Most of us understand the basics of budgeting: subtract how much you spend from how much you make, then save the rest. Okay, sure, that’s a fairly simplistic view—but the reality is that budgeting can be a much more useful tool than one that just tells you to cut back on the trips to Target. And it doesn’t have to be so hard or discouraging, too!

If you apply some of our favorite tips, you can revamp your household budget (or ahem, start one from scratch) to start making your life better today:

Write It All Down

This is Budgeting 101. You need to know where your money is: the money you’re making, the money you’re spending, the money you owe. Where is it coming from? Where is it going? These might seem like very simple questions, but many of us don’t answer them—at least not clearly, not explicitly. And so we continue to work and spend and save and spend and stress and spend, without a clear idea of what we have in the bank now and what we’ll have in the bank in the future. In order to have a successful budget, you first need to get really clear on where your money’s coming from, where it is, and where it’s going. Take some time to sit down and map out your income, expenses, debts, and so on. Once you have that information, you can create a financial plan that works for you!

Consider the Future

Here’s the thing about budgets: they often seem like such a bummer, because they seem restrictive—you can’t spend more than this on clothes and this on dining out and this on entertainment. What about what you can spend on? While you might not be able to buy your dream home tomorrow, you can start thinking about it today! Make it a priority to plan for the future: Do you want to take a family vacation next year? Start a business? Pay off student loan debt? When do you want to retire? Consider all of the important upcoming milestones or dreams or goals in your life—then, start planning! How much do you need to be making every month to make those dreams a reality? Where can you cut back in other (perhaps less important areas of your life) to set more money aside? When you budget, don’t just consider your present-day circumstances; let yourself dream a little and plan for the future, too!

Talk It Out

Family budgets are exactly that—for the entire family! Of course, you should have conversations about finances and spending with your partner, but feel free to bring the kids into the conversation, too! Or if you’re managing a solo budget, strike up annual conversations with an expert or a financially-savvy friend! Budgeting and financially planning for the future should be a team effort, where everyone understands the rules and wants the team to “win.” And when everyone feels involved, everyone will be involved! Set up annual, quarterly, or monthly meetings to sit down and talk through your budget so everyone knows the game plan and works together to plan for financial success.

What’s your favorite budgeting tip? Share new ideas—or your favorite from the tips above—in the comments below!

P.S. We’ve created this handy spreadsheet to help you keep track of the stuff that comes every month. Yay, bills! Tracking your spending is another simple trick that packs a powerful punch—by knowing where your money is going every month, you can get a better handle on how and where you’re spending, so you can better control your budget in the future.