A healthy financial life starts with a budget. With a spending plan, you can ensure that you always have enough money for the things that matter most to you. Instead of restricting you, these 21 budgeting tips can help you gain a clearer picture of the money you have to spend and help you discover extra income that you can invest more wisely.
Individuals who budget are better positioned to get out of debt faster, reach their savings goals over time, and practice smart spending. To implement good budgeting habits, you only need to make a few simple changes to your money routine.
Tips for a beginner’s budget
Keeping physically healthy means brushing our teeth, drinking plenty of water, and staying active. So why is it so difficult to exercise this same kind of daily care with our financial health? Every day, there are some things that are worth doing. Here are a few things you can do every day to stick to your budget.
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1. Plan your budget before the month begins
Plan ahead to stay on top of your budget. Plan your next month’s activities and expenses a week before the new month begins.
2. Contribute to your retirement now
- We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: it’s never too early to start saving for retirement. Take advantage of your employer’s matching program whenever possible.
- As it is free money, starting to retire early will ensure that you do not put extra strain on your budget down the road as you try to catch up.
3. Create a budget together.
Have a family budgeting night every month. Provide snacks and a good playlist to keep your focus. Dreaming about the future and setting goals together can help you get on the same page with money. Remember, if you are one, your bank accounts should be one too! It’s no longer your money or mine-it’s our money.
4. Utilize the Right Tools
Utilize a budgeting app like Mint, or keep track of your shopping and health costs with apps to ensure success from the beginning. When you use a budgeting tool, you can see exactly where every dollar goes, you can remember bills and goals, and you’ll know when you’ve overspent.
5. Identify wants vs. needs.
- “Needs” are anything crucial for your physical, mental, and financial well-being – for example, food, rent, and debt repayment. You can find these in Mint’s online budget calculator and should always include them in your budget.
- Also, be sure to budget for anything else you want. Use the 50/20/30 rule, which allocates approximately 30 percent of your income to non-essentials that improve your lifestyle.
6. Organize your bills and receipts
- Organize your bills and receipts in case you need to dispute a bill. This may also prove helpful for tax purposes.
- When filing by hand, sort your documents by month or by account – whichever makes more sense to you. If you receive your bills and receipts primarily via email, you may want to file everything electronically.
7. Keep in mind that each month is different.
- You’ll need to budget for back-to-school supplies or car maintenance in some months. You’ll be saving for vacations, birthdays, and holidays during the other months.
- Keep a careful eye on your calendar while creating your budget so that these special occasions won’t sneak up on you. (Hint: Christmas is in December again this year!)
- Make sure you adjust your budget each month as things change. Set up a savings account you can rely on in times of need. When you don’t have a plan, you’ll be stressed. And no one wants to be stressed!
8. Set up separate accounts
To stay organized, many people use multiple checking accounts. It is easier to budget for more flexible categories of your budget, such as food, when you have a separate checking account for fixed expenses like rent and car payments.
9. Make debt repayment a priority.
Saving money on interest and reducing financial stress can be achieved by prioritizing debt. The idea of creating a budget and saving for a vacation or car may appeal, but you might be better off putting these ideas on the back burner and focusing on paying off existing debt. It’s important to keep your debt low because it affects your credit utilization. Your credit score may be impacted if your credit utilization is over 30% of your limit.
10. Don’t forget to have fun.
When you make room for fun stuff, most budgets are successful. It’s much easier to stick to your budget when you have a little wiggle room to go to the movies, splurge on a facial, or go to a new bar. Think of it as a planned cheat day for your finances!
11. Keep track of your progress.
Keeping track of your progress is important. If you’re married, discuss your goals together. Otherwise, find someone to check in with. Let’s talk about how budgeting helps you reach your goals faster.
12. First, save, then spend
You should consider saving as a fixed expense and factor it into your budget accordingly. Most people spend first and save later. Therefore, saving is optional and does not ensure consistent savings contributions. Warren Buffett said, “Do not save what is left after spending; instead, spend what is left after saving.”
13. Practice zero-based budgeting
- Budgeting to zero involves tracking every dollar you earn in your budget and allocating it a place until you do not have any money left over.
- When you budget to zero, you can see where every dollar you earn is going. For example, if you make $4000 per month, you won’t have any money left after budgeting your fixed expenses, savings contributions, and investments.
14. Split Your Direct Deposit
- Establish a direct deposit with your employer so that a certain percentage of your income goes directly into your savings account.
- Since automation does it for you, savings don’t even need to be included in your budget. This means you won’t have to worry about keeping track of savings.
15. Be prepared for the unexpected.
Automobile repairs or trips to the ER are unavoidable. Sometimes, no amount of planning can prepare us for unexpected expenses. That’s why it’s important to budget for an emergency fund. You decide how much to save, but we recommend at least $1,000.
16. Make a plan for large purchases.
- The key to purchasing an expensive item, such as a new laptop or TV, is to plan ahead. Calculate the cost by dividing the price by the number of days you have until the purchase date.
- For example, in order to buy a $1,500 computer in 300 days, you need to save $5 each day. You avoid charging the item to a credit card, which could put you in serious debt and require you to pay interest charges until you can pay off the balance.
17. Create a contingency category
There are times when an expense won’t fit perfectly into your budget categories. That’s when having a contingency plan comes in handy. Here’s the catch: don’t use it as an excuse to overspend in any of your other categories. If you find you’re consistently going over budget when it comes to food, shopping, or any other area, consider changing your budget instead of funneling money into your contingency.
18. Adjust your monthly budget
The needs of the family change, so a budget shouldn’t be set in stone. It’s important to re-evaluate your budget every month to see if you’re sticking to it. You should even out your budget if you consistently overspend in one area and underspend in another.
19. Identify specific, realistic goals.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. For example, instead of saying, “This year, I want to save more,” try, “By December 31, I want to save $1,000 for an emergency fund.”.
20. Observe a day without spending.
Make sure your weekly spending stays within your budget range by designating one day a week where you do not spend anything but what is absolutely necessary. If you’re in serious need of spending cleanse, consider a whole no-spend month — yes, you read it right — spend your money only on the bare necessities for a whole month.
21. Be kind to yourself.
In order to get used to a new budgeting routine, it may take a few months. Your budget might not be perfect the first time around or even the second. Be kind to your budgeting lifestyle as you settle into your new routine. Establish new habits by making daily decisions based on your budgeting goals.
In order to maximize your financial health, you should create a budget, and you can do it in less than an hour. By sticking to your plan, you will be able to make the most of your income and feel confident that every dollar in your checking account is going to the right place.
This step of your money journey aims to save if you’re still in debt and haven’t created an emergency fund yet. Using the free budgeting tool I keep mentioning, you can do a budget in as little as 10 minutes. With EveryDollar, you can plan your monthly budget in no time. You’ll love your life and your bank account when you realize the purpose of budgeting isn’t to limit you but to give you freedom! That’s what we call “winning with money.”.