7 Simple Ways to Stay On Budget

If you spend too much every week (or day), try this budget approach.

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By Sabah Karimi

If you struggle to stay on budget every month and find it difficult to reach your savings goals, it might be time for a new approach. Setting yourself up for financial success may require taking a closer look at your spending habits and figuring out your weaknesses. You can also adopt habits that will make you more mindful about your spending choices and shopping routine.

Try these seven ways to stay on budget:

1. Always shop with a list -- even for the small stuff. You may already shop with a list when you go to the grocery store, but do you make a list for everyday purchases like household items, gas or laundry services? Even if it seems unnecessary, making a list for these items can make you more aware of the money you're spending. This in turn can help you prioritize your purchases so you can better manage your cash flow. Make a list even when you're heading to the hardware store, convenience store or clothing store, so you aren't tempted to buy things you don't really need.

2. Use a budgeting smartphone app. Maybe you already use a digital budgeting tool on your computer such as Mint or You Need a Budget. But if you don't,
using a smartphone app to keep track of your budget goals can help you maintain awareness of your spending in real time. Mint, Expensify and ReadyForZero are a few easy-to-use apps that can help you monitor your budget with just a few easy taps.

3. Log expenses every day. Instead of waiting until the end of the week, or even the end of the month, to tabulate your expenses, get into the habit of logging your expenses every day. Request a receipt whenever possible so you can go over the day's expenditures with ease. Or pay for every purchase using the same debit card or credit card so you can track all activity for the day online. The goal here is to become more aware of your daily spending habits, so you can make positive changes.

4. Share your financial goals. Confide in a friend, family member or financial adviser about your goals, and set up a plan so that person holds you accountable. For example, you could set up a weekly meeting, or send an email reporting any spending problems or challenges you are having.

5. Only spend dollars you can see. Shopping with cash can make it easier to manage your budget and be more mindful about how much you spend. When you become used to using a debit card or credit card regularly, it can be easy to forget the value of those dollars because the transactions are processed electronically, and you never see the exchange of physical dollar bills. If you have trouble sticking with a budget, try spending only cash for a few weeks so you become more cognizant about your purchases.

6. Refurbish and recycle. Instead of trying to make room in your budget for new items or saving up to replace goods that are in relatively good condition, focus instead on fixing or refurbishing your possessions. Household furniture, appliances and home decor may just need to be refreshed with new paint or given a tuneup. Take inventory of your home, and think of ways to update your living areas without having to buy new items.

7. Reward yourself without spending money. Creating your own rewards system for reaching your financial goals can help you break a pattern of bad spending habits and set you up for long-term success. Think of ways to reward yourself without spending money. Spend an afternoon enjoying a free event in your area, block off time to try a new recipe, enjoy a relaxing bath or schedule time with a friend or loved one you haven't seen in awhile. Find ways to make the goal-setting process a positive one, so you reinforce good habits and get rid of habits that might be holding you back.

Sabah Karimi is a columnist for the blog Wise Bread, where you can find consumer tips like how to select the best balance transfer credit cards.


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7 Comments

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bobktmfs

I know from experience how easy it is to buy things you don't really need but that look nice or that you like. It's hard to resist sometimes, but that's the point of all the fancy ads and packaging, isn't it? But you can stick to a budget and get rid of debt. Learn how at http://www.mutualfundstore.com/financial-obligations-debt. Once you get out of debt, do your best to not get back into it except for those big purchases, like a new house, a car, or the like. Good luck to us all!

May 07 2014 at 5:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sam.larson3

Here are my top budget tips and I am not perfect, but I have been able to put away a decent amount of money on a 60k a year job while living in an expensive city.
1. Eat out 1 less time per week, This saves 50-$100 per week.
2. Insurance can be found cheaper if you get it yourself. Get your insurance from LifeAnt or you can find cheaper car insurance from esurance or geico which honestly is fast to find.
3. Make a list when you grocery shop, and dont deviate. Same with cloths and goods. Buy what you need and nothing more.
Its not easy but it feels GREAT to put money away. Something our country needs more of.

April 09 2014 at 12:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WinterWisdom

Excellent post. Sticking to a budget is definitely the most difficult part. For those who find drawing one up difficult here's my simple free spreadsheet for for setting up a household budget. http://www.winterwisdom.com/simple-household-budget-master-your-finances

April 04 2014 at 7:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

stop spending your money on useless trash

April 03 2014 at 11:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

Outlaw charge cards !!!

April 03 2014 at 11:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
weilunion

This is the infatilization of Wall St. Reducing us to mere peons in their Ponzi schemes for wealth and power.

Make a list
Use your smart phone

America, wake up! Articles like this are exactly what has replaced real education and why the one percent and the oligarchs get away with financial murder.

Everyone I know is in debt. This is the plan under financialization or late stage capitalism. Create debt for life and then buy it and sell it on Wall St so the oligarchs and ruling classes can make more money.

Want to budget: budget on revolution

April 03 2014 at 7:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scottee

perhaps congress should follow these 7 simple rules to stay on budget? who will do this?

April 03 2014 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jdykbpl45

Shop with cash.

April 03 2014 at 2:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to jdykbpl45's comment
scottee

perhaps Washington should do that. what if they could only spend what they collect? AFTER they collect it?

April 03 2014 at 7:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
weilunion

Let me give my e-mail address with instructions where to deposit the cash. Tell me who has any cash. Americans have a negative savings rate and are in debt for life. As is their country

April 03 2014 at 7:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply