries and take the money from the rent envelope, you won't be able to pay rent without taking the money from somewhere else.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to the Cash Envelope System and How We Used It [The Budget Mom]

#2 – Zero-Based Budgeting

Your goal is to get your account to $0.00. Kind of. You budget everything out, and if at the end of the month you know that you have no more bills and there is $300 leftover (or even $5), then you have to spend that money.

Now that doesn't mean go out and party (with the $300, not the $5). Instead you work on meeting your goals, such as debt repayment, adding to your emergency fund or investing more. Basically, any money that doesn't have a purpose needs to be given a purpose.

Related: My Zero Sum Budget, My Friend

#3 – 50-20-30 Method

  • 50% – Living expenses, such as rent, utility bills, groceries, travel to work, etc.
  • 20% – Financial goals, such as savings, investing or paying off debt.
  • 30% – All unnecessary things, such as going out to eat, traveling or going to the movies.

Budget Skills Examples from Finance Bloggers We Love

Here are four bloggers who actually show you their budget every month, not just what they should have spent but what they ACTUALLY spent. It's so refreshing to be able to have these budgeting examples to see how REAL families are budgeting in real life.


The Frugalwoods live on a farm in rural Vermont. They catalog their monthly expenses, and it makes for interesting reading because they are super thrifty.

Best for those interested in: Financial independence, frugality, simple living, country living, mindful living.

Retire By 40

Joe retired at age 38 to become a stay-at-home dad and blogger. He also does a budget update each month.

Best for those interested in: Early retirement budgeting, budgeting passive income, paycheck-to-paycheck budgeting, budgeting for financial goals.

Budget Boost

Crystal spends $5,670 every month, the highest of the budgeting examples listed here. Being completely self-employed, she budgets for income tax ($1,000 a month) but still leaves room in the budget for entertainment, “splurging out” and miscellaneous. That means she can spend money there and not feel bad or wonder if “it's in the budget.

Best for those interested in: Budgeting freelance income and budgeting fluctuating expenses, DINK (double income no kids) budgeting.

Mr. Free at 33

Jason keeps his expenses low compared to most people. He also does multiple budgeting posts on his expenses, FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) fund and investment performance.

Though most people couldn't live on $1,000 a month (some people spend more each week), that doesn't mean Jason is missing out at all. He lives a satisfying life, doing what he wants when he wants and is happy.

Best for those interested in: Super saving, budgeting for investment income.

Our Debt Free Family

Amanda Blankenship blogs about her family's journey to savvy budgeting and debt payoff on a monthly basis. Very helpful information if you want to stay motivated and keep up with real-time progress.

Where else can I find real-life budgeting examples to use?

Wrapping Up

Your lifestyle is up to you.

Jason, who spends about $1,000 each month, is just as happy as Crystal, who is spending almost $6,000.

Neither one lacks or wants something the other has. Having a budget and following it doesn't make any of these bloggers unhappy. Because they budgeted properly, they know how much they're going to spend next month and this month. It actually simplifies their lives rather than complicates them.

Don't let your money control you. The bloggers mentioned above enjoy the freedom of knowing where their money is, what they can buy, when they can spend money and when they can't. You can have the same if you budget your money. Unsure of where to start? Click here to download the free Trim app.

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