Budgeting is not so much of a fun topic, but sometimes we have to do stuff even though we don’t want to..like waking up in the morning, going to work, leave the last piece of pizza for someone or budgeting. I am starting college in one month and clay is under a pile of debt. So while we plan on our budget, I would like to share some tips that we are using and plan on using. Hope you will find them useful and be part of our journey.
First figure out where most your money goes. If you are not so good at writing down your spending. Try using Mint. It’s such a wonderful creation. I have downloaded the app on my phone and check it almost everyday. It categorize where you spend most your money. And you can set budgets for different categories, and it tells you if you went over budget that month or not. You can link all your financial accounts (debit, credit, loans, mortgage, insurance). Me and Clay are new fan of the new online banking system called “simple”. It’s very simple to use. It does the exact same thing as mint and it’s very fast. It doesn’t bother you with unnecessary extra fee like over drafting, minimum balance, and what not. They have this awesome feature “goal” where you can set up a goal for a specific date and simple takes little amount money from your balance to that goal everyday to reach that goal. You can transfer that money to your balance any time you want. It also tell you with your budget and goal how much money is safe to spend. for example, you have 1000 on your bank. But your rent is coming up and you have a goal on planning a surprise birthday party for your friend next week, so basically you can spend 200$ after all those. Simple tells you how much is safe to spend. So you don’t have to do the math on your head all the time. It’s an awesome bank for budgeting.
Now let’s get down to real budgeting.
Clip all those coupons: Coupons are great! Let me tell you, I work for retail and I see how coupons can make a difference. I am not asking you to be an extreme couponer , but here and there 1$ off could save you so much! that 1$ could be your lunch from McDonalds on a light pocket day. Go to stores where they offer in store coupons. Register for reward cards for example, Walgreen and CVS. Grab all those flyers from your mailbox. Make a list of your grocery and see which store offer the lowest price on specific items you need, then head to Walmart and get all those items with the price matching service, where they give you the same item for the lower price. Yes, I know those decor pieces looks awesome and the sombrero hats are so fun, but if you have never worn them, chances are you are probably not gonna wear them soon. And now is not the best time to try it out when you are running low. So make a list before you go to grocery store, spend as less time as possible so you don’t get hooked to buy unnecessary products. And oh yeah! Don’t forget to use the student id for special discounts.
Return: Oh! so many time I have lied to myself.. “if it doesn’t look good, I will return it”. If you are like me, I don’t like to wait for a fitting room, I do not plan outfits before. So there’s way too many times I have worn an outfit the very next day and never touched it and many cases, never worn it. Please, do yourself a favor and return those items. Here and there those 10$-15$ will come handy and speaking of that, save all the reciept unless you are 100% sure there’s nothing you will need to return.
Food: Food is one of the biggest sector where all our money goes. Going out to eat with friends to this whole in the wall place will probably cost you 7/8$ that’s not bad. But when it becomes too often, you are in serious trouble. Budget 30$ (or however seems reasonable to you) for surprise eating. Now you can go on 5/6 surprise trips to taco bell with your friends or 2 trips to torchy’s tacos. It’s upto you. Now, cooking at home is the cheapest. But if you have never cooked in your life, and don’t have patience, please don’t go out and buy 100$ worth of grocery thinking you will change. Me and Clay are guilty of this. There are so many times I have almost cried a little when unopened food goes bad and expired and we have to throw them away, like those 12$ sausages.. buy basic stuff such as ground meat, pasta, rice, tortillas and veggies. Don’t try out one new recipe which required whole pantry full of ingredients. Now, if you know where are the places you go out and eat most buy 10$ gift cards for them. So even if you are broke you know you have money for food, and since you have already paid for it, it’s easy to tell your tummy to wait on some street tacos.
Rent: I am assuming it’s probably the biggest chunk of your paycheck. Have a roommate! If you are young and still hasn’t started a serious family, share an apartment with some friends. But it depends on individuals. You don’t want to live in a not so healthy situation. So find a roommate who understands you and respect you (And of course you do the same), preferably you two have some mutual interests. After getting paid the very first thing you should do is pay your rent or if you know you wont be getting paid before rent, put it away for rent. It’s always been my dream to pay 5/6 months of rent in once..but I have never bumped into a bag full of money. The second thing you should do is put money away for food.
