Do you have a panic attack every time the end of the month comes around and you realize you’re going to have to put a bill on your credit card again? Did you overdraft your checking account? If this sounds like you, it’s time to get your budget in order. Living according to a budget doesn’t mean you’re barred from fun, but it does mean you’ll have to be more conscious about how you’re spending your money. Here are our tips for being a budget-conscious consumer:
Don’t worry about the Joneses
The societal expectations are there, we get that. But if you can resist the pull to compete within your social circle and live your life according to your own budget and values, it’ll pay off in the long run. For example, if everybody is constantly getting new cars your neighborhood and you’re looking to replace yours, don’t run to the nearest Jaguar dealership. There are plenty of great, used cars for sale that can still look new and more importantly, run like new. And ask yourself honest questions, do you even need a car? Can you rely on a motorcycle or bike instead to get you around?
Thrift or join a rental service for clothes
If you want to save money on your clothing but you still want to look professional, check out the local thrift store scene. Sure, you’ll find some crazy pieces of clothing like paisley overalls and neon scarves but if you can look past the duds, you might just find a diamond in the rough at your neighborhood Goodwill or Buffalo Exchange.
There’s also the option of using a clothing rental service like Le Tote or Gwynnie Bee. This allows you to create your own dream wardrobe but without the pressure of full commitment. You can wash and wear the clothes you receive from the service until you’re ready for a new batch. This will help keep you on trend at all times without completely emptying your bank account.
Take part in a saving challenge
If slipping away $100 to $200 seems like too much of a stretch for your current financial situation, Forbes has a few ways to aim for small money goals that will still lead to you save hundreds at the end of the savings period. For example, you could partake in the 52-Week Challenge where you set aside $5-$10 each week for the entire year. These small challenges don’t affect your budget as much in the short term but still result in a satisfying end amount of money.
Don’t rely on your credit card
Credit cards are great! They provide a way for you to slowly pay off bigger purchases or in a pinch, can serve as a way to fund an emergency expense. Unfortunately, it’s extremely easy to become overly reliant on them. This is especially true if you’re using your credit card for a lot of smaller expenses but you’re not tracking those purchases; you might be shocked at the amount you’ve racked up on your credit card at the end of the month.
While you don’t have to go to extremes and cut up your credit card, it might make sense to put your card in your nightstand or somewhere where you’re not carrying it around. It will force you to be more responsible and use the money you actually have in your checking account instead of relying on a larger credit limit that credit cards often offer.
Download an app that saves for you automatically
There are plenty of apps you can use that help you save automatically. You can use an app like Chime that squirrels away a small amount of money each month, for example.
Use a budget
There are tons of great, free budgeting tools available today. You Need a Budget and BUDGT are two of the top free budgeting apps. If you’re not into mobile apps, you can also budget the old-fashioned way and keep track of your expenses on an Excel spreadsheet.
Learn to cook
Eating out is fun, easy, and delicious. Unfortunately, it’s also an activity that can really strain your wallet. Try to limit your nights out to special occasions. We’re not suggesting you never eat out but prioritize your budget before going crazy on Chinese takeout or burgers. When you’re traveling, plan ahead and bring snacks instead of eating at a restaurant for three meals a day.
Get a side job
If you have extra hours in your schedule, it may make sense to make use of a side talent or hobby to get some extra cash flow in your budget.
Budgeting isn’t the most fun topic to take time out of your day to think about. But with the right tools and mindset, you’ll be living frugally and meet your next savings goal.