Ask the Readers: How Often Do You Evaluate Your Budget?

By Ashley Jacobs on 31 January 2012 (Updated 7 February 2012) 118 comments
Photo: Bigstock

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Katie, Earn Save Live, and Jesse for winning this week's contest!

Having a budget is one of the key ways to keep your finances in check. Budgets help you create a clear picture of how to live within your means. It's important to evalute your budget from time to time to make adjustments as income sources change and expenses fluctuate. Some people evaluate their budgets on a weekly or monthly basis while others do a budget check up once a year.

How often do you evaluate your budget? Once a week? Once a month? Once a year? When was the last time you evaluated your budget?

Tell us how often you evaluate your budget and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture
Dave

At the very least I'll review the spending twice a month (basically on pay day). However I'll check more frequently if I know I've been spending more than I normally do in a week/month. Just to make sure I'm either keeping to the budget or reason why I'm over spending my budget that month and where I need to cut back or change a habit.

Guest's picture
Aaman

At least once a week - I use the Mint.com app and have it on my Chrome home page. Whenever I open it, and that's almost daily, it posts useful highlights about how I'm doing with my budgets for various categories. I use this information to rebalance budgets about once a week, and definitely once a month.

BTW, I've Liked your Facebook page too.

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Karen

We evaluate our budget twice a year.

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Cheryl

We look over the budget each time my husband is paid. Right now that means a weekly checkup. Money is very tight but we try to adjust as we can to save more.

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Joel Whitaker

yearly

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Shannon

I started my budget in October of 2011, and I plan to re-evaluate at the one year mark. I'm new to budgeting so I have made small adjustments here and there.

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Christie

We evaluate as needed, but do a complete check about once a year, or if my husband's salary changes. Sometimes you need to do a course correction mid-year and that shuffling doesn't take much time, but serious checking to make sure you have all the spending areas covered by either savings or planning is essential, I believe. A budget is merely a road map to help you get where you want to go financially, not an evil instrument of torture designed to restrict you from what you want to do. They bring a sense of freedom and relaxation that can never be possible if you don't plan ahead!

Guest's picture
Guest

For my part i do it EVERYDAY with Budget Express ( French).

Everytime i spend on something, i enter it in that program.

( I mean EVERY TIME...lol... Bought a pack of gum ? Enter it..!!)

Being a visual person..and very disciplined..this metod works best for me.

So far , so good...

Guest's picture
Julie

For sure yearly and as needed

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Monica

We go over our budget every couple of months, or whenever we have a big change.

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Monica

I tweeted! https://twitter.com/#!/Monzarts/status/164347465158496256

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Monica

I like you on facebook!

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rm

I do a thorough check of my budget every month. I am monitoring it every few days for any mistakes.

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Bobalina-Diana

I tell myself I really need to evaluate my budget almost everyday. Realistically, it doesn't doesn't get done until some crisis hits. Bad, I know. I'm a new reader (and now new FB Liker) so hopefully this will change and evaluating my budget will be something done regularly and become a "normal" event. Looking forward to hearing how often other readers evaluate their budgets. Thanks for all your help!

Guest's picture

I make revisions as necessary but do a detailed category by category review about once every six months or so.

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Lani C

About twice a year we will go in and really evaluate our budget and make any adjustments. I am watching our budget very closely, but at this point we have our costs pretty well planned out.

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Justin

We do a monthly budget and review it at the end of the month.

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Nicholas

I generally keep an eye on my budget every day but I usually look at it closely once a month, just to make sure I am not overspending in a certain area. Usually I check it every time my credit card statements come since I normally put everything on my credit card (I pay it off ever month) and it lists out all my purchases.

Guest's picture
Nicholas

I liked you and the article on facebook.

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Larry

Once a month.

Guest's picture
RMF

I keep my financial information on Mint.com, which is great. I get weekly and monthly updates, but I usually check a few times a week. Strongly recommend Mint; it covers all financial activity very thoroughly and completely.

Guest's picture
Stephanie McCormick

every month

Guest's picture
Kelli

I do some kind of tweaking to our budget every month. I'm always challenging myself to cut down on expenses or adjusting retirement savings as I free up more money or our income increases. I am kind of a big geek when it comes to the numbers.

Guest's picture

I set a budget for the year and review monthly expenses. If something changed in our income or expenses that was large we would review budget again but otherwise it is set for the year!

