Looking for ways to stay under-budget? Learning how to stay under-budget is a great way to curb your spending and have a huge savings by the end of the month! There are several different things you do to save your money and stay under-budget each month. According to mentalfloss.com, last year Americans spent ON AVERAGE $478 billion on groceries. That’s a lot of money! If your budget looks anything like mine, then you know how important it is to bring that figure down. Here are 20 simple ways that you can use to stay under-budget and save a huge chunk of cash!
1. Learn to Budget
If you are entirely new to the idea of budgeting, it’s a good idea to learn the basics before jumping in. Take a class or loan a book from the library on the essentials for budgeting. The basic idea is to add up your monthly bills, subtract them from the total that you make each month, and then use the remaining money to spend on things you want or need. It’s always a good plan to set aside the leftovers in a savings account. By doing some research on budgeting, you can learn little tips and tricks to make it all easier on yourself.
2. Use Only Cash
One of my top tips for staying under-budget is to always take only cash. Leave your debit and credit cards at home, or at least in the car. Whether grocery shopping, shopping for fun, going to eat, or sightseeing, remember to take only cash. You can take the amount of money that you know that you have available to spend, and then you are guaranteed not to go over it! Using only cash also guarantees that you will consider a purchase thoroughly. It’s always harder seeing well-earned cash leave your wallet then it is to swipe a card.
3. Determine Where Your Money Goes
Track your spending habits for a few weeks. Determine what it is that you spend unnecessary or excessive money on. Snacks? Drinks? Shopping? Magazines? Gadgets here and gizmos there? Once you realize what you are throwing money away on, it’s much easier to curb the habit. Make small changes, such as taking your own lunch to work or carrying a water bottle with you to avoid buying bottled water throughout the day.
4. Save Receipts
One of the best ways to stay under-budget is to save your receipts. This presents you with three opportunities as I see it. First of all, if you need to make any returns, you don’t need to wonder if you kept the receipt. Sometimes it takes a few days or a few weeks to realize you don’t need or want an item. Second, saving your receipts is a good way to keep track of your spending habits, making you aware of what you spend your money on. Third, at the end of the month you have a complete record of where your paychecks went.
5. Toss Your Credit Cards
If you only take one of these ways to stay under-budget with you today, please let it be this one! Having a credit card can be detrimental to your wallet. Most of us can get by just fine with a debit card or cash only. If you do have a credit card, get it paid off and then toss it. The only circumstances where I condone a credit card is when you own or run or work for a company that has to buy things daily on a scale of prices. I also don’t see the harm in having a credit card for emergency situations only, as long as you use it for that purpose specifically.
6. Share the Weight
Here’s a good way to stay under-budget. Learn to share the weight of bills. If you are single and live alone, consider finding a roommate to share with rent and utilities. You can also share a cell phone bill with a friend, relative or roommate. Other bills such as Netflix, cable, groceries and even electricity can be shared if you find someone who is willing to help you out. It’s to the benefit of both of you involved! Don’t forget the value of carpooling to save on gas.
7. Avoid Large Purchases
When it comes to staying under-budget, large purchases can really get you off target. Do your very best to avoid large purchases. If you know you’re going to need something expensive, or need to spend a lot of money on something like schoolbooks or a new hair straightener, start saving in advance. Avoid taking out a loan or putting that new laptop on the credit card when possible. Your budget will thank you!
8. Give Yourself a Strict Allowance
It’s almost impossible to tell yourself that you aren’t allowed to spend ANY money on fun stuff. Give yourself an allowance! But do keep it strict. Look at your budget and see how much money you have left to work with after bills, payments, necessary items and savings put back. If it’s $20, or $50, or $100+, then that will be your spending allowance for the month. You can use it to do whatever you want, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Stick by this rule no matter what!
9. Split Bills
Here’s an idea for staying under-budget that my husband and I have implemented every month for as long as we have been married! Split your bills up. Yes, bills are due every month on a certain date, but it’s up to you where the money comes from! Work it so that you can take half of your bills from one paycheck, and half of your bills from the other paycheck. By doing this, you can balance out your bills and have an even cash flow all month long!
10. Chuck Bad Habits
Yes, I’ve said it before, but it still rings true; we all have a bad habit or two that sucks our wallet dry. Smoking, drinking, excessive shopping, Lottery tickets or online browsing can really take a toll on your bank account by the end of the month. Get those habits under control and start saving money!
