12 Practical Tips for Staying on Budget
Calculating and staying on a budget can make it much easier to reach your professional and personal goals. Sticking to a budget not only prevents you from buying things that you can't afford but can also help you pay off debts and build a robust savings faster.
In this article, we explain why you should create a budget and provide 12 practical tips for staying on budget.
Why should you create a budget?
No matter your earnings, budgeting is one of the most effective ways to track your expenses and save money. A budget is simply a spending plan that incorporates your income and expenses. It offers a rough estimate of the amount of money you expect to make over a specified period and how you might spend it.
Read more: Budget: Definition and Types
Having a budget allows you to:
Create financial commitments to what you desire in life
Avoid spending more money than you currently have
Set a timeline that you might achieve your goals
Avoid the feeling of being financially overwhelmed
Pay your debts on time
Prepare in case of emergencies
Many scenarios push people to forget to stay on a budget, including emergencies, rush sales and special product offers. Most people simply forget to stay on a budget while buying their day-to-day needs. Let's look at the things you should do to stay on a budget before, during and after the purchase of a product.
Related: What Is a Budget?
How to stay on a budget
You might think making a budget is difficult, but the hard work starts after you have finished preparing it. This is because sticking to the budget requires constant practice. Below are some beneficial tips on how to stay on a budget:
Related: 15 Budgeting Tips and Best Practices
1. Pay yourself first
Savings are crucial for everyone looking to establish a better future, and they should always be a priority. This includes things like a registered retirement savings plan or tax-free savings account, which you should never miss after every payday. The best way to ensure this is to set up automatic transfers for your savings, just like you would automate your bill payments. Paying yourself first is a good principle to follow to help achieve your goals.
2. Think before making big purchases
You should take at least a week to think about purchasing something that you do not really need. Consider things such as whether the big purchase may come with a payment plan that might dent your budget or interfere with your savings. Ensure that you do a cost-to-benefit analysis to evaluate whether the purchase adds tangible value to your life.
3. Use coupons
Coupons can be very useful when you are trying to stay on a budget. You can find them in numerous places, including online and in newspapers and magazines. There are also stores and credit unions that give daily, weekly and monthly coupons on their apps.
4. Pay in cash
Paying in cash is a great option when you find credit cards too convenient and tempting to overspend. When you teach yourself to pay in cash, you have a habit of carrying only the money you need at any time or the budgeted amount. It is also mentally difficult to pay a lot of cash at once rather than swiping a card, meaning that you will always rethink overspending when using cash.
5. Shop alone and wisely
It is fun to shop with your family, but the habit can also drain your pockets. This is because at least one individual will feel like there is something they have to have. To avoid letting them or the other family members down, you might agree to the additional purchase which can trigger several more purchases above your budget. The best way to avoid such overspending is to go shopping alone or have some money set aside for special requests.
You always work hard for your money, but forget it as soon as you need to make a purchase. This might explain the temptation to make big purchases only to regret when you find yourself out of money. You can avoid this by equating your purchases to how much you had to work to get the money. When you view $100 shoes as up to 4 hours of your work, you might reconsider the purchase.
6. Negotiate prices
Always try to get the lowest possible price a retailer can sell a particular item at. When you negotiate, it might amaze you on certain discounts you would have missed if you just bought the item at the marked price. You lose nothing by asking for a discount. At worst, a retailer will just say “no."
It is common to encounter unexpected expenses throughout the month that might eat into your budget. You can prepare for such expenses by putting aside some money to cover the miscellaneous purchases. Keep track of such expenses as well and know if they occur frequently since you will then have to promote them to your main budget.
7. Track your shopping
Small purchases add up to large amounts that could seriously dent your budget by the time the month ends. A great trick to know and avoid them is to track all your shopping habits, including the dollar- or five-dollar payments you make. By the month's end, you can review your overall spending and see what to cut out. You can also combine the items you buy frequently in small amounts and buy them in bulk for a cheaper price.
Second, since name brands cost more than generic brands, you may have to spend more every time you buy from them. The amount can be little, for example, when buying groceries, but such small amounts are very significant if you compound them monthly. Evaluate the value you are getting by paying the extra dollars and whether it would be great to just buy a generic item.
Related: 8 Budgeting Methods To Help You Save
8. Plan your meals
Controlling what you eat helps you to both stay within a budget and live healthily. Plan your meals for at least a week and have a fixed grocery list. Pick fun recipes that feature healthy ingredients for your family to create healthy eating habits. Only buy the groceries you need as buying in excess will leave you with items that will spoil inside your fridge. When you throw away the spoiled items, it will be like you are tossing money into the garbage.
Shopping when hungry can be disastrous for your pocket as it will tempt you to sneak some non-necessities into your cart. This includes small $2-$5 snacks that end up burgeoning your grocery bill. You can avoid this by shopping online and having the groceries delivered to your home. This also prevents you from getting the temptation to buy some items you never use just because you saw them on the shelf.
9. Go minimal
Minimalism has immense benefits for your pocketbook, and you should never be afraid to try it out. You can start by identifying your needs and separating them from your wants. Cut down the wants list and remain with what is really necessary for you and your family. This will reduce your spending by a great margin. For example, you can save up to $100 by avoiding a pair of the latest Nike shoes if your pair from last year is still intact.
You can also reduce the clutter that costs you money, such as subscriptions to multiple brands that offer similar content. Another minimalism trick is to switch to a free bank account and save on monthly and transaction fees.
10. Only spend what you have
Debt can offer temporary relief for your bills, but when the payment time comes, you'll still have to clear them. You might have to borrow to repay your current debts, and this might affect your journey into gaining financial freedom or staying on a budget.
You will also have to pay a lot of money in form of interest on your loans. It is easy to avoid all that by holding off on debt you don't need or saving up to offset unexpected expenses. If you don't have enough money for something you want, wait to buy it when you have saved up some more cash.
Related: 44 Ways To Supplement Your Income
11. Make household supplies at home
There are lots of items you have at home that you can use to make useful supplies. For example, vinegar is a great wholesome cleaner, while baking soda can act as a mild abrasive for cleaning numerous areas inside your house. You can also use lemons for some bleaching purposes and save some funds on commercial products.
The other way to make avoid uncontrolled spending on household supplies is to use reusable items rather than disposable ones. Microfiber cloths, for instance, are ideal for scrubbing, dusting and cleaning. You can also use old clothes as rags to wipe and clean various surfaces. When you have some fabric lying around the house, you can fashion it into pillowcase covers among other types of items.
12. Shop for gently used items
Thrift shopping is one way to save when you need to purchase books, home decor, clothing, furniture, games, accessories and numerous other types of items. You will buy the items at a fraction of the price you would have paid if they were new. Sometimes you might also get lucky and find amazing deals allowing you to buy a lot of items for discounted prices.
If you frequent thrift stores, you will find some rarities like luxurious or unique collections at throwaway prices. Numerous other benefits come with thrift shopping, including helping to reduce pollution and uplifting your community.
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