So many people hold ill feelings about that six-letter word. The ever so restrictive, unachievable, hard-to-grasp, math-phobic BUDGET! You know.
Let me help you create a budget with these budget hacks.
Can I be honest with you? A budget is just knowledge. It’s knowledge about how much money you have coming in and deciding IN ADVANCE what you want to do with that money—deciding where it’s going at the beginning of the month instead of wondering where it all went!
With every new project that you tackle, there must be a plan. If you are building a house, you have a blueprint. You might be baking a cheesecake; there’s undoubtedly a recipe.
If you are sewing a dress, you have a pattern. It may not go so well when you have never created something before without a plan. Imagine that dress?
How to get started with a budget.
Less than one-third of Americans use a budget, and 70% live paycheck to paycheck, meaning seven out of ten people are in big financial trouble if one paycheck doesn’t come through.
One of the essential elements needed before you even search for budgeting hacks is to have the right mindset. You need to be brave and face the unknown to find the proper personal finance life for you.
I think of a football coach psyching his players up before the big game. You need to be in the right frame of mind to “tackle” that budget for the first time. It will be exhilarating, educational, and scary – all simultaneously.
But with the proper state of mind, it will be easier to face it than put it off.
What is a budget?
It is better than you may think.
It’s just an estimate of money coming in and money going out within a specific period.
You need to create a budget. It’s just a plan for your money. Call it a blueprint, a recipe, or a pattern. It is a guide that you create one time, tweak it as necessary each month, and then follow it.
There are lots of different types of budgets you can try. One of my favorites is the zero-based budget. You can use a budgeting app, a printable tracker, or a spreadsheet. The key is finding something that helps you achieve your budgeting goals.
I am not new to budgeting. I have been doing it for a long time, and I have come to a place where it is second nature. In my budget binder, there are forms I have created that I use every month to keep track of bills.
These budget hacks are an excellent place to start if you are new to budgets.
Check out these top budgeting tips to improve your financial situation.
Organizing and making budgeting fun.
The cash flow organization is an essential step in this budget lesson. Gathering up all of your bills and receipts and storing them all in one place so you are ready for the work that needs to be done.
Try making budgeting fun. Depending on your organizing personality, a shoebox, and a spiral notebook might d. Others need binders, folders, accordion files, color-coordinated pens, and a pretty file box to put it all in.
I urge you to find these supplies around your house. Please don’t go out and buy anything. You are broke here! Use what you have and make due until you find some order in your mess. Later, you can create a fund for pretty office supplies!
You can use apps or spreadsheets on a computer to do your budget. And if you can find a system that will help you make budgeting fun, go for it.
Creating A Budget
Calculate your income for the month.
The first thing is to add up all after-tax income or take-home pay from jobs, government benefits, and child support. Your net income includes any regular bonuses or side hustle money. You need that total income as the most crucial step in creating your first budget.
Add up all your monthly expenses.
The next step is collecting all your expenses, which might take a few days. I know for me, there are always those few that I forget. The ones that auto-pay, like car payments that come right out of the account, are forgettable. Grab your bank statements to make sure you have caught everything.
Watch out for variable expenses such as utility bills and ones that come out at different times of the month.
Your long list of expenses might take a lot of work to face. Many who don’t know where their money is going might be shocked at this part. Stay strong.
Subtract your expenses from your income.
If you have money left over, you are on the right track. If you are in the negative and need more money (like many of the population), you need to do some work.
Incorporate a spending freeze.
The first step is to stop all spending unless it is life or death necessary. You need to reign in all spending. You can find some more information on how to do a spending freeze HERE.
List your bills from most important to least critical.
Think about your four walls first. Pay rent or mortgage first, the electric and heat next. Then, take care of transportation because most need a vehicle to get back and forth to work. Remember gas, car loan payments, and car insurance in there.
Food is a part of this step, but let’s only buy the necessities to get through the following weeks. Then, list other debts and monthly payments from most important to least. As money comes in, pay them in this order until the end of the month.
Student loans are not the most important, but they need to be paid. They might fall someplace in the middle of your spending plan.
You might find that cable TV isn’t significant to your life, but the Internet is. Cancel tv! You may find the gym is an unnecessary expense, and you can pause that gym membership until you figure this out.
Trim the expenses.
Stop eating out. Cancel cable. Inform that teen it’s time for a job to help pay his way. Whatever you have decided is unnecessary; get rid of it.
Plug all your numbers into a budget. Whether you find a free printable one online, use a yellow legal pad and pencil, or try a free budgeting software like Mint or Every Dollar.
Now revisit this EVERY. MONTH. Consistency is key here!!
Make adjustments as needed. It will take about three months to get a feel for this whole budget thing.
Why do you need a budget?
As I stated before, creating a budget is about knowing how much money you have coming in, telling it where to go, and not wondering where it went.
Taking control of your money with these budget hacks will give you peace of mind and authority where there was none before.