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philosophotarian

I've just paid off my credit cards and have a little left over (woo-hoo!) for the first time in years. So right now I'm checking my balances and and preparing for a thorough evaluation (this week!) that will set me up to stay debt-free the rest of the year. Who knows how frequently I'll evaluate after that--this is a new, grownup approach to money. yay.

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stephanie tom

I try to evaluate monthly, since I tend to buy certain items in bulk (non-perishable goods), my bills vary accordingly. It's also good for peace of mind as well. I've also commented on the original Facebook post under the same name.

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Kacey

We usually review our budget when we are considering a non expected purchase or something unusually costly for us.

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Nick

We evaluate our budget anytime our monthly income changes

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Jasmine

I adjust the budget once a month, usually after we discover we've blown one aspect of the budget (groceries more often than not) and have to pay it off over the next month.

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Diane

I evaluate my budget about every 3 months. Due to my circumstances of sharing expenses with my boyfriend, most of my bills are fixed. We each pay certain expenses and mine don't vary much, other than clothing & personal items. He manages the food & entertainment budget monthly. We re-evaluate plans such as phone, cable & internet about 4 times a year. Interested to hear how others handle this...

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Stephanie

I evaluate every pay period which is two weeks. I easily get off track if I don't.

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Diane

Of course, I like you on fb~ :-)

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NJJ

I evaluate my budget every week I like to stay on top of the financial game! :)

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Guest

We check in every two weeks. We actually consolidate our spending via bank and credit card statements (we don't use cash very often so that all of our spending is recorded online) to our budget on a monthly basis, but we also have a mid-month check in to ensure that we're on track for the month. If we determine that we're off track on any category during the mid-month check then we have the last 2 weeks of the month to adjust our spending.

Guest's picture
Andrea

I review mine every month and do an indepth review about once every six months. This way I make sure I am on target each month and can see the big picture at the same time. Every month is different and the most important thing is to be balanced over the long run.

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Betty

Although my budget is weak, I do review my spending about once a month. It helps me see where my paycheck goes!

Guest's picture
Betty

I liked you and your post on Facebook.

Guest's picture
Guest

I evaluate my budget once a month. It's important to see your efforts and savings add up to keep you on track. Plus, as things are paid off (mostly car maintenance and school loans) we can add more to savings.

Guest's picture
Brandon

I evaluate my budget once a month. Since I just graduated from college, I have student loans bearing down by back. I need to make sure I stay on top of the monthly payments or else I'll be fined.

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Therese

Yearly, unless we have a change in our finances, such as a raise or bounus.

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Ashley

We evaluate our budget about every 6 months, unless a major expense comes up.

Guest's picture
Betty

Responded on Twitter. https://twitter.com/#!/1bets1/status/164399734356848640

Guest's picture

I update and evaluate my budget every time I meet my primary goal. I shift goals, edit budgets accordingly.

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eri

At two levels, because we set our budget monthly and yearly. So evaluation is at the end of each month and each year.

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Michael

I balance the online checkbook once a month when my paycheck comes in. I set up the months bills in ING and let it sit.

We re-balance our family budget every time our financial situation changes or new opportunities arise.

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Razorbacks92

We rewrite our budget once a month, more often if we need to rearrange due to something unexpected. We budget prior to the month, and then do regular monitoring to ensure we are staying on track.

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Patrick

I check my performance against my budget by category every month, with the credit card as a whole being at least twice a month. I check my budget allocation or sizing of each category once a year, usually within the first week of the year, or after all of the bills from the previous year have come in.

Guest's picture
Robin

I will evaluate our budget monthly and then again at the end of the year making tweaks where necessary.

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Ananacakes

I check my budget status at least twice a week, more if I'm in a crazy spending time like Christmas or Thanksgiving.

I evaluate and readjust my budget every month, but try to stay around the same amounts or lower them if possible. Twice a year I really dig deep and try to figure out where I can make bigger cuts that will have the biggest impact. (For instance, our lease is up in 2 mos and moving into a cheaper place is definitely on the list of things that will make a big difference)

Guest's picture
addrienne mertens

i eval my budget at least 2x a year. it depends on what comes up. it might be more often when looking at high ticket items.

Guest's picture
addrienne mertens

i also LIKE your facebook page
addrienne anny mertens

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addrienne mertens

follow and tweeted
@zippy573
https://twitter.com/#!/zippy573/status/164428624177532928

Guest's picture
Kandace

I check how our spending is going every time I enter a transaction in YNAB. We review our budget at the end of every month and set the budget for the next month.