11. Find New Hobbies
Do any of your hobbies cost you money? Fact is, many of us have expensive hobbies! Finding new hobbies may be one simple way to stay under-budget that you never thought of! Here are a few suggestions for hobbies that are free or relatively cheap: Reading (Use your local library), cooking (you have to eat anyway), Photography (digital), Painting (paint set and canvas= $10-$15), swimming (cost of a swimsuit), biking (used bikes= $20-$50) running (cost of a pair of running shoes) or gardening (cost of a pack of seeds)
12. Learn to Balance Your Checkbook
Learning how to stay under-budget involves doing what most of us hate to do-balancing our checkbooks! If you don’t make it a habit to balance your checkbook on a regular basis, this is a good opportunity to start. Knowing exactly where your money is going is the first step to staying under-budget. Don’t have an actual checkbook or rarely use it? Use your bank account to do figuring! Set-up online banking if your bank offers it. You will be surprised at how handy it will come!
13. Look for Ways to Earn Extra
In order to stay under-budget, it always helps to have a little extra cash. I love to look for ways that I can earn extra spending money. A few things that I’ve done in the past include babysitting, pet sitting, cleaning houses/offices, having a yard sale, and selling items on eBay. Ask yourself what YOU can do to bring in a little extra cash now and then, this is one great way to stay under-budget!
14. Bring a Calculator
If you want to learn how to stay under-budget, here’s one of my top tips. Take a calculator with you and add up your purchases as you go! Most phones have a calculator on them, and this is a sure-fire way of making sure you don’t exceed your budget. This little trick applies to any type of shopping, whether for groceries, or for fun, so make sure you take advantage of it!
15. Sales, Sales, Sales
When things go on sale, it’s the perfect time to stock up on them! I always keep an eye out when I’m grocery shopping, for different things that we use all the time. When I notice them on sale for great deals, I take advantage and buy several of them! And when you are shopping for clothes or shoes, always head to the sale racks first. Sometimes they are picked over, but more often then not you can find great deals on cute clothes, and leave the store with multiple new outfits AND your wallet still intact. If you notice something you adore for full-price in the store, wait a few weeks to see if the price goes down. You can keep an eye on it online or in store, but most of the time new items eventually go on sale, making it the perfect chance for you to stock up!
16. Accountability is Your Friend
Here is where staying under-budget can get tricky. It’s often too easy to let yourself go over your limit if you don’t have anyone to answer to. Make sure you sit down with your husband, boyfriend, mom, sister or roommate and let them know your budget for the month. Have them check in on you periodically to keep you accountable for sticking to your plans! Another good idea is to keep a blog or a journal of your spending habits. When you know the world is watching you, things get serious fast!
17. Use Coupons and Discounts
One of the greatest ways to come in under-budget each month is to take advantage of coupons and discounts! Many websites have free printable coupons, or packages you can buy for a low price with triple the savings. Your local newspaper should have coupons for you to clip out, and lots of magazines have coupons to cut out. Check with stores that you shop at frequently. Many of them will have newsletters you can sign up to receive monthly, with sales and coupons inside for exclusive members only!
18. Establish “Free” Days
This is a little idea for staying under-budget that my husband and I came up with some time ago. A few times a month, especially when we know we are getting close to our max budget for the month, we have a “free” day! The rules for this are that we are not allowed to spend any new money. Money that we have already spent is ok, so for example, we could watch Netflix or drive the car around if there’s gas already in the tank. For example, last free day we had, we played a few board games, watched a movie we already owned, and then drove to dairy queen and used coupons to get free dilly bars. Be creative and come up with fun things to do!
19. Open a Savings Account
If you don’t have a savings account already, I suggest opening one right away. A savings account is one that you put money into and don’t take it out. Even if you can only afford to put $10.00 per month into your savings, having that security net is a good idea, since you never know what life may throw your way. And for months that you do go over-budget, you can withdraw emergency money to buy groceries and gas until next payday. A savings account also gives you incentive to save instead of spend, because you can have a picture of something you are saving for in your minds eye.
20. Be Flexible
The best tip that I can ever give you for how to stay under-budget is to remember that life doesn’t always happen like we plan for to. Remember that having a budget is a good idea, but there may be months you can’t stick to it. When that happens, and it’s out of your control, don’t feel bad! Just smile, and continue on. Be flexible, and roll with the punches!
Whew! That’s a lot of info to take in, but I guarantee you that if you can stick with these ways to stay under-budget, you will be surprised and very pleased with your savings by the end of the month! Staying under-budget is important, because otherwise you could end up in a lot of debt. So what are YOUR secrets for staying under-budget? Please comment below, I love to hear from my readers. Tell me a few of the ways to stay under-budget that you love!
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