I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t want to save more and spend less. Whether it’s a new year’s resolution or just a new commitment to financial freedom, learning how to budget and save money is an important skill to learn. I want to share some budgeting tips and things that I learned through my struggles with money management.
I realized a few years ago when money got tight that I had never lived by a budget. I was fortunate to live within my means without one, but, I admit, it was stupid. I was lucky that my dad taught me to be frugal and save, save, save. But I can’t help but wonder how my finances would look differently if I had lived by a budget.
Dave Ramsey often quotes John Maxwell, “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.” Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot of freedom in living by a budget. Telling your money where to go, controlling what you are spending on, and creating an emergency savings account is definitely freeing.
Track your expenses. Knowing where your money is currently going is half the battle. You can’t make changes if you don’t even know. Make a list of all the things you spend money on for a couple of months. Be sure to include those bills that will come due, like alarm monitoring that you pay quarterly or Amazon Prime that is paid annually.
Create a budget. Take the information from where you tracked your spending, and figure out if you can, or even if you need to, make changes to tighten things up. The things that always tripped me up during the year were those bills that came due annually, like insurance or my dog’s yearly health visit. Now, I split up each of those bills and save 1/12th each month so I already have the money when it comes due. See the next two steps to help with making a budget.
Find a budgeting plan that you can live with. Most have simple steps to follow. Be sure to follow their blog or get on their email list so you can get weekly updates and tips. One thing that bothered me about these programs is that they all encourage the use of cash only. I am not a cash person. I don’t want envelopes of cash sitting around my house and have to worry about grabbing money out of the right envelope before going shopping. So I incorporate Dave Ramsey’s principles but still use my credit card (paying it off each month, of course). Here are some popular budgeting programs you might be interested in:
Dave Ramsey Financial Peace
Crown Ministries MoneyLife
You Need a Budget
Use a budgeting app that syncs with your bank account and credit card. This makes it super easy to move each transaction to a budget category. There are many to choose from, but I settled on EveryDollar because it is simple. If you want bells and whistles, forms and data, there are plenty of apps available. Here are some of the ones I tested before deciding:
You Need a Budget
Spend less. If you don’t already make this a habit, you should call the companies that send you bills and ask if they can lower your bill. Cell phone and cable plans are often running promotions that you will never know about unless you ask. Sometimes you can save money by going paperless or setting up an auto-payment. In addition, never buy anything online without searching for a promo code first. RetailMeNot.com is a great website for finding discount codes. And if you don’t already use coupons for groceries, you can start small with your store’s digital coupons. The Kroger website and app will load digital coupons to your Kroger Plus card. For Publix, you can load digital coupons to your account from their website, then use your phone number at checkout to apply them to your order. Use a coupon website like SouthernSavers.com to see what is on sale and the digital coupons that can be used.
The bottom line for all of this is that you need to find a combination that works for you so you can know where your money is going and how to manage your spending so you will have more to save. I hope these budgeting tips can help you find a successful combination.