We all have lofty goals when it comes to saving our money and staying on budget, but if you don’t take action and come up with a plan, your financial goals may never become a reality. But not to worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are some helpful tips to help you stay on budget in 2017.
1. Make Planned Purchases
When you want to buy something significant, don’t just walk into the store and buy the first item you see. Plan your purchase. Look up the item online, check out customer reviews, and find the lowest-priced item that still matches your desired level of quality. Buying the first item you see could cost you a lot, both in money and in product quality. So plan ahead, check prices online, and get a tried and true product, all while keeping a little extra money in your bank account.
2. Shop With a List
Make a list before you head to the store, and if it’s not on the list, don’t buy it. Many people think, ‘I’m gonna need this eventually, I better get it now to save a trip.’ That’s the wrong way to think. Don’t buy something until you need it. Oftentimes something you thought you needed will sit on the shelf, unused, for a year or more, or may never be used. Don’t fall for the store’s sneaky marketing tactics that try to get you to spend money on random things as you check out. Put blinders on, get the things on your list, and make a beeline for the check out as fast as you can.
3. Buy Some Items Used
Yes, we all know there are some things we’d never want to purchase used. But, there are many things we need that are just as good when purchased in a used condition. Things like ladders, patio furniture, home renovation materials, tools, bikes, the list could go on. Also, when you purchase a used item, you might be able to get a higher quality brand that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford if you had purchased it brand new. So before you spend top dollar for something, check your local Craigslist, Restore, or eBay to see how much you could be saving by purchasing the same item used.
4. Shop Sales/Coupons
To stay on budget, it’s critical to make the most out of every dollar. Keep an eye out for the ads in your mail to see which grocery stores are offering the best sales. Instead of shopping at only one store, shop at a few to take advantage of the sale products. Consider trying generic brands to save a little money. Keep in mind a little savings adds up over time, so even if the price difference seems insignificant now, it could add up to a lot by the end of the year.
5. Save Leftover Money
When you have money left over at the end of the month, it’s tempting to head to the store to spend it on something fun for yourself. But the fact of the matter is, life’s expenses don’t come evenly spaced. Sometimes you’ll have no random expenses, and other times you’ll get hit with a lot of costly expenses at once. To help your bank account absorb these unexpected costs more easily, save any extra money at the end of the money in a contingency fund. That way when an unanticipated expense pops up, you won't have to rely on credit cards or flex loans to pay for it.
6. Don’t Buy on Credit
Never buy on credit. Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use credit cards. If you’re disciplined enough to set the money you spend aside so you can pay the credit card bill when it comes, by all means, use your credit cards and take advantage of the free rewards. But don't spend money you don't have. If the idea of credit is too tempting for you personally, stick with cash or debit. If you consistently struggle with spending too much, consider cashing your check and dividing it up into different envelopes, one for each necessity, like food, rent, utilities, gas, etc. You can only spend what’s in the envelope, and when the money is gone, you’re forced to stop spending. Never spend money that hasn’t hit your bank account yet, even if you think it’s a sure thing, like a work bonus or a birthday gift. If for some reason that money falls through, you don’t want to be stuck with the bill for something you didn’t budget for.
7. Get Your Spouse Involved in the Budget
In many relationships, only one member of the relationship manages the finances. Handling your finances in this way forces that person to consistently be the ‘bad guy’ and advise the couple on what they can and can’t afford. Obviously, this type of financial arrangement can be the source of a lot of contention in relationships. To avoid this, sit down together and look at your budget numbers. If both of you know how much money is actually in your accounts, you’ll both be less likely to spend what you don’t have.
Knowing how to manage your money well is not a skill you’re born with, it’s something that must be learned. Find a financial guru you admire, like Dave Ramsay or Suze Orman, and follow their financial advice. Sound financial principles will never steer you wrong. The more you educate yourself on financial matters, the better off you’ll be in the long run.