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mkibrick

I update our budget yearly when my husband gets a salary adjustment. Sometimes I adjust it mid-year if we have large expenses like medical expenses.

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Carrie H.

We use a cash envelope system for every paycheck, and we evaluate our category amounts at least every quarter. We tend to cycle through tighter and looser budgets as our needs change.

Guest's picture
Happy Love

I evaluate my budget once every 2-3 months.

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Jenn

Having recently been married, we have just set up a new budget and are still in the tracking/adjusting phase. Because of this, we check in quite frequently and try to stay on top of our spending. Once we get things worked out and our payments settle in, we will probably check in every other week or so to make sure we are on track. Great question, and really interesting discussion!

Guest's picture
Stefany

I evaluate my budget twice a month - on the 1st & 15th

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Lisa

I don't review my budget often enough. It seems as though after I pay my bills, there's nothing left to review!

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Eric

at the end of every month, thanks to Xpenser!

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Dianne

I keep an eye on the budget a few times a month when money comes in or goes out. As for a big review, maybe twice a year.

Guest's picture
Dianne

I liked you on FB.

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Kristy OT

Once a month, because our income fluctuates a bit month-to-month.

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Jenica S

I'm an Excel nerd, so I happily reevaluate my budget every chance I get. In practical terms, this means:

- every pay period (bi-weekly)
- any time a new major expense arises
- any time I do something or spontaneous (or am contemplating doing something) that's outside of my budget, and I have to figure out how to make it fit

Guest's picture
Dee Dee

Every paycheck seems to make me want to keep the spending in check and see if I can lower reoccuring expenses.

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Adrienne

We evaluate our budget on a weekly basis. Things are just tight enough that it needs almost constant scrutiny to get everything right!

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TrishB

I do a spreadsheet each month, and if things are a little tight at the end of the month I reevaluate what I'm spending.

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Sam

at least once a week. I use mint.com and (obsessively?) make lists.

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Olivia

We do a complete redo every year as soon as my husband knows what the next year's salary will be. (Usually in December.) If we find a particular category turns up short over a month or so we re evaluate the whole budget and make adjustments.

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Lynda

my husband's been in super-saving-money mode so we've been looking at it once/twice a week. i would like to get it to twice a month.

Guest's picture
Lynda

tweeted

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Lynda

i like wisebread on fb

Guest's picture
Guest

I review my budget monthly, which is just often enough to note changes that have occurred in my spending patterns. The last time I reviewed my budget was this January, at the start of the new year.

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Jenny

I take a new look at my budget whenever my circumstances change, whether it be a new job or a new apartment. When I paid off my car loan (my only debt) two months ago, I created a new version of my budget. That may not be often enough, but it has seemed to work just fine for me.

Guest's picture
Rebecca Coursen

I probably evaluate our budget once a week right now just to see how I can change what I am doing with spending money on food. One day Ill get it right.

Guest's picture
DS

Depends on what you mean by budget. Do I establish some kind of weekly, monthly, monthly, semi-annual or annual spending plan? No. Do I keep track of my debits and credits? Everyday. I record my spending across different categories (food, transportation, communication, entertainment, etc.) down to the last cent everyday and then I add them up. I have records for the last 5 years and I can see how much my budget has increased day over day, week over week, etc. Of course, I'm not sure I've adjusted anything as years go by. I think I still drink too much as seen by that category. Oh well.

Guest's picture
Miranda

Yearly

Guest's picture
Erin

I frequently track my expenses by reviewing my bank accounts weekly and have general limits for budget categories. However my husband and I have recently instituted monthly meetings to discuss any concerns as well as make and adjust long and short term goals.

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Guest

Bi-weekly.

Guest's picture
Deb

I evaluate our budget every 2 or 3 months. We are still adjusting it as different needs/wants pop up, and it helps remind us of our goals and spending limits.

Guest's picture
Ian Erickson

Once a month. Using Excel.

That makes changes in our bills plain to see. It's right there in front of you. If last month, the cellular bill was less, you can see by how much and look into why.

Excel (or Calc in OpenOffice) can also total your bills, average them, calculate the difference between your income and your bills, or sort them in highest to lowest order, so you can tackle your most expensive bills first. It's also a good opportunity to sharpen your spreadsheet chops and practice more advanced formulas and charts outside of work.

