Budgeting 101: How to Budget in 3 Easy Steps

envelope budgeting

A budget allows you to have control over where your hard-earned money goes. It empowers you to be aware of how you spend and save, which can reduce financial struggles and worries.

Budgets should be tailored to your needs and life circumstances. But it doesn’t have to be difficult to make one. Here are some things to keep in mind. 

Decide on your goals

Each person’s financial goals are different. Some common reasons to save more are to:

🏡 Save for a big purchase, such as a house or car
🎓 Prepare for the long-term (college, retirement, etc)
🎁 Have enough money to treat loved ones to gifts
🛑 Stop living paycheck-to-paycheck
💸 Pay off debt

Your goals may be one or several of these. Once you know what they are, be specific on the amount you aim to save and the timeline. 

If you want to buy a car, your goal may be to save $30,000. If you’d like to save up for college, how many years do you have before you attend? Being specific means you’ll know how much of each paycheck you’ll need to save. 

Understand your current income and expenses 

List all your after-tax income, including from your paycheck, help from family, and any side hustles. 

Then, look at your monthly expenses. Split them between essential expenditures (like rent and groceries) and “nice to have” ones (dining out, clothes shopping). The non-essential expenditures can be cut back if your goal is to save more. 

A simple budget is the 50-30-20 rule: 50% of income goes toward essentials, 30% to the wants, and 20% toward savings.

Track your progress

A budget is not a set-it-and-forget it thing. You need to review your spending and saving habits on a regular basis to make sure you’re on track to achieve your goals. Truebill makes this step extremely easy.

Not only is creating a budget in the Truebill app simple, it offers notifications and alerts that keep you updated on how you’re progressing toward your goals.

Ready to take more control of your financial future?

7 Gadgets That Will Reduce Your Utility Bills

reduce utility bills

Utility bills are a mundane part of everyday life – we pay money monthly to keep the lights, the water running and our homes heated and cooled. It might feel like utility bills are inescapable, but the truth is a variety of new technologies are now becoming available that promise to help you save energy and reduce your utility bills in surprisingly futuristic ways.

Here are some of our favorite promising new gadgets and tech tools to help save some cash on your utility bills:

LED Bulbs: LED light bulbs are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, using only about 25% of the energy and lasting up to 50 times longer. A bonus benefit: the light from LED bulbs tends to look more natural and pleasant than CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs. LED bulbs cost about $4 or $5 each (or more) depending on the size of the bulb – so although they’re not as cheap as “regular” light bulbs, the long-term energy savings are worth it.

Smart Thermostats: Many people make the mistake of leaving their thermostats set at the same temperature all day and all night – but if you get a programmable thermostat, you can save up to 15% on your energy bill by adjusting the temperature to save money on heating and cooling during the times you’re away from home. The Nest Learning Thermostat costs $249, which may sound pricey, but it gradually programs itself to keep your home at the temperature you prefer, automatically turning itself down when nobody’s home, and showing an energy usage history. Nest thermostats connect to Wi-Fi and can be controlled via phone, tablet or laptop. Or if you want a cheaper programmable thermostat, check out this Honeywell programmable thermostat for only $22.77 – it has separate programs for weekdays and weekends.

Motion Sensing Light Switches: These smart light switches ($21.64 each on Amazon) can detect the activity of a room – when someone comes into the room, the light automatically turns on, and when the room is empty, the light turns itself off. Never worry again about the wasted energy costs of leaving the lights on in empty rooms of the house – in fact, each motion-sensing light switch can save you approximately $10 per year. In about 2 years, the light switch will have paid for itself.

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch: This “smart plug” switch turns your standard wall plugs into app-controlled outlets, communicating via Wi-Fi with your smartphone through a free iOS or Android app. Using your phone, you can then control the lamp or appliance that is plugged into the Belkin outlet, monitor the energy usage, and program the outlet to turn devices on or off at set times of day.

Belkin Conserve Switch: Many people don’t realize it, but our computers, monitors, and other electronic devices still use power just by being plugged in, even if they are “off.” There is a way to save energy on these devices – the Belkin Conserve Switch surge protector. It works just like a regular surge protector, except it has special outlets that allow you to stop power to certain devices (via wireless remote switch), while leaving other devices that need continuous power, such as wireless routers or cordless phones, plugged into its “Always On” outlets.  

TED Energy Detective: This device connects to your home or building’s electrical system to collect and analyze data about your energy usage, then the TED Energy Detective’s Footprints software helps you understand where your home is using the most energy. The info provided by the software which helps you know where to make changes and improvements in energy efficiency. The average TED Energy Detective user can reduce their energy bill by 5-30%.

Cyber-Rain XCI Smart Sprinkler System: Do you use sprinklers to water your lawn or garden? If so, you might be losing a significant amount of money with excessive watering. Using the Cyber-Rain XCI Smart Sprinkler System, you can adjust your watering based on weather and the needs of your climate zone, saving up to 40% on your water bills.

Utility bills might never fully go away, but many new technologies are opening up new possibilities to reduce your home energy costs and water usage. With a few smart devices, your home could become more energy efficient than you might expect – along with fun new ways to get better visibility into how your home uses energy and how you can reduce your costs while helping the environment. By adopting some of these simple devices today, we can all look forward to a future of cheaper energy bills and a cleaner environment!  


What Is the CFPB Consumer Complaint Database and How Can You Use It?


In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in response to the financial crisis of 2008. Dodd-Frank is a wide-sweeping law that curbs many shady practices previously employed by big banks and Wall Street. One of its most important innovations is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the brainchild of now-senator Elizabeth Warren, charged with educating consumers about personal finance and protecting consumers from predatory businesses and markets.

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How to Organize Receipts: 10 Tips to Simplify for Tax Time

How to Organize Receipts

Whenever the new year comes around, a little alarm bell goes off in the back of our heads: taxes are coming! The best part of taxes is making deductions, so it’s time to break out those receipts. Receipts are always troublesome to manage (taxing, if you will), so here’s a quick review of the basics, and some low- and high-tech recommendations, to help you organize receipts like a pro.

Before we get started, keep in mind that you only need to keep receipts if you’re going to itemize deductions. The majority of households – 68.5% of returns in 2013 – opt for the standard deductions of $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly. If your deductible expenses for the year fall below those sums, don’t bother with receipts. But every penny your deductible expenses climb above those marks is money you’re walking away from.

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6 Gifts to Teach Kids About Saving and Investing

Teach Kids About Saving

Whether it’s during the holiday season or for a birthday present, or any time of year, it’s always a good time to give gifts that teach kids about saving and investing. Fortunately there are a variety of great books, toys and tools available to help kids learn about how to smartly manage their money – from the Berenstain Bears to cute “piggy banks” to more complex educational resources about investing money.

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