Ask the experts: How often should you budget?

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By

Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Hanna Horvath, CFP®

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ & former Managing Editor, Growth

Hanna Horvath is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and former managing editor for growth at Policygenius. She helped produce the Easy Money newsletter. She passed her exam to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in November 2020.

Hanna's work has appeared in NBC News, Business Insider and Inc. Magazine. She is regularly quoted in top media outlets, including CNBC, Best Company and HerMoney. She has also appeared on the Money Moolala podcast and All's Fair podcast.

Prior to Policygenius, Hanna wrote for KNBC in Los Angeles and WNBC in New York. When she isn't writing, she's (often) running, (usually) cooking and (sometimes) doing photography.

Updated March 4, 2021|3 min read

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Whether you use a budgeting app or an old-school spreadsheet, tracking your spending and savings is essential to your financial success. But how often should you track your budget? There are pros and cons to each: Analyzing your purchases each week may help build regular habits, but taking a long-term approach by budgeting quarterly may help you visualize and plan for larger money goals.

We asked eight experts if there’s one right way to track your budget. Most suggest a meeting in the middle: Setting a monthly budget can help you build habits without burning yourself out.

Q: How often should you track your budget?

Why some experts think you should budget weekly (or more frequently)

“People who are super involved or really trying to change their financial situation check their budget weekly and make sure everything is in line. In addition, fraud is always a concern and it’s important to make sure no fraudulent activity has occurred in your accounts. Checking your budget weekly along with your financial accounts can help prevent against this.” — Jacqueline Schadeck, certified financial planner in Atlanta, GA

“I would set a budget but monitor it daily, ideally. I recommend a software program like You Need a Budget that allows you to view transactions as they happen and then adjust spending accordingly.” — Wade Chessman, certified financial planner at Chessman Wealth Strategies

Why some experts think you should budget monthly

“Budgeting weekly may be too cumbersome and cause you to give up on the process, while budgeting annually can allow things to get out of hand before you have a chance to see what is really happening with your finances. monthly makes things manageable and reasonable. You are able to pick up on income and expenses from your bank, bill and credit card statements that come in at the end of the month, making the review process relatively simple. And you have an ongoing handle on the ins and outs of your cash flow and are easily able to make adjustments before things get too out of control.” — Sandra Adams, certified financial planner at the Center for Financial Planning

“Budgeting should be looked at like a diet. But the odds of falling off the wagon are great. Allowing for some flexibility will provide greater results. I suggest budgeting on a quarterly or monthly basis, understanding that life gets busy and it is not always top of mind.” — Michael Metzger, certified financial planner at Lifepoint Financial Design

“The best budgeting strategy and timeline is different for everyone, but I typically recommend creating a monthly budget. You may get burned out tracking everything weekly and your expenses probably fluctuate too much to budget only annually. Try using a budgeting app and connecting your accounts to make the process easier for you to monitor your trends over time.” — Haley Tolitsky, certified financial planner at Cooke Capital

“The best budget is one that people engage with on a regular basis, learn from and make adjustments to in order to meet their goals. If I had to pick, I would say either monthly or quarterly. Annually is too long of a time frame to really remember details and make adjustments while weekly people can burn themselves out.” — Nicholas Weisert, certified financial planner at Integra Financial

“Most bills and recurring expenses are monthly, like rent, utilities, cell phone, etc. For this reason, monthly is probably the most intuitive frequency to set up a budget. You should look at several months of actual results for variable expenses like groceries to get a good baseline.” – Ron Guay, certified financial planner at Rivermark Wealth Management

Is your budget broken? Here are some steps to getting it back on track.

Image: Nastia Kobzarenko