This Simple Strategy Makes Budgeting So Much Easier

Budgeting tips

Between my boyfriend and me, I help manage three checking accounts and two PayPal debit cards. We’re about to add two credit cards to the mix.

Tracking expenses across multiple payment tools is tough. It means I never know exactly how much money I’m working with or just how much I’ve spent for the month.

How am I supposed to tighten my budget and start saving money if I don’t even know what I’m working with?

Streamlining to one main payment method could make this easier.

Credit, Debit or Cash — Which is Best?

We won’t prescribe one method over another. You have to decide what works best for you.

Do you manage your expenses well with a credit card and pay off your balance each month? Choose a card with rewards you can use, and stick with that.

Are you, instead, prone to spending beyond your means when you charge it?

If you’re racking up interest and poor credit, you’re probably better off skipping the rewards until you can budget better. Restrict spending to your debit card.

And if you’re being hit with overdraft charges or losing track of your budget even with the one debit card?

Try sticking to cash.

You can’t spend it if you don’t have it — that’s the simplest budgeting trick there is.

How to Budget With Multiple Payment Methods

If you decide you need variety in your life, use tools to help track your expenses across multiple sources.

Try these to get a snapshot of your budget in one place, regardless of your payment methods:

Level provides a graphic view of your income and expenses, and lets you know how much you can spend on a given day, week or month.

Mint lets you see all your accounts, cards, bills and investments in one place.

Mvelopes is a web and smartphone app that sorts your budget into digital “envelopes” to manage spending.

Your Turn: Do you use multiple cards and accounts, or just one? What tips can you add for sticking to a budget?

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes about writing, life, comedy and love and attempts humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).