You have set a budget, great. It is the first step towards meeting your financial goals and living within your means. Now that you have taken this important step, it is time for the hard part, sticking with that budget.
Staying on budget means fighting your own human temptations and resisting the constant barrage of marketing. Here are a few tips that will help keep you on track.
- Review your budget and goals daily.
It is easy to forget your limitations and lose track of your goals. At least once a day you should review your budget to see what you are able to spend. See how you did on the prior day and make notes about what you can improve on. Also, take a look at the big picture and how close you are to achieving your ultimate goal.
- Before you go grocery shopping make a list and eat something.
You have probably heard that you should never go to the grocery store hungry. This is completely true, everything just looks better when you are hungry, especially junk food. Go to the store with a growling stomach and you will spend far more and wind up with a pantry full of cookies and snack cakes.
Just as important as not going hungry is making a list and sticking to it. If you go to the store without a plan, even if you stay away from the junk, you will buy more than you need. Write a list before you go so that you do not buy things that you already have or do not need for your upcoming meals.
- Switch to water.
Nothing will bust a budget faster than soda and gourmet coffee.
Every time you dine out, that soda will cost you $2 to $3 a pop. If you like soda at home, it does not get much better. These days a 12 pack of name brand soda can go for around $5 which adds up quick.
Likewise, that cup of gourmet coffee from that chain coffee store can top $5 for a single serving. Do that every day and you have a 100 dollar a month habit.
- Give big decisions an extra day.
Don’t make large purchases without thinking about them overnight. What is a large purchase? That is different for everyone. It could be 50 bucks for you or it could be 200 dollars or more. Whatever it is, stick to the overnight rule.
- Research major purchases.
Speaking of big money decisions, be sure to research them thoroughly as well. Things like cars, bicycles, furniture and even televisions should be researched for weeks ahead of time. Know what product gives the best value, is the most reliable and what people are paying for them.
Also give some though to shopping in the used market for many products. Buying used can save you the initial 20 to 30 percent drop in value that new products initially have.
- Don’t be a slave to new tech.
Tech companies do everything that they can to make us want the latest and greatest. Why replace something that is working fine for you just because somebody else says that you should. Your iPhone can easily last 3 to 4 years if you take care of it. Need 1500 dollars for a new one? Not really.
The same thing can be said for just about everything in your home. That 1080 plasma is doing just fine, why go to 4K. Your laptop is still surfing the web quickly, why replace it. Don;t be a slave to the tech companies and let them ruin your budget.
- Make saving step one of your budget.
When setting your monthly budget, take 10 to 20 percent of your take home pay and put it into savings first. Then you can divide out the rest of your money. Saving should be a priority and it has become cliche but, “pay yourself first.”
- Take advantage of free resources.
There is a lot of stuff for free out there. If you are an avid reader stop wasting money on books, even eBooks. Pick up a few books at the library and read for free.
Instead of paying for a streaming service or renting movies, check out some of the free offerings like Crackle.
Live in an apartment or an HOA neighborhood? Take advantage of the weekend free brunch. Every dollar saved is important. Just this free breakfast alone can save you 300 dollars a year.
- Leave your credit cards at home.
That credit card is a huge temptation to spend. Leave it at home so that you can better resist the urge. If you want to take it one step further, leave your debit card at home as well and just carry cash. Once you have spent your daily allotment, you are done spending for the day. Be sure to take the change home and add it to your change jar.
- Convert money to time.
Dollars and bills are often meaningless but your time is not. Instead of saying that that new apple watch is 400 dollars, say it is 20 hours of work or 15 hours of work. It will help you see the real value in the money that you spend.
- Maximize your food budget.
Make the base of your meals inexpensive potatoes, rice and dry beans. With a little practice, they are easy to work with and can be the base of hundreds of low dollar meals.
While you are at it, use every scrap of food that you can. Americans throw out too much food as it is, so freeze your leftovers for another meal or take it to lunch the next day.
- Forget about labels.
You do not always have to buy something that is name brand. There is usually a generic that will look or work just as well and cost half of the cost. The only exception to this rule is diapers. Always buy name brand diapers, trust me.
That is it, 12 easy tips to help you stay on your budget and keep saving money. There is more that you can do but why overwhelm yourself. Follow the advice above and you will be well on your way to being incredibly