The Anti-Budget: The Easiest Budget to Follow (Free Printable Budget Planner)

The anti-budget is the perfect solution for someone looking to simplify their budget and stick to it. This post breaks down how to make an anti-budget tailored to your goals and needs. Keep reading to find the free printable budget planner.

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Confession, fam. I hate budgets!

Well, budgeting itself is cool. It’s the key to hitting my saving and debt payoff goals. I just hate cookie-cutter budgets: the 80/20 budget, the 50/30/20 budget, the traditional budget that lists 50 budget categories. Who’s going to track expenses for 50 budget categories?! “Not I,” said this debt-slaying woman. 

I just wanna know that my bills are paid on time, I’m saving and I’m crushing debt. Budgets that are tailored to our specific needs and personality work best. When I gave up trying to fit my goals into a traditional budget, the stress went away. 

The anti-budget works for me. Maybe it can do the same for you.

What is an anti-budget? 

The anti-budget is a spending plan that doesn’t focus on what you’re spending, but rather on meeting your savings goals, debt payoff goals and essential spending needs up top. Then the rest of the money is for guilt-free spending. Hey, latte! Hey, avocado toast! 

Who is the anti-budget for?

  1. People who hate budgets (think budgeting is too hard or can’t stick to a budget).
  2. Folks who appreciate budgets, but hate lots of categories.
  3. People who don’t like tracking every discretionary expense manually.
  4. Those who subscribe to “Pay yourself first” for saving.
  5. People who want to spend on fun stuff guilt-free.

Does this sound like you? Great! Keep reading. 

The anti-budget simplifies your spending plan so you can satisfy your needs and goals, and know exactly how much money you have for fun stuff. Download the free printable budget planner to make your anti-budget.

4 things you need before making an anti-budget (or any budget)

Check off these must-haves to an anti-budget and actually stick to it.

  1. Values and goals
  2. Real numbers
  3. A list of upcoming events and irregular expenses
  4. A way to separate money for Core Expenses and Extra Expenses

Must-Have No. 1: Values and goals

One reason many folks can’t stick to a budget is they don’t have a strong enough reason or vision to follow the plan. Start with your values and the rest will fall into place.

Here’s an example of my “Big Why” and how it motivates me to stick to a budget. 

  • Values: Independence and giving to others.
  • Goal: Slay student loan debt of $19,000 by December 31, 2019.
  • Budget: Allot $2,500 more than my minimum payment to my debt snowball each month.

Values –> Goals –> Budget. I can’t be independent and generous if I’m constantly giving my money to FedLoan Servicing. Therefore, my immediate goal is to eliminate student loan debt. I make sure that’s reflected in my budget each month so that money doesn’t go to shoes or magnets—things I don’t really value. I can stick to a budget when I see the bigger picture.

“Without values, goals are rarely accomplished,” said The Automatic Millionaire author David Bach. “Values are key. When you understand them correctly, they will pull you toward your dreams—which is a lot better than having to push yourself.”

What are your values and goals? Do you value giving? What about international travel? Is going on vacation one of your goals? Do you want to save? Your desires should appear in your budget. 

Utilize monthly goals and sinking funds to help you take care of faraway events in the short term. Sinking funds for vacations, car repairs, insurance premiums and Christmas work wonders.

Reverse engineer your savings goal to get a monthly amount to budget. For example, if you get paid the 1st of each month and want to start saving $3,000 in January for a vacation in mid-July, then calculate $3,000/7 pay periods. You need to save about $430 each pay period. 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Which Debt Do I Pay Off First? Here Are 4 Methods (Free Printable)

Must-Have No. 2: Real numbers

Another big reason why budgets fail is people guess their numbers. They say their monthly paycheck is $4,100, but it’s actually $4,025.75. They say the phone bill is about $100, when it’s $125.34.

See the problem here? They’ve overestimated income and underestimated outgo. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.  

If you don’t have an accurate account of where you are, then you can’t navigate to your final destination. 

Get real numbers by tracking your expenses for, at least, a month or reviewing spending activity through your bank, Mint or Personal Capital. Get the most accurate picture of what’s going in and out of your wallet to reflect your true lifestyle and make an anti-budget. 

Must-Have No. 3: A list of upcoming events and irregular expenses

Another reason why budgets fail is lack of planning for irregular events or expenses. Each budget should be tailored to you. That means it must be tailored to each month, too. Different events and expenses, like club memberships, oil changes and insurance premiums, are scattered throughout the year.

Think ahead about what you need to do each month so it’s reflected in the anti-budget. Download this pre-made list of annual events and expenses to get started.

Must-Have No. 4: A way to separate Core Expenses and Extra Expenses

Core Expenses are the expenses you must take care of to live, handle obligations and reach your savings goals. They include:

  • Rent/mortgage and housing expenses (taxes, homeowners association fees, insurance, utilities, etc.)
  • Car insurance, maintenance and gas money
  • Minimum debt payments (student loans, car loans, credit card debts, etc.)
  • “Debt Eliminator” = the extra debt payment for one debt in your debt snowball
  • Grocery bill
  • Phone bill
  • Childcare costs
  • Healthcare costs (monthly prescriptions, HSA deposits, etc.)
  • Savings

Remember: The purpose of the anti-budget is to make sure your needs and important goals are met before you spend on extras. That’s why savings and extra debt payments are included in Core Expenses. 

