The 5 Things I Tried to Get My Budget Under Control
I have a money problem. My issue is hanging on to it. It seems as soon as I get bucks in the bank, the money rushes right back out. It’s not just my daunting bills (which is the norm when living in a pricey place like San Francisco) or my penchant for fine cuisine; it’s that I don’t think about the money I have. I just spend it until it runs out. This isn’t how the adulting thing is supposed to go. I should, instead, be living within my means and doing crazy things like putting money in a savings account and funding my IRA. To get my financial situation under control, I decided to confront my money issues head by trying five different money-saving tactics.
1. Make a budget. I have to say, this was incredibly painful; it was like salting a wound, breaking your favorite coffee mug or a stubbing-your-toe-really-really-hard kind of painful. But to get my finances in check, I had to figure out my necessities versus frivolous expenditures. I opened up a spreadsheet and entered line by line all the non-negotiable important stuff (mortgage, health insurance, car insurance, utilities and the like). The list was long but necessary, especially when seeing what bills are truly crucial. Another perk of looking through all the bills was that I could see where I could cut costs (like my crazy high cable bill).
2. Get a budget app. The good news? There are a whole bunch of budget apps to choose from. The bad news? There are a whole bunch of budget apps to choose from. I explored a variety of apps from Mint to You Need a Budget to Quicken. Thing was, I couldn’t commit to one; each had its own pros and cons. One thing to note — you’ll need to be prepared to share your personal banking and credit card info with many of these apps, since that’s one of the ways you keep track of your spending activity. While I downloaded three different budget apps, I didn’t follow through with putting all my info in. They all tout that their apps are secure, but I decided to keep track on my own. That’s just a personal preference. If you are all about better living through apps, then this could be the solution for you.
3. Leave the credit cards at home. Credit cards make it so damn easy to spend money (and to spend money you don’t have). To help myself NOT throw money around like a Kardashian (and to especially not spend money I don’t have), I took my credit cards out of my wallet and hid them away so that I’d only use them for emergencies or travel. To make purchases, I used cash. Yes, the green paper stuff. I put enough money in my wallet that I’d need for grocery shopping, getting coffee or going out to lunch. But I wouldn’t bring enough to splurge on a new pair of Frye boots or a shopping spree at Anthropologie. Handing over real currency does indeed change how I spent my money.
4. Get shopping under control. Last week, I dropped by Michael’s to buy one thing — some gold foil (‘cause who doesn’t love to put some swanky gold on stuff). One thing, that’s all I needed. ONE THING. But after being seduced by sales shelves, new paper options and a variety of pens, glue sticks and Washi tape, I ended up with a cart full of stuff. What was supposed to be a quickie trip for just a few bucks ended up being $85 of things I didn’t *really* need. Of all the things that I did to try to wrangle my budget into shape, this was the hardest. I’m a spontaneous kind of gal, so it was a huge challenge not to buy that super cute wallet I spotted. I had to stop myself and assess each item’s worth in my life. Did I legitimately need it? If the answer was no, I walked away. If I couldn’t stop thinking about the item, I’d see if I could absolutely afford it in real money (not putting myself in debt for it).
5. Become a more prudent shopper.: I have a tendency to just buy. I don’t price compare. I don’t look for deals. I don’t clip coupons. But when I did, man, did I save money. All those little things add up, like purchasing my oatmeal in bulk, eating at home instead of eating out (I was SHOCKED by how much I spent on restaurants each month) and using my supermarket’s app, which offers personalized deals (I even got some stuff for free).
In the end, what I really got most out of this experiment was approaching my money in a mature way. It was like waking from a dream. Suddenly I was conscious of my spending and made changes that would not only affect my today, but also my tomorrow.
Have you tried any of these tips? If so, let us know @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)