Super simple tracking and budget?

Is there anybody else who gets stuck in trying to make the perfect budget, but then never uses it because it is too much to do / think about / deal with? When my inner Over Thinker joins up with my inner Perfectionist it does not help my budgeting.

I am seriously thinking of just having three categories - Needs / Wants / Freedom, following the 50/30/20 concept and setting up as many AutoCat rules as I can to help make it less stressful.

Maybe once I get this going I could decide to break things out a bit more. Or maybe it will be all that I need. Fingers crossed.

Does anybody else do that?

that sounds to me like a pretty solid plan.

what i did was wait until i had about six months of data. i averaged out the monthly spend for each category and tweaked here and there and called it a budget.

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@kim.dushinski This seems to be an interesting approach. When setting up your budget using one of the Tiller templates, would the Needs / Wants / Freedom be your actual budget categories or would they be the various groups that your categories would fit into.

I do this too. My categories are Living, Happiness, Liabilities, and Discretionary. I define a percentage of my income to each category and try to keep close to percentages. Most is going to Liabilities in order to pay them off. Living is for what my family needs, Happiness is for those things I’m willing to pay for that make the family happy, and discretionary for anything that I can eliminate if necessary.

I got this method from a book I read some time ago. The simpler method it described for budgeting and tracking struck a chord with me. It keeps me from obsessing over a single category that’s over budget. I manage my money twice a month now for about 30 minutes each session. I have eliminated stress over finances. I recommend the method.


I landed on your plan 1 year ago. I have budgeted spending, including savings, bills, and other liabilities all in one category, and flex spending. That’s it. Everything from groceries to flights fall into flex. If I’m great with food or other expenses throughout the month, i can splurge on some stuff at the end of the month knowing my savings/budgeted expenses are all covered. I tried several methods before this and nothing worked. This method totally changed my financial mindset, and actually worked for me! Good luck! Highly recommend it!


I think simple is best too. We even have a workflow for 50/30/20 budgeting you can check out here on the blog


@heather That linked article is amazing! Thank you so much. :pray: I finally have a simple way to get started with Tiller (I signed up months ago and was too overwhelmed with all the possibilities to choose a path :grimacing:).


@kim.dushinski Thanks for bringing up this topic!

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So they are my actual budget categories. It took me awhile to get it set up (but doesn’t everything take awhile in 2020, LOL) so I am now using it for August. It seems to be working well so far.


Hmmm… I just trimmed down my Needs/Wants/Freedom categories to 9 total, based on your reply to Warren. If you think of it, update this post in a month to let us know how it’s going for you. I’m inspired by your bare-bones approach :clap:

I have a separate tab for Year-to-Date data where I copy & paste “actual” values every month.
From there I have a pie-chart which shows me YTD breakdown between Wants, Needs & Savings. I find monthly data to be misleading at times therefore my preference for longer time periods.
I also wouldn’t recommend limiting yourself to only three categories overall as it is more difficult to budget this way on monthly basis.

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:+1:t2: I find that one of the biggest “gotchas” for people when it comes to budgeting is those infrequent, but regular or necessary expenses that popup. I’m thinking things like auto registrations, annual insurance payments, “surprise” auto maintenance, etc. I like to save a little for those and similar things every month so it evens out my monthly expenses and I’m never caught off guard by something, so they each get their own line in my budget.

Hi @kim.dushinski - glad to see you are figuring out a way that works for you. That’s the best part about personal finance… the personalization! I am new to Tiller but am loving it so far. As long time budgeter, I must agree with everyone here. Simple is best!

Although I currently don’t use the 50/30/20 budget, I do like it’s simplicity and may consider switching, however, my method is very similar –

  1. Core Savings - this would be similar to the Freedom bucket (incl savings, IRA deposits, etc)
  2. Monthly Needs - similar to the Needs bucket (incl mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc)
  3. Long Term Needs - this is where I take into consideration those surprise expenses that @aronos was talking about. (incl the setting aside of annual expenses like home/car insurances, professional memberships, but this group also includes some “wants” like clothes, home furnishings, etc)
  4. Other - this includes my income, transfers, etc

Hope that helps provide a slightly different perspective. You can’t go wrong… just get started! :slight_smile: