Costs of living are skyrocketing everywhere. Personal and household budgeting is more important than ever. Here are five tips for planning your finances and sticking to that plan.
Set up a savings account
Having a dedicated, removed space for your funds is a great way to cut down on emotional spending and impulse purchases. Have you ever heard the expression “You can’t spend money you don’t have”? This works by a similar logic. You do have the money, technically.
However, it is stored in an account that you can’t access on a daily basis. The very idea of a savings account can help deter you from dipping into those funds for unnecessary expenses. Trick yourself into leaving the money alone by thinking about it as a “special” fund for rainy days or momentous occasions.
The easiest way to maintain a savings account is to set up automated payments. Choose a lump sum to be transferred into it every month. It’s alright to start small. No need to strain your living. Just a fraction of your salary will do. Later, as you get more comfortable with it, you can gradually increase the amount.
As an additional step, it could help to cut off your avenues of frivolous online spending. Go through the online shops you’ve bought from and remove your credit card information from all of them. If you have to re-enter everything again when you feel like shopping next time, it might just be so tedious that you will give up and keep your money.
Rethink your transportation
Commuting is one of the largest everyday expenses that many of us face. Do you have to travel to and from work? Do you have children to drop off and pick up to and from school and activities? It adds up quickly.
If you find yourself spending a lot on gas and vehicle maintenance, consider alternative transportation. Utilize public transit networks or car share with your friends and colleagues. You can even carpool with strangers if you use a third-party service.
If your schedule will allow it, try to bicycle or walk to some of your destinations. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also get in some good exercise. That is a great bonus, especially for desk workers. As a cherry on top, it spares you from paying for a gym subscription, too.
Get into expenses planning
Whether you’re building a budget from the ground up or have to adjust to your existing one, planning expenses is your lifeline. Account for everything you can think of: from food and shelter, through clothing, to leisure and entertainment. Don’t forget some wiggle space for emergencies! If you face unexpected expenses, just deal with them, note them down, and move on. Don’t let the occasional bump derail you from the road.
To get the hang of expenses planning, start with short-term budgeting. Make a weekly plan. Every weekend, note down the expenses for the upcoming week and stay within that frame. Track your spending. Next weekend, see how you did. Is everything accounted for? Did you stay within budget? How much will you need for next week? Then gradually move on to monthly and so on.
Cut down on food spending and utilities
Vegetables are displayed for sale at the local market
Groceries and monthly bills are right up there with transport in terms of adding up costs. You can save a lot if you cook instead of relying on takeout and fast food, but it can be hard to keep track when you’re juggling spending on many different ingredients and condiments. Consider meal planning to cut down on food waste and “stock-up spending”.
As for utilities, try to optimize them. Update your phone and internet plans. Install equipment to preserve water and energy. Reduce your electricity bill where you can. Consider getting a few smart devices for your home to control the heating, air conditioning, and the like.
Utilize budgeting software
Improve your discipline with a budgeting app. Your phone is always with you, so you can update and monitor your spending in real-time, anywhere. It also helps keep you accountable if you have a habit of using your phone to make payments.
Most of these apps display your spending by category, so you can see where exactly the money goes. You can also sync them with your computer or another member of the household.
In summary, staying within a budget doesn’t have to be a logistical nightmare. Start small, on a weekly or monthly level. Keep track of your expenses to establish a baseline and see where most of your money goes. Set up a savings account and use budgeting software to keep yourself accountable. Take advantage of conveniences like public transport, smart devices, and meal planning to cut down on day-to-day expenses.