Extra Expenses include:

  • Eating out or ordering delivery service
  • Movie tickets
  • Amazon Prime membership
  • Concert tickets
  • Stationary
  • $200 shoes

Divide and conquer by opening bank accounts for different purposes or using cash envelopes. This ensures that money for bills, savings and discretionary spending are in separate pots. 

Separate pots help you track your spending and keep you from using your phone bill money on $200 shoes. You can simply look at the separate accounts to see how much you spent or saved in each broad category. 

With a dedicated bills account, you can easily set up automatic payments to pay bills early and on time. If you don’t like automation, at least you have peace of mind that you can easily find your bill money to make manual payments instead of getting it from a fund that commingles bill and spending money.

With dedicated savings accounts, you can easily track how much you’ve saved for your emergency fund or vacation. Follow the same steps in this blog post to open up a savings account SEPARATE from your main checking account so you don’t dip into your vacation fund. I have separate checking accounts for bills and spending and a Sunny Day Fund (emergency fund) account through Capital One 360. Click the link to open your own Capital One 360 accounts that earn interest without monthly fees. I house money with Goldman Sachs and Chinese banks, too.

Congrats! You can make an anti-budget, now that you’ve got those essentials:

  1. Values and goals
  2. Real numbers
  3. A list of upcoming events and irregular expenses
  4. A way to separate money for Core Expenses and Extra Expenses 

How to Make an Anti-Budget (Download the Free Printable Planner)

Step 1:  List your Core Expenses 

  • Bills and obligations (rent/mortgage, insurance, utilities, phone, childcare costs,  etc.)
  • Minimum debt payments and “Debt Eliminator” (car loans, student loans, credit card debt, medical bills, etc.)
  • Goals money (sinking funds for emergency savings, vacation, Christmas, irregular expenses, etc.)
  • Basic living expenses (groceries, gas, etc.)

To make an anti-budget, first list your core expenses: bills, debt payments and money for goals, like saving Christmas gift money.

Step 2: List your Income

  • 9-to-5 paycheck
  • side hustle paycheck
  • yard sale profits
  • blog ads revenue
  • child support payments
  • royalties
  • dividends

The second step is to list your income.

Step 3: Subtract Core Expenses from Income to get Extra Money

As shown here in the printable budget planner, there’s a simple anti-budget formula. Remember ICE. Income – Core Expenses = Extra Money.

The anti-budget formula is simple: Income - Core Expenses = Extra Money.

The anti-budget is also a zero-sum budget, meaning you should get $0 when you subtract both Core Expenses and Extra Money from Income. In other words, Income – (Core Expenses + Extra Money) = $0. Every dollar should have a job. 

Step 4: Separate money into different bank accounts oR cash envelopes

Divide and conquer. I’ve found that separate accounts make it easy to track activity. Separating savings and spending money also reduces impulse buys.

What happens if I have little to no Extra Money?

If you subtract Core Expenses from Income and get a small or negative number for Extra Money, then you have to revisit every line in your Anti-Budget. Then you have two choices:

  1. Cut expenses
  2. Make more money 

Cutting expenses is the first thing you can tackle. This may include getting a roommate, reducing your grocery bill, ending that gym membership, temporarily stopping a sinking fund (e.g. Christmas gift money for others) or calling your monthly bill providers to ask for reductions. Click here to find scripts for calling customer service reps and asking, “What discounts, deals or promos can you offer me?” or “Can you lower my interest rate?”

Sometimes you’ve cut all you can. Then you’ve got to make more money. That means asking for a raise, getting a new job altogether or getting a side hustle in addition to working your 9-to-5. You can also get paid to take surveys and shop online. (NOTE: We should always be thinking about increasing our income, whether we’ve cut all we can or not. Don’t put limits on your income.)

Then adjust your budget after you reduce expenses or increase expenses to get your new number for Extra Money. Rinse and repeat until you have more or just the right amount of Extra Money to spend on fun things.

What happens if I have too much Extra Money?

First of all, woo hoo! If in your perspective you have too much money, then put more into debt payoff if you have debt, save more or treat yo’self guilt-free.

If you have too much Extra Money, then consider putting more money into debt payoff or goal funding first. Then treat yourself to more fun.
Have too much Extra Money? Then consider putting more money into debt payoff or goal funding first. Then treat yo’self to more fun.

How can I make sure my spending money lasts until the next payday?

Put yourself on a weekly or daily spending allowance by dividing Extra Money by the number of weeks or days until your next payday.

If you have a checking account and debit card just for discretionary spending, then you can transfer money into that account. Once that’s money is gone, it’s gone. Don’t dip into savings to buy something at Target.

You could also put cash in an envelope for the week. Buy spending cash instead of using a card, you’re more likely to feel the pain of purchases. This could help reduce what you spend overall or, at least, help you be more judicious about what you’re spending on so the Extra Money lasts longer.

Calculate your weekly allowance by dividing your Extra Money by the number of weeks until your next payday.


  • The anti-budget helps people spend guilt-free after accounting for bills, savings and other important expenses.
  • Before making an anti-budget, have these four things: values and goals, real numbers, a list of upcoming events and irregular expenses and a way to separate money for Core Expenses and Extra Expenses. 
  • To make an anti-budget, subtract Core Expenses from Income to get Extra Money. (Remember ICE. Income – Core Expenses = Extra Money)
  • If Extra Money is low or non-existent, then you must reduce expenses, increase income or both.
  • To ensure Extra Money lasts until next payday, give yourself a daily or weekly spending allowance on a debit card or in a cash envelope.


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