Seven Ways to Help You Budget

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Seven Ways to Help You Budget

In our world which is so dependable on money, it is reasonable that each individual understands its importance and does everything in their power to accumulate as much of it as possible. Once you make money, however, it can be quite tricky to spend it wisely, to prioritize, and to budget. Regardless of how much money you make - if you live paycheck to paycheck, or if you’re able to set money aside and save with not much effort - there are things that you can consider in order to be able to save as much as you can, while still being able to treat yourself once in a while.

Being able to save money will make a huge difference in your life, as you’ll find that this skill also means that you have your financial situation under control, even if you think you struggle financially. Keep in mind that even the smallest changes can make a difference. Here’s what you can do.

1. Get a Clear Idea of Your Situation

Before we go any further, it’s important to understand where you stand. Many times I tried to brainstorm ideas of how I can fruitfully and productively budget, but I would easily be put off and discouraged by the intricate situation I was in - I’d often feel helpless and overwhelmed. It’s normal, and truthfully, expected of you to feel this way. You just have to find a way to organize your thoughts, get a general idea, and then go from there. You can start by categorizing your expenses. What are some necessities that you spend money on? What are some things you want, but haven’t been able to get? What are some things you purchase, but could live without? Make a Google Sheet spreadsheet, and start categorizing. Your mind will feel much clearer once you’re able to visualize your spending - bills which need to be paid, necessary and unnecessary expenses, as well as future financial endeavors which you currently can’t afford.

2. Track Your Expenses

If categorizing your spending is not sufficient, and you feel like you need supplementary help, try tracking your spending for a short period of time. You can simply write down every purchase you make in www.google.com/keep Google Keep, or entirely switch to cards - you’ll be able to keep track of everything thanks to online banking. Apps such as Mint or YNAB can also help you get a general idea of your spending habits.

Naturally, the end goal is not to always track every single detail that happens to your money - there will always be unavoidable expenses and things you just won’t be able to not buy. That’s fine. But there are other categories in which you might be overspending, and having that under control will make a huge difference. That is why it could be helpful to simply track every single purchase for two weeks to a month, and see where your money is going. Doing this will also help you be more realistic with your budgeting plan - you will get a clear idea of what your financial behavior is, and how it can be tackled. You will learn that some things, like car insurance or rent can’t fluctuate much in amount and can’t be avoided, but also that some bills (like your cell-phone bill or cable TV bill) can be considerably lowered, and some expenses can even be entirely eliminated.

3. Create Secondary Savings Accounts

If you’re someone who is easily tempted, it’s a good idea to save your money somewhere where it’s not as easily accessible. You can, for example, call up your bank and create a sub-savings account, or even multiple ones. You can designate them however you want: essentials, for things like groceries and gas, travel (this is how I personally save for my travels), and, obviously, bills. This way, you can allocate your money to different accounts according to your previous planning and strategizing, and hopefully, reduce overspending. You can use your credit card for all your purchases, so that you can earn points, but always pay everything off right away from corresponding savings accounts.

What’s good about this is that the money in your savings usually earns interest. Before you set up multiple savings accounts, however, it’s important to look into minimum balance requirements and fees, as well as interest rates.

If having your money in the bank or your physical wallet is still too tempting for you, maybe put aside a certain amount of money each month in your PayPal or Google Wallet. It won’t be as effortless to put the money back in your checking account, as it may take a day or two, so you will be forced to rethink your purchases.

4. Select Your Primary Payment

Depending on your personality, either cash or cards could be making you overspend. There are two types of people: the ones who prefer cards over cash, because they spend cash left and right once they have it, and those who are much more measured when they use cash, but less so when in possession of cards. I personally prefer cards because I don’t have to deal with change, and I can always track every purchase I make.

You really have to take a moment and think about these two options. Are you likely to overspend more if you mostly use cash, or cards? Some people think that it’s easy to overspend using cards because you never physically say goodbye to your money. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. You just have to be aware of how much money you have, and the fact that it makes no difference that you’re using plastic - the money is still gone once you make a purchase.

It’s a good idea to use cash or debit cards instead of your credit card if you have a lot of credit card debt, if you’re making a small purchase from an independent business, or if you can’t pay bills in a timely manner. However, if you like to have a record of your purchases, want to build your credit, or are making a purchase with a major retailer, you should use your credit card, because they do come with perks as well.

5. Be Resourceful and Creative

I know it’s very easy to stop by your favorite bubble tea place on your way to work, or go eat at your favorite restaurant when you feel lazy to make food. It’s okay to do that once in a while, but if it’s become an unbreakable habit that’s leeching on your savings, then it’s a problem and it needs to be corrected. You need to learn how to compensate for small expenses that drain your budget slowly but surely. If you’re dependent on coffee in the morning, why not make it at home? You’ll probably save time, not to mention money - you won’t be standing in the long Starbucks line, plus you won’t be using disposable (and possibly plastic) cups! Get your own coffee container, make sure it’s plastic-free, pour your coffee at home, and you’re ready to go! You just saved your money, and the planet.

If you eat out too much, consider meal-prepping so that you’re not tempted to go to a restaurant or fast-food place just because it will take you too long to prepare dinner. If you take some time of your weekend to prepare some meals which can be frozen throughout the week, you will thank yourself later. If a prepared meal is waiting for you in the fridge, you’ll feel bad leaving it behind for some restaurant food. And you won’t be wasting your own resources! Too many times have I thrown out food just because it went bad because I didn’t eat it fast enough. If you buy your own food, don’t neglect it!

6. Let The Tech Help You

It’s okay to need some help. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel quite overwhelmed by the budgeting burden weighing you down. That’s why it’s good to sometimes use the help of our beloved gadgets - that’s what they serve for, no? Luckily, there are tools to help you stay on track and be as good at budgeting as we can be: try apps such as Mint or YNAB. Mint is free, and can help you track and pay bills, budget, categorize, and it can even give you advice! Many people swear by YNAB as well, which is not entirely free, but it can help you organize and track your spending, while saving money and enjoying all the small things you’d miss if you had to figure out budgeting all on your own.

7. Check Your Progress

Finally, none of this is worth it if you don’t see any difference in your savings. When I’m going through a good period and am able to save a lot of money, I love to just stare at my bank account and admire it. It motivates me to keep going and do better. So, if that’s what it takes to solidify your decisions to give up on small things that you like to overspend on, then do that. Log into your online banking, take a look at your account, and let it sink in. It’s nice to feel rewarded for all that discipline and control. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you should reward yourself with overspending - it completely defeats the purpose. It’s all about finding a way to feel good about your accomplishments, and continue being successful at budgeting.

Even though this might not be an exhaustive list, it’s a good start on your road toward financial accomplishment. There is a learning curve to it, so don’t feel too discouraged if you sometimes make a slip-up - it happens. As long as you’re willing to keep going, you’re looking at a bright future of a money-packed savings account. Always keep track of all your spending, check your accounts regularly, eliminate purchases which you can easily eliminate, and do resort to phone apps if you need to. Keep in mind that it’s usually not necessary to cut back on absolutely everything; sometimes, reducing overspending in only two to three categories can make a huge difference.