Putting money into a piggy bank.

5 Practical tips to better manage your monthly budget

Here are 5 practical tips to manage your monthly budget like a pro. Find out how to rework your spending habits and start building healthy savings for the long term.

6 min read

Do you start each month promising to save money, but then find yourself struggling to make ends meet before your next payday? It’s a tough cycle to break, but there are ways to turn your finances around. Here are 5 practical tips to manage your monthly budget like a pro. Find out how to rework your spending habits and start building healthy savings for the long term.

1. Identify your personal goals and motivations

A lot of people struggle to build up their savings. Even if you put money aside periodically, unforeseen expenses or impulsive purchases can make your hard work feel inconsequential. The first thing you can do to prevent this feeling is to give meaning to your savings. It’ll become a lot easier to manage your budget when you have a specific goal to achieve.

Having a clear vision of your objectives will allow you to set a precise course of action. Every step you make toward saving will no longer feel like a random or isolated action. Instead, it will become a valuable step toward achieving your desired goal. 

Here are some common goals to inspire your saving efforts:

  • Buying a home
  • Accomplishing a personal project, like getting a degree or starting a company
  • Financing an event, like a vacation or wedding

Now, here are some things you can do to help you reach those goals:

  • Set a specific deadline and define a clear plan to reach your goal.
  • Write down your commitments in order to visualise your goal more concretely.
  • Regularly adjust the goal to be reached so that your projects remain realistic.
  • Celebrate your successes along the way.

Save up with Spaces

Use N26 Spaces sub-accounts to easily organize your money and save up for your goals.
Discover sub-accounts
Different N26 spaces to save money.

2. Analyse your expenses at the end of the month

Once you set your goals clearly, it’s important to track your progress. Seeing your hard work add up will help keep you motivated to continue working toward your goals. But this doesn’t just mean watching your savings pile grow. You also should keep an eye on where you’re spending money. This will help you identify areas where you can cut back, even if just temporarily. 

You can keep track of your expenses in two ways:

  • In euros, to have a structured idea of exactly how much cash you’ll need for which areas (e.g., €500 in fixed costs, €300 in variable costs, and €200 in savings).
  • In percentages, so you can compare one expense against another and make sure your budget is balanced this way. Keep a balanced budget (e.g., 50% fixed charges, 30% variable charges, and 20% savings).

No matter what kind of expenses you have, you will probably need to implement some changes to your spending habits in order to improve your budget and save more money.

3. Try the 50-30-20 rule

If you’re looking for a foundation to start building your budget, you might want to try the 50-30-20 savings rule. This method came from Senator Elizabeth Warren, who introduced the idea in her book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.

With the 50-30-20 rule, you’ll divide your income (after tax) into three categories

  • 50%  of your income goes toward basic needs (e.g., food, rent, health)
  • 30% goes toward your wants (e.g., restaurant, vacation, shopping)
  • 20% savings

Depending on your income, you might change the distribution of your spending—maybe you’ll need to spend more of your income on rent, or can reduce your rent to a smaller percentage. The important thing to remember is to keep your savings as close to 20% as possible, no matter what. 

As you get more comfortable using the 50-30-20 rule, you will have an easier time distinguishing between your needs and wants. For instance, public transport would be considered a need, while a €50,000 car would be more of a want. Purchasing basic clothes is a necessity, but buying your tenth pair of shoes is probably just a want.

4. Automate your savings and investments

Automatic transfers can make it easy to follow through with your savings. Send money between bank accounts or sub-accounts without having to remember to make a manual transfer every time.

Let’s imagine you use automatic transfers to help you implement the 50-30-20 rule:

  • First, you’ll receive your income into a checking account.
  • Set up an automatic transfer to send 30% of this money to another account used to cover your wants.
  • Keep a third account just for saving, where you automatically send 20% of your income as soon as it comes in.

This way, your main account will always have the 50% of your income ready for necessary expenses. And you’ll never have to worry about mixing up your money for wants with the money you should be saving for the long term. 

The advantages of automating your savings

  • Once you decide how much money you want to send to each account, you don’t have to think about it again—and there’s no way you can forget.
  • Watch your savings grow over time, without having to think about anything except your day-to-day spending.
  • You’ll have a clear mental picture of your budget, and be easily able to check your progress toward achieving your personal goals. 
  • Automatic transfers are easy to set up, so any time you decide you want to ramp up your savings, you can do so in just a few simple steps. 

5. Make sure to set aside money for your own enjoyment

When implementing the 50-30-20 rule, it can be tempting to slash your wants excessively in order to save faster. While this is a good method for making quick progress in the short term, if you want to make budgeting a part of your life for the long term, you need to leave some room for activities you enjoy. 

The harder you are on yourself in the beginning, the more tempting it will be to give up in the beginning. Taking sports classes, buying books or magazines, subscribing to new streaming services, indulging in good food—these are all ways to reward yourself periodically, and as long as you plan for these expenditures in advance, they don’t have to break your budget.

The bank account that gives you more control

Spend and save with confidence, and discover a better way to manage your money
Get bank account (new tab)
Smart Hero (ALL EU) Text/Media Intro.

N26 helps you manage your monthly budget

Take control of your budget with N26. Every N26 account includes Insights, the feature that lets you see all your monthly spending at a glance. Find out where your money is going so you can easily see where you can make changes. Or, open any premium account to get access to up to 10 Spaces sub-accounts that sit alongside your main account. Give each space a unique name, set your own goal to strive for, and automate transfers to watch your savings grow. 

Plus, you’ll get push notifications in real time, whenever money enters or leaves your account. That way you’ll always know what’s going on with your balance. N26 You and N26 Metal customers have the added security of extensive insurance offerings, including pandemic-proof travel insurance, emergency medical coverage, and more. Compare all of our account plans to find the one that’s right for you. 

Find similar stories

By N26

Love your bank

Related posts

These might also interest you
Phone screen with apps.

9 budgeting apps to help your money go further

We’ve compiled a list of the best budgeting apps for iPhone and Android. Use these apps to build a budget that makes saving simpler and more rewarding.

woman wearing a mask buying fruits in a supermarket.

How to save money on groceries: shopping tips to stretch your food budget

The right grocery budget can save you thousands each year—without skimping on healthy eating. Here’s how to shop smarter at the grocery store.

kid showing the coins placed in a glass jar.

How to save money fast: 17 tips to grow your savings

Whether your financial goals are big or small, these life hacks will help you save money faster.