Haveyou ever lived paycheck to paycheck? If you’re nodding your head, you’re notalone — I’ve done it too. As of January 2019, as many as 78 percent ofworkers arein the same situation. One thing that helped to pull me out of the cycleinvolved learning how to budget my income correctly. While it’s not a foolproofsolution, it can help keep your head above water while you work toward biggerand better things.
Hereare six of the budgeting tips I picked up along the way.
Start by Writing Your Budget Down
Keepinga budget isn’t tricky — unless you attempt to do it in your head. I don’t carehow good you are with numbers. It takes forgetting one thing before you’re overyour budget and scrambling to keep up with your bills.
Writeyour budget down. Take an in-depth look at your income and your expenses —everything from bills and groceries to the money you spend on movie tickets andfast food. Account for everything that comes in, and everything that goes out.
Justhaving it down on paper can help you keep track of everything, so you don’tmake any mistakes or forget something important. If you prefer to go digital,there is an app for that. I found the budgeting app ‘Mint by Intuit’ helpful,but you can find multiplebudgeting app options if you prefer to try another.
Pay With Cash
It’seasy to overspend when you swipe your debit or credit card. Whenever possible,carry cash on you and skip the cards when at the register. If taking a trip tothe grocery store, take with you only the money you budgeted for food. Thiswill keep you to your grocery list and prevent you from picking up extras youdon’t need or can’t afford.
Iknow that paying in cash isn’t always an option — most utility companies haveonline bill-pay options, and online shopping doesn’t offer a pay-in-cash optionunless you have your items delivered to Wal-Mart or other similar retailers,but wherever it’s possible, opt for cash instead of cards.
Plan Your Meals
Now,how can you carry the perfect amount of money for your grocery shopping if youdon’t know what you plan to go in for? This is where mealplanning comes in to help.
Insteadof walking into the store and picking up whatever catches your eye — or God forbid,shopping hungry! — take some time to plan out your meals for the week. Includebreakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks on your list, and figure out what you wantto eat each day. Then build your grocery list from that meal plan, and stick toit.
Onceyou do this for a few weeks, you’ll have a better idea of how much money you’llneed to complete your shopping every week, and you can more accurately planyour budget.
Prepare for Big Expenditures
Thereare times of the year when we all spend more money than we have. Christmas isone of these — hundreds of thousands of people put all of their holidayspendings on a credit card and spend January scrambling to pay it off. Insteadof relying on credit, plan for significant expenditures like Christmas shoppingby putting money away throughout the year and setting a strict budget.
Emergencieswill remain unavoidable, which cut into any budget — like flat tires or brokenteeth — but for things like Christmas that you can plan for, you don’t need tostress out if you plan and keep the credit cards in your wallet.
Change Your Vacation Plans
Ifyou take a vacation with the family every year, it’s probably one of your mostsignificant annual expenditures. Instead of saving your pennies to spend a dayat the local amusement park, why not look a little bit closer to home. Lookinto planning astaycation with the family and take advantage of what your hometown offers. State parks andmuseums usually offer no-admission days, but even when they charge for entry,it’s infinitely less expensive than the $150 per person you’d spend on a Disneyticket.
Now,I’m not saying you should skip Disney altogether, but if you’re looking forways to save money, maybe spread the expensive amusement park trips orvacations out a little bit instead of trying to do it every year.
Do Some Work Around the House
Budgetingisn’t just about counting your pennies — it’s about finding ways to reduce yourexpenses, so you have more funds to work with, whether you’re planning a bigvacation or trying to pad your emergency fund. There are plenty of things youcan do around the house to reduce your electric bill. Start small — swap outold incandescent light bulbs in favor of LEDs. These newer bulbs are moreaffordable and use less energy because of their efficiency.
Haveyou ever touched an old incandescent bulb after it’s been left on for a while?They get pretty hot because they waste nearly 90 percent of theenergy theyuse. Instead of becoming light, that energy turns into heat.
Othersuggestions might include installing a programmable thermostat and shutting offyour AC when no one is in the house. Setting your AC to 78 during the summerand your heater to 68 during the winter can help save money as well by usingless energy to heat or cool your home. If you have the means, adding insulationto your attic or crawl space, and switching to double-pane windows can alsohelp reduce the cost of maintaining the interior temperature of your home.
Stick to It — and Be Patient
Budgetingcan save you a lot of money in the long run, but it’s not something that comeseasily or quickly. Once you set up your budget, stick to it — and remainpatient. While you become accustomed to it, you will screw up. You will makemistakes, and you will overspend. Don’t look at these as bad things though —you can’t learn unless you make mistakes. So make mistakes, and make sure youlearn from them. It took me nearly six months before I figured out the bestbudget for my household. See if you can beat my time!