Living on a budget: it’s not ideal, but for many people, especially in our current economic climate, it’s becoming a necessity. Do you find yourself making promises of budgeting and saving money at the beginning of each paycheck, only to find yourself penniless at the end of the week?
Not only does budgeting make daily finances easier, but it also helps you plan for the future, prepare for emergencies, and save up for larger purchases. Better budgeting doesn’t require a huge life shift—just a few easy changes can make a world of difference.
Read on for five simple tricks to help you manage your money a little more carefully.
#1: Think Big
Budgeting each week can be quite time-consuming. Few people can accurately plan out how they’re going to spend their money every week. Not only can week-to-week expenses vary, but so can week-to-week income, depending on your job.
Budgeting on a monthly scale is much more efficient. Big expenses like rent, utility bills, and car payments are typically made in monthly increments. Rather than trying to calculate how much money you need to put away each week, make your life easier by planning a budget for the whole month.
Here are some tips to get you started on your monthly budget:
- Rather than trying to calculate your grocery list down to the penny each week, simply allocate an appropriate amount of funds toward food each month, allowing for treats here and there.
- Give yourself a flexible shopping limit for each month, raising the amount nearing holidays and birthdays when you know you’ll be hitting the mall (or online store) more often.
- Don’t forget to account for subscription services and donations, which are often billed automatically on a monthly basis (and can really add up if you’re not paying attention).
Pro Tip: If meal planning isn’t really your strong suit, opt for an affordable meal subscription service like Freshly. This helps take the guesswork out of grocery shopping and offers a fixed food budget each month.
#2: Allow for Wiggle Room
Setting a budget is a great way to stay on top of your finances. However, you can’t always prepare for everything. A proper budget can help you handle the scary emergencies and surprises life throws at you, like:
- Pesky car trouble
- An abnormally high electric bill
- A spur-of-the-moment night out
- A sudden injury
No matter what it is, you’re going to want some money set aside for emergencies (or spontaneous self-care days). If you get to the end of the month and you haven’t spent it, put it in your savings! There’s no downside to this strategy. No matter what happens, it’ll make your life just that much easier.
#3: Motivate Yourself
People often fail to stick to a budget because they feel they have no reason to. It can be difficult to make sacrifices in the name of saving when you have nothing to save for.
That’s why you always need a goal.
Whether it’s homeownership, a new car, or a long-overdue vacation, you must find a reason to budget. As silly as it sounds, the promise of spending later will help you save now. You may just find that the expensive sweater you keep ogling is far less appealing than your dream trip to Hawaii (although you may want to invest in a new bathing suit if that’s part of your goal).
#4: Get Professional Advice
If you feel like your budget is missing something, consider hiring a wealth management consultant. While you may feel confident calculating your monthly food and utility expenses, you may need expert help when tackling more complex aspects of your finances, like:
- Mortgage payments
- Loan repayment
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional for help. There’s a reason people do this for a living.
Pro Tip: With COVID-19 pushing nearly every service online, it’s easier than ever to get financial advice right from your couch. Many wealth management companies, like Cetera, offer virtual consulting and make it easy to find a financial advisor online. Since you’re already surfing the web for budgeting tips, why not check out some wealth management services while you’re at it.
#5: Write it Down
Budgeting can be difficult when you’re trying to keep track of everything in your head. Writing out your budget helps make it easier to plan out and understand, especially if you’re a visual learner. If you’re an artsy person, try to find a gorgeous budget planner that looks great on your desk.
There’s no reason saving money has to look boring, too.
Pro Tip: If you’re someone who really enjoys visuals, try creating an actual graph for your monthly expenses. This can help solidify what percentage of your income goes where, and may even help you cut down on your expenses.
The thought of budgeting may sound miserable to most people, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s time to let go of the idea that budgeting makes you a stick in the mud. Living a stellar life and having a stellar bank account are not mutually exclusive.
Sustainable budgeting is possible—just spend intuitively, plan for monthly expenses, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re confused.