Here are my ten best tips for following a monthly budget:
1. Set a Savings Goal
Saving money can difficult, especially if you fail to set goals. A great way to start is to set small goals and then build up to larger ones.
A good measurement to use when setting your savings goal is your living expenses. Many personal finance experts recommend having a six-month emergency fund saved. This means saving enough money to live off of for six months. While this may seem like an impossible goal, start by saving a week of living expenses and increase from there.
2. Automate Saving Money
Many banks, payroll programs, and budgeting apps let you automatically deposit a certain amount of money into a savings account. Automatically putting money into your savings account should help with optimizing your finances.
Some debit and credit cards will even round up to the next dollar whenever you make a purchase. For instance, if you buy a soda for $1.20, $.80 would be automatically deposited into your savings account. Check with your bank or card issuer to see if they offer this or a similar feature.
3. Sell Your Extra Stuff
Almost everyone has extra stuff that they either don’t want or don’t use. Electronics, clothing, or sporting equipment are only a few examples of stuff we may want to get rid of. By selling things you don’t need, you not only declutter your life, but you can also make some extra money.
Garage sales can be good places to sell small items. Consignment stores will pay cash for gently used clothing, and pawnshops will take most electronics and other valuables. You might even be able to find a friend or family member that is interested in buying your unneeded items.
4. Take Advantage of Coupons
When trying to stay on budget, you should use coupons as often as possible. There are many mobile apps for iOS and Android that make locating deals simple:
SavingStar is an app that offers coupons and gives you cash back on groceries.
Flipp is an app that makes it easy to find weekly ads and coupons for your favorite local stores.
Paribus is an app that finds refunds from online retailers when the price of something you purchased drops. Paribus is currently only available for iOS, but an Android app is coming soon.
GoodRx is an app that helps you find deals on your prescriptions and compare prices of local pharmacies.
5. Stick to a Shopping List
Don’t go shopping without a list. And this is important if it’s not on the shopping list, don’t buy it. This is a great way to avoid making impulse purchases that you don’t really need. Also, with a shopping list, you don’t have to worry about forgetting stuff.
6. Pack a Lunch
Eating out, even if it’s just fast food, can easily get expensive. You could potentially save hundreds of dollars a year by bringing a packed lunch to work instead.
7. Buy Generic
A great way to save money is to buy store brands or generic products. Generic products are the same as name brand products but at a big discount. By choosing generic food, medicine, and toiletries, you can decrease your monthly expenses.
8. Save by Going to Your Local Library
Before you rent a new movie or buy another book, make sure you check your local library. Most libraries now stock digital items such as audiobooks and e-books, and your library may even have computer software you can check-out.
9. Follow Your Budget
It’s important to have a budget, but it’s also important to follow it. While it might be easy to fit small purchases into your budget, you must also follow your budget when it comes to large purchases.
Hopper is an app that helps you track flight and hotel prices so that you can get the best deal. When trying to stay on budget, it is important to keep vacations as cheap as possible.
10. Track Spending and Find an Accountability Partner
The hardest part of following a budget is tracking your spending and staying accountable. There are several mobile apps on the market that can help make this easier:
Goodbudget is an app for creating a personal budget and tracking your spending.
Debt Payoff Planner is an app that will help you stay on track if you want to lower or pay off your debt.
You can also find a friend or family member who needs some financial accountability. Working together as a team, you can think of new budgeting ideas and make sure you both adhere to your goals. With a little help, budgeting could be easier than you think.