We are currently in our fifth month of continuous budgeting. The fact that we haven’t given up yet is enough to call it a success, if you ask me. Obviously I’m not an expert and I know there are tons up them out there you can turn to. But I think sometimes hearing it from a real person with no experience some times is better. Plus, I think getting started and sticking to it was probably the hardest part so far, for us non-financially educated people. With that being said I wanted to share my top five tips for budgeting with you.
Make a Written Plan
This seems so little but its really such a big deal. You have to write down everything. I would actually suggest spending your first month just writing down every penny you spend. Then you can start seeing what you need to plan for in the next month. I also suggest starting your plan a couple weeks before the month starts so you have time to remember expenses that may not happen every month (auto registration, prescriptions, etc). Write a projected plan and then record your actual spending right next to it so you can see where you are and how you did at the end of the month. Update is at least 2-3 times per week, depending on how often your spend. I created my own in Excel because I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted online–control freak.
Let me start by saying I don’t recall the Bible saying this is something we have to do. However, it does say that this is the one area God invites us to test Him with. He tells us that when we give with a happy heart the windows of heaven will be opened and blessings will be poured out on us. I can also say that I have experienced during our on and off attempts to give regularly. I also don’t think there is a set amount or party to give it to. I think this is something between you and God. He will tell you what to do when you ask. We have been blessed tremendously in our finances as well as other areas.
For a little over a month now, our meals have been more healthy, diverse and inexpensive due to meal planning. I order/purchase exactly what I need for the week along with any other home essentials and that’s it. I don’t have extra stuff that we don’t need, we have plenty of leftovers for lunches and nothing gets wasted. Not to mention it cuts down on the impulse buying. I even created my own little meal planners and calendars to make it fun to look at.
Now that I’m not working in a mall anymore this is much easier. If we don’t have the money to shop, we just don’t. We rarely even window shop (unless we’re walking around downtown). If we don’t have it planned to spend we just don’t put ourselves in the situation to make an accident. Its like putting a woman on a diet in a pastry shop. Just don’t do it. You’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Surround Yourself with Inspiration
This sounds silly but I have found it to be so helpful. The more your fill your mind with information, the more hyped up you will stay about controlling your finances. I listen to a radio show every day on the way to pick up Lil, Bill and I talk about it a lot and I follow a great financial blog. The more you keep it in the forefront of your mind, the more conscious you will be of your spending. My coworker and I talk about finances at least a couple times a day. Why should it be a taboo? We should encourage and inspire each other.
And don’t forget to celebrate the small achievements. When we successfully stuck to our spending plan for one month, we were so pumped!
Like I said, I’m far from being an financial expert. I’m just tired of seeing people hurt because of their finances. Its so easy to control, it just takes discipline. We’re all adults here, we can control ourselves. Right? Let get to it. The benefits are awesome. Our savings has boomed and so has our relationship because of our partnership. Not to mention the money stress that’s no longer there.
What are your best tips for budgeting?