It is about putting yourself in the driver’s seat, being the boss of your own money, and deciding what is essential for you in your life.
Budgeting is the beginning of financial bliss. Knowing your numbers and seeing what you are spending your money on is the best way to allow yourself to imagine how you want to live your life and then actually make that happen.
Creating and sticking to a budget will improve your life.
Budgets are the roadmap to happiness as long as you drive that bus!
25 Best Budget Hacks
It feels different from using cash. Studies show it’s harder to spend money when it’s cash. Check out this article for more information on the cash envelope wallet: Cash Envelope Wallets That Will Make You Want To Use Cash.
Keep Savings in Separate Bank Account.
Out of sight, out of mind. Consider not only a separate account but an independent bank. I use the Capital One 360 account. You can read more here: What Is The Most Challenging Part Of Saving Money?
Make a Grocery List.
Always make a list of the grocery stores before you go. This way, you will not forget things and have to go back. That never ends cheaply.
Cancel Memberships Not in Use.
You know, all those memberships that come out of your account every month. Gym, streaming services, car washes; cancel those if you aren’t using them.
Save Your Change.
Get a jar and start dumping your change there when you clean out your purse. Look around the house for all those other spots that might be collectors for coins.
You can use these to track your spending, but you can also have them handy when you want to take back that $90 sweater when it doesn’t fit the way you thought it would.
Buy in Bulk.
Be smart about this. Some things are not a bargain when purchased in bulk. Do the math and decide if it’s right for your food budget.
You can check out this article about warehouse stores: How Warehouse Stores May Blow Your Mind And Save Your Cash!
Buy Multi-Use Items.
Multi-use items could be so many things. It’s buying a whole chicken and stretching it for more than one meal—a coat with a zip-out liner for more than one season.
My Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, and a yogurt maker. Check out this article about the best instant pot knockoffs: 4 Best Selling Instant Pot Knock-Offs.
Cook From Scratch.
Make your cookies, pizza, and even bread. It’s always cheaper to bake than buy those pre-portioned packages of cookies.
Turn Down Hot Water.
Just a few degrees lower on your water heater can make a difference.
You can’t fall victim to last-minute takeout when you know what’s for dinner. Check out this article about meal planning: What Is Reverse Meal Planning And Will It Save Money?
Delete Card Numbers Online.
Keeping account information may make it easier to spend money. Some sites will allow you to save your payment card on their websites for faster checkout. If your card is not saved and you need to pull it out of your purse or wallet, think twice about purchasing.
Keep Food Stockpile.
Having extra food is a good idea. You never know when you might run into an emergency, get sick, or can’t leave your home to buy more food. Check out this stockpile article: 37 Frugal Pantry Staples On A Small Budget.
Unsubscribe From Shopping Emails.
I’m a sucker for a good Land’s End sale. So, I need to unsubscribe from their emails every time, which helps me manage my spending habits. One of the easiest ways to avoid spending money is not to know there’s a sale!
Coupons can save you money on personal care items and food. Check out this article about couponing for beginners.
Have your savings automatically go into your savings account for unexpected expenses. Either add your savings directly to that emergency fund from your check as soon as possible.
If you don’t see it, you won’t miss it. Look for one with a high interest rate.
Buy Cheap Foods.
Using less expensive foods combined with the most nutritious can give you a balanced diet. Check out this article on cheap groceries: 37 Cheap Groceries to Buy When You’re Broke.
Barter for Services.
Homemade Lasagna and fresh bread in return for a new wifi router set up or hemming a dress in return for baked brownies. We do this often for friends of ours that have skills we do not. It works well.
Most people cannot tell the difference. It’s substantial savings, so give it a try.
Ask for Discounts.
Many times, places will give you a discount for using cash or if something is a bit damaged.
Shop Once a Month.
Grocery shopping, Target runs, and BJ’s have been getting done once a month. It is saving me gas and money. Here is an article on once-a-month grocery shopping: 19 Easy Tips for Your Once a Month Grocery Shopping Trip
Cut up Credit Cards.
The best way to get ahead of that credit card debt is to stop using them. If you are finding that hard to do, cut them up.
Many would agree that having credit will increase your credit score and decrease your interest rates. But if you are struggling with paying the balance on your credit card statements, this is the least of your worries right now.
Walk Instead of Drive.
Suppose you live in an area where this will work for you. Walking to the bus stop is also a great option if you have a city bus system..
Automate Bill Pay.
No more late fees if you just let the payments come out of your account when they are due.
Utilize the Library and Youtube.
If it were up to me, we would have no cable TV. You can find all the books you need and quality screen time for free. Who needs HGTV, anyway, right?
Final thoughts on the best budget hacks.
There are excellent budget hacks available without needing a lot of time or money. Organizing your finances, working towards long-term goals, and practicing sound money management first will set you up for success. Get control of your finances, and you can achieve your financial goals on any monthly budget.