The new year brought us to re-evaluate our budget, especially since we moved and have completely different bills for everything. I would pass that advice along, especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck, to track your budget once a month, since most bills are monthly, but to pay extra close attention whenever you move, change jobs, or have a change in circumstances. You'll know how much (or how little) to expect in your account in advance, and if you're job hunting you'll know how much you need to make to cover costs.

40 hours X 4 weeks X $wages/hour X about 90% to account for taxes taken out of your check = your monthly income. If you get a job offer and they low-ball you on the salary, you'll know in advance if it's going to be enough, if you can manage on that much per month. Or if it's more than enough, you can relax and focus on getting the employment offer signed with a start date and salary in writing, rather than risk souring the negotiations by insisting on more money above and beyond your needs.

Guest's picture
Aaron L

I'll check my spending once a week or twice a month to get an idea of where my personal spending is going. Usually, food expenditures happen to form a black hole for money.

Guest's picture
Aaron L

https://twitter.com/#!/linjiunhan/status/164578678058123264

Guest's picture
Demetria

No two paychecks are the same, so neither is our budget. I evaluate our budget at least weekly so that I can figure out how we can best meet our newest saving or spending goals. We have had a few hard years of meeting our HSA deductible real quick, so I'm always trying to figure out how to stay ahead so we won't get swamped with medical bills. Fine tuning the budget, transfering that unspent $13.83 of grocery money that week into savings, etc., has allowed us to pay off all of our debt in the past 4 years and work toward our goal of hopefully buying a home in the next 2 years while staying on top of our high medical and dental expenses. My husband's income has a base pay, but rotating shifts increase or decrease the net income as well as overtime. Consequently, our budget changes frequently to reflect this. We are hoping to meet more of our savings goals this year since we no longer have debt as an excuse. And to answer your question, I just evaluated our budget a few moments ago.

Guest's picture
Angie W

Once a month, so that we can adjust as needed for our needs on a monthly basis.

Guest's picture

I set our budget once a year and establish our financial goals. This year, we're snowballing over $25,000 in debt, for instance.

I check all of our financial accounts a couple times a week. Each month, my partner and I sit down, review our accounts, track our progress, and make any changes as needed.

For us, regularly checking in on our budget and goals helps us stay accountable!

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Kristina

Every week

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Guest

Ideally? I plan to review/update my budget once a year right after I get my tax prep done cause all the figures are right at hand. Typically I get to it once every couple years.

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Diana

Every three months I do kind of a snapshot of our debt. That helps us stay encouraged, even though we scrimp otherwise. We are paying everything down ahead of time.

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Guest

I look it over once a month, and make corrections as needed.

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Verl

We both get paid twice a month, so we do a budget twice a month, to plan for all expenses and savings after receiving our paychecks.

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Jennifer

I keep track of my daily, weekly, and monthly expenses in Excel. My budget however, does not change unless some mitigating factor changes it, such as a hike in my utility rates. I use Excel to make sure I'm staying within my budget, not to evaluate or make changes to the budget. That sort of negates the point of a budget.

Guest's picture
Jesse

I review every 6 months. I life on a monthly budget, but sometimes things creep in that need addressing..

https://twitter.com/#!/RichardsonJesse/status/164765770012835841

Guest's picture

I review it every month. I do what I can to pay the interest-accumulating accounts first and the regular bills (power, internet) last. My expenses went up a bit in the last two months, $5 for internet and $35 for rent, so now I have to cut out $40 elsewhere. Goodbye white Gouda and other fancy cheese!

Guest's picture

Tracking spending and doing a monthly report tends to help me adjust things in small bits as needed, without a major overhaul.

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David S

In practice we sit down and review our budget for major overhauling twice a year, once in December for the next year's budget and once again in September (after the annual review raises). In these sessions we take the monthly averages of what we spend in each catergory and compare to what are monthly allocations are to each category and adjust so that we are allocating (read transferring to a named savings account for that category) and make sure it follows the 110% rule (Save 110% of the avg month towards those expenses). Now of course each day we enter the receipts into the computer is another day to review but we do not make changes to the budget at that time.

Guest's picture
Valletta

I do the major budget once a year and adjust monthly, track weekly using Quicken and downloads from my credit union.

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Margaret

Because our income is sporadic, I review our budget almost daily to make sure we are where we need to be in order to meet payment deadlines and in order to tweak spending as necessary to stay within our means.

Guest's picture

I check our spending against budge daily but we haven't updated the budget in at least two years. It's probably time to revisit it.

Guest's picture
Urmelina

Our budget is reviewed on a continued basis. meaning at the very least monthly and as unexpected situations arise.