How to Start and Stick to a Budget
For some, the idea of living on a budget comes naturally. These people are programmed – like from birth – to automatically shop the sales, put money away for savings, and generally live well below their means.
The rest of us need a plan!
Once you have a solid plan in place, it is much easier to stick to it. With a little bit of planning, and a few easy to implement techniques, you can lay out a plan that is reasonable for your family and will help you stay on the right path.
- Track your spending – it’s hard to know where you can save a buck, if you don’t know where all of your bucks are going in the first place. People are almost always surprised when they actually figure out that they have been spending an extra (unnecessary) $30 a month on cokes from the corner store, or spending more than they need on groceries. It may be simple, or it may be hidden within the grocery bill – but the only way to find extra money in your budget is to track those purchases. Use a pocket notebook or printables included below to list and track your spending.
- Meal planning – I cannot stress enough how much the act of planning meals can save you. It will alleviate extra trips to the store, which in turn will eliminate any extra impulse buys from the grocery store (you know those shelves you walk by that have great displays & make you want that extra snack) avoid it! When you know what is on the menu, you can stick to a grocery list, eat more meals at home and therefore avoid needless spending on food.
- Monthly bills – list all of your monthly bills to see exactly where income is needed. It will help you see not only what necessary expenses you have, but also may point out a few monthly bills that you can do away with. If you are needing to free up some of your budget to move to savings – consider doing away with cable and using a program like Netflix or streaming with Amazon Prime. Another option is to bundle your home TV, phone, and internet. Use the printable budget planner to get started.
- Lay out your plan – after listing your monthly bills, tracking your spending, and creating a basic meal plan, you should be able to begin laying out a reasonable plan. This means that you should be able to set amounts for spending on weekly and monthly food, gas, household and miscellaneous (entertainment) expenses.
- Use CASH – the act of using cash to make purchases will help you solidify the realization that it is real money you are letting go of. It is much easier to spend too much, when you simply swipe a card. When you actually have to fork over the cash, and can see when that cash is running low, it is much more real and will help you put a stop to unnecessary spending. Place grocery money, gas money, entertainment money in separate envelopes so you can see when the money is running out. Don’t reach for the card, when the money is gone for the week, it is gone. If you have to – adjust the budget and remove more cash – but don’t pull out the card to pay for regular purchases.
- Set reasonable goals – since you have a weekly and monthly plan in order and have laid out a basic budget plan you should be able to see a few ways to save already (like with cable, or credit card spending) – set reasonable goals within a workable time frame to help you make changes and save more money. For instance – week 1 may be to collect three new insurance quotes to save on your automobile insurance, week 2 may be to actually change companies if needed. Week 3 could be to start paying off your credit cards and to put them away or get rid of them completely. Week 4 could be to plan a month of free family fun nights to save on entertainment expenses. Set your goals – factor in things that matter for joyful living (include rewards – like those family fun nights) and begin living an abundant life on a budget.
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