by Mira Reverente
It’s never too late to start a budget. If you’re like me, you probably breezed through your teens, twenties and thirties without ever having one. Maybe your parents were not into it. Or your spouse or significant other didn’t think it was necessary.
Lately, I have found myself more and more conscious of what I spend and save. Case in point: I have had a minor home improvement project on my list for some time, but the quotes I have gotten so far from contractors are way out of my budget. So I’m putting it off, but I’ll keep looking. Since it’s not a matter of life and death, more like aesthetics, actually, I just don’t want to fork over that much money now.
I’ve been in a perpetual state of discernment as of late, deciding what’s priority (food, mortgage) and what’s not (home improvement, gadget upgrade). I love that I am able to simplify, save and stay on budget.
Not in any particular order except for the first and last, but here’s a list of hacks that have helped me (and my sanity):
- Make a weekly or monthly household or personal budget if you don’t have one. It could be on a spreadsheet or a notebook.
- Get your kids on the same budgeting page. Say you’re going back-to-school shopping, tell them what your budget is and stick to it.
- Pay yourself first. When you get paid, take 10 to 20 percent or an amount you’re comfortable with, and save it. Automate it, if possible.
- Use cash whenever possible. It’s too tempting to spend money you don’t have.
- Stick to your grocery list and don’t shop hungry.
- Buy fresh, instead of frozen food. Better yet, head to your local farmers’ market,
- Try big batch cooking.
- Brown bag your lunch or eat at home whenever possible.
- Make coffee at home.
- Declutter. It’s astounding what we find when we organize and simplify at home, and even more astounding when we find the exact item we were heading out to buy!
- Develop a “work uniform.” Think Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck and jeans, and Mark Zuckerberg’s grey shirts and hoodies.
- Borrow books from the library.
- Avoid retail therapy or recreational shopping. Instead, see next.
- Head outdoors for exercise.
- Look for free or low-cost forms of entertainment. Think summer concerts and movies in the park.
- Before making a large purchase, sleep on it first.
- Do your research if you must make a large purchase. Comparison shop and know when prices are typically slashed or when good deals are typically available.
- Avoid the constant temptation to upgrade. See if you can put it off for as long as possible. Don’t listen to folks who say you must upgrade your laptop every three years or your car every five. If it’s still working, prolong the item’s life.
- Enlist help. If you have a spouse, significant other or trusted friend, check in with them and re-assess your finances periodically.
- Finally, keep reminding yourself of your big “why,” your long-term financial goals–your kids’ college education, that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe or that dream house.
What’s your budget hack? Share in our comments section.
Mira Reverente is associate editor of CVH and a longtime journalist whose work has appeared in many local publications. Her first book on money came out last fall. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for more money savviness tips.