Tax season is coming up so, with money on the mind, we decided to ask you to share your tips on an evergreen topic: budgeting!
In our sample size of over 50 respondents, we found that 80% reported “Yes” to the question, Do you budget?.
But, before we dive into tips for budgeting, we want to address the roadblocks that make it so hard.
While the list goes on and on, the reported obstacles to successful budgeting from our questionnaire fell into five general categories:
- Food (the cost of groceries or the cumulative cost of going out)
- Tracking Spending (creating the budget, staying within the budget, and saving in addition)
- Emotional control (impulse shopping, needs vs. wants, instant gratification, rational vs. emotional spending)
- Fixed Expenses (family, pets, bills, tuition, loans etc.)
- Unexpected expenses
Beat the Budget Pitfalls
No need to fret or study up on becoming a CPA (but if you already know, you might be ahead of the game!).
We asked readers just like you for their tried-and-true tips for sticking to the budget, and even saving some.
A common recommendation and easy to start: Create a spreadsheet that’s broken down by category and track your spending. You can track week by week (helpful for repeated, small and unnecessary expenses) or month by month. Then, pick out patterns and cut out what you know you don’t need. This will help give you a baseline for setting reasonable and attainable budgets.
If you’re more of a “set it and forget it” type, using apps like Mint or from your bank are other recommended resources.
Even the most enthusiastic foodies can benefit from meal planning and/or buying food in bulk. Planning your meals ahead of time prevents the I’ll-just-order-in-tonight moments and buying in bulk gives you more bang for your buck. Use those coupons when you can and you’ll have more leftover each month.
Speaking of having more leftover each month, why not pay yourself first? Set up automatic payments to savings and pay off bills first so you have a clearer sense of what’s “leftover.”
If you’re a visual learner, it may help to work with money physically. Put your cash into envelopes (one for bills, another for food, etc.), or if you prefer to pay by card, then pay off what you need electronically and then keep your money for spending only in cash. In both scenarios, you will see how much money you have leftover and be up-to-date on your inventory. No more surprise overdrafts.
Of course, we all love to spend emotionally here and there. If that’s your achilles tendon, one of our respondents recommended waiting a few days to see if you still really want that thing as badly. In the moment, it may help to ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Do I already have something like this?”.
At the end of the day, be kind to yourself but also hold yourself accountable.
Thank you to everyone who contributed!