Budgeting can be HARD. And I don’t mean the sitting down and doing it part. Setting a realistic budget and then sticking to it can be all but impossible it seems. But if you want to make 2021 your year to meet your money goals, here are some real-life budgeting ideas to make it work for you.
Yep, We are Poor
I won’t lie. We do not have a large income by any means. It works for us because we live in an area where our cost of living is low also. Living in a rural area makes most of our costs much less than those in urban settings. Home costs are lower, gas prices stay cheaper, and even though to us a trip to the grocery store seems high dollar, I’m sure that our prices are way cheaper than they are for others.
Pay Bills First
First things first: take care of your four walls. I’m not going to claim to be a financial genius, but I do take the time to educate and motivate myself to stick to a budget. My favorite financial personality? Dave Ramsey, of course.
Other than income, the most important part of your budget is the cost of taking care of your home. This means making sure that your mortgage/rent, utilities, and food are the most important expenses to pay first. Write down all of these to figure out what you can spend on other things.
Be Downright Mean to Your Food Budget
Some people don’t spend much on food. We seem to overspend. I think it’s my love of cooking and how much I equate feeding my family to loving them. (Talk about old-school values.)
Trim the fat here (pardon the pun). You can skip the $20/lb t-bones for a while until you can afford them. Keep more expensive items off the list unless it’s a special occasion that you budget for ahead of time.
Meal Planning can help get you started fixing your food budget. Learn how to get started here.
Cut Out Excess
We all want things. We may even convince ourselves that we NEED them. I tend to force myself to think about things for 3 days before purchasing something that I may already have.
You know what I’m talking about here. It’s that stash of things you just had to have that are now in a box somewhere in your home. Those long-forgotten “treasures” that you wasted good money on. This could be anything from food stashed in the back of your pantry to craft supplies that you never got around to using.
Force yourself to take inventory of what you have on hand before purchasing more.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
With the inception of the “Green” movement, I don’t need to explain this concept to you, I’m sure. I was raised poor enough that this is just ingrained in my psyche now. Other than the adages of keeping your thermostat set and not turning up the heat, I have tons of things that I do to cut down expenses that most people think are either ingenious or just plain weird.
Old t-shirts are made into rags or strips for rag rugs. Newspaper and other junk mail are shredded for animal bedding or fire fodder. Boxes can be used for all kinds of things, even organizing a drawer.
I’ll be sharing more of my quirky little things in further posts, but you think of things that you typically trash that have the potential to be something else.
This is a biggie in our household. Every time my hubby gets an idea in his head for a project, he claims that a specific tool (that we don’t have) would make the job so much easier. Don’t get me wrong; I love tools as much as the next redneck. But if you are on a budget and the money isn’t there, don’t run out and purchase something that can be done with what you already have. (By the way, we have tons of tools, so no one feel bad for the poor man here.)
Sometimes you don’t have the money when something tragic happens. Say your dryer dies and you have to save up a bit before you can buy a new or even a new-to-you one. In the meantime, set up a clothesline or drying station in your home so that you can make due while you save up. Sometimes even that little extra hassle to it all gives you the intensity and willpower to cut out even more unnecessary spending so you meet your goal faster.
Cancel Unused Subscriptions
Take a running inventory right now of all of the streaming services that you have. (I’ll wait right here.)
If you are like us, you can tell me that you have too many. We have 6 right now, and I guarantee you we regularly watch 3 of them. Pausing or canceling them can save you tons of money for a year. Our Netflix was costing us almost $20 a month. We canceled it and saved $240 a year! Those small monthly costs don’t seem like a lot, but they add up.
But cutting down to only 1 or 2 that you regularly watch, you could save almost $1000 a year!
Inventory to Avoid Duplicate Purchases
This especially holds for grocery purchases. How many times have you been at the store and thought that maybe you needed something? Then you get home and realized that you already had it sitting in the refrigerator.
Keeping a running inventory of what you have on hand can help you not only save money on the bill, but also on wasting things.
Write. It. Down.
Keeping a running tally of how much you spend daily may be a severe shock to your system. Adding up all those little purchases and looking at them en masse may finally be the slap in the face that shows you just how much money you are wasting.
Make yourself a note that you do solemnly swear to write down each transaction you make every day for a week. When you have to write all those coffee stops, small impulse buys at the grocery checkout, and/or the lunch money you waste when you could have thrown a sandwich together at home will kick you in the butt.
It adds up. And you need to see it.
I keep a budget binder with all of our expenses written down. Once a day I write in purchases, and once a week I update all of the bills that need paid and note any changes to the budget. I can also keep track of our accounts (bank, savings, retirement, etc.) in our budget binder.
Having all of our financial information in one place makes it so much easier to keep up with everything that takes our income. Sinking funds, payoffs, or any other money-related situations are kept handy all in one spot.
Getting your spouse and even children involved in budgeting can be a game-changer. Having clear goals for what you’re working towards and why you are doing it can change everything.
For example, say you are working on saving for a family vacation. There is $300 budgeted toward the Vacation Fund this month. But, your husband sees a cool, gotta have it tool he wants. It would have to come out of the vacation fund. Knowing that he is taking money from the family’s goal keeps him from unnecessarily spending.
Clear goals with everyone involved are key. So while it will be awkward at first to sit down and talk about money, over time you will all see the benefit and love that all your goals are aligned with one another.
Sell Your Unwanted Stuff
With the advent of social media, it is easier than ever to sell your stuff. From old clothes to furniture you no longer need, there is someone who thinks your trash is exactly what they want.
Look around at your clutter. What is just in the way? Getting rid of your clutter will not only clear up space and make you some extra cash, but it clears stress from your life as well.
Budget. Budget. And Budget.
If you have never budgeted before, your first one is going to be chaos. I can guarantee you that. Not only because you are unsure of how to do it, but because you probably have no idea where all of your money is going. Budgeting is the key thing you can do to make sure that your money is working for you. You work hard for it. You should have way more to show for it in the long run.
If you need more information or want someone to get you motivated with budgeting, I recommend Dave Ramsey and the EveryDollar budgeting app. It’s worth every ounce of itself. Tracking your budget is so much easier with this app. (Besides, it’s FREE!) Don’t forget to check out his amazing book The Total Money Makeover to get you fired up for budgeting the right way.