5 Ways to Stay On Budget (Even When You Go Over)

Whether you are extremely cautious about how you spend your money or you only check your bank statement once in a blue moon, keeping on budget can be difficult when we least expect it. Maybe you grab dinner with a friend and it ends up costing more than you thought, or you need to make a last minute purchase that you can’t find at a discount. Whatever it may be, here are some ways to help keep you on budget no matter what hiccups come your way.

  1. Buy in “Bulk”. This tip may seem counter intuitive, but hear me out. Think carefully about the things you’re constantly re-purchasing, whether they’re razor blades, toilet paper, laundry detergent, rice, pasta, so on and so forth. If you know that you use certain things over and over without fail, consider buying in “bulk.” That doesn’t mean buying 1,000 units of toilet paper at a time, but instead of grabbing a pack of four rolls every week try buying a 16 or 24 pack online for less cost per roll. It may seem frustrating to spend more money than you’re used to at once, but in the long run you can be saving a lot more. Food can be a bit tricker – make sure you’re only buying non-perishable goods that you can store in a cool, dry space.
  2. Always Make a Shopping List. When you head to the grocery store or mall – or even a restaurant for that matter – without having thought through what you need, you’ll be more likely to throw unnecessary things in your cart that you want in that moment but regret later. Go through your refrigerator and pantry and sort out what you already have so that you don’t buy duplicates. When you go to the mall, park closest to the store you’re going to and make a beeline once you get inside. Don’t let your eyes wander or else your money might, too.
  3. Know What Your Necessities Cost. Sit down and plot out what you need to pay every month. This includes bills, groceries, transportation – the basics that you can’t go without. Add all those numbers up and subtract it from what you’re earning, and you’ll have a more realistic understanding of how much extra money you really have. Consider putting another 10-20% of that “extra” money away in a savings account. Without knowing your bottom line you’re sure to overspend.
  4. Set Aside Spending Money. It’s a great idea to build in spontaneity and fun into your life. Set aside a “fun” fund and keep that money separate from your necessities and savings. It might help to keep this extra spending money in cash form, so that you have a tangible idea of how much there really is to spend each week. Sometimes swiping a card allows us to dissociate from the fact that we are spending money, and we tend to over-do it.
  5. Create a Long Term Goal. Think about your financial goals. This doesn’t need to be super complicated. It can be as simple as “I want to save $100 in the next five months.” That means that you need to be putting aside $20 each month to hit that goal. Maybe there’s something you need to buy for work or school – figure out how much that will cost and set a goal to be able to afford it and in what amount of time. Long term goals can be as basic as you want them to be – the main point is that you’ll be learning how to save little by little and it won’t feel as overwhelming.

Good luck with staying on budget and let me know what your tips are!

Image: Flickr