Furniture: Buy something when you can actually afford it. Those payment plans where you have to pay a little bit every month sounds like a great idea, but you never know whats going to happen next. Even if you do make sure to get one item at a time, after paying off one thing, commit to another. Do not commit to many things at the same time. Unless you are living in a house where you know you are going to be staying for very long time. Don’t buy new furniture, specially if you are a student and you might be moving a lot, buy cheap ones from goodwill or thrift store if you absolutely need to. You can just throw them away when you are moving, might save you money for moving truck if you don’t have too much furniture. And oh yeah! pinterest is awesome..but most time those DIY things can get very expensive, and if you don’t feel 100% confident that you can pull it off, I suggest not to try them .. Maybe one or two with a best friend for fun project.
Entertainment: Cable TV! Why pay extra to watch unnecessary TVC and few more channel. Netflix and Hulu is way cheaper. If you are planning on something exciting like kayaking, tubing or even bungee jumping. Go on groupon to see if they have any deal. If not save up extra for those.
Savings: You never know what’s gonna happen. It’s better to have money saved. If you like you can open up a savings account, but, read the fine print carefully, there might be times when you can’t take the money out whenever you need. So use a checking account for putting away extra money or keep cash in a safe.
Credit Card:My biggest enemy. It’s recommended that you have one which helps you build a good credit. But make sure you spend very little from that and never go late on paying bills, which will make it worse. It’s so easy to get carried away when you know you CAN spend it. But for the love of your wallet, please don’t. Just don’t.
Shopping:I am guilty of this. It’s so easy to shop things online. You can read reviews and don’t have to deal with get out of pajamas and going to store, wait on a line BUT often times it’s better to do that.It’s easier to return things when you buy them in store. Now if you are going to do shopping in a store, take only however much you like to spend. Don’t you spend any extra on anything. Yes I know, it’s such a good deal. But if you didn’t plan on buying this initially, you probably don’t need it.If you have spent few years without this new product, you probably can live few more. Unless you have extra money laying around which you don’t care for, don’t buy it. The main idea of the advertisement to make you feel “It’s a life changer”. So don’t get hooked. If you are a student, do not buy new books go online or make friends with upper class man. Same thing goes on temporarily items. Unless you know you are going to use it everyday don’t buy brand new stuff.
Alright! I know you are overwhelmed, so here’s some shortcut summary.
1. Write down all your dates for bill payments (electric, rent, medical, tution, gym or anything extra) on a dry eraser board and you can cross them out or put a check mark next to it after you have paid it.
2. Pay the bigger amount fast, and make sure you don’t go over the due date for anything.
3. As soon as you get paid, organize your money and plan where you spending what.
4. Keep more money on your savings so you have a little bit of wiggly room for anything.
5. If you bump into extra money, instead of celebrating, pay that extra money towards a debt.
6. Try not to get hooked to expensive hobbies.
7. Make friends with people who are in similar financial situation, so you wont feel obliged to go on a surprise midnight snack trip and instead of going somewhere or paying to have fun invite them over, ask them to bring their gaming stuff or rent a redbox to watch together.
8. Do not commit to buy something without thinking it thoroughly. Give it a day or two and if you still think it’s worth it, go and buy you that.
9. Don’t go to the store to spend time. It’s a real thing. When I am bored I like to go to the store and browse sometimes I browse shopping sites online! No No.
10. Do not sign up for special deals on your email. It will just increase your temptation to buy something you don’t necessarily need right now. If you plan on buying something go online for coupons or special deal. Other than that, no sudden spending because, “it’s on sale!”
I hope these tips will help you plan better. These are the things I learned from personal experience. Of course we have different priority,I know I want to lose weight but probably not enough to buy me a gym membership. There’s so many different kind of life style and people are finding new things to make life healthier and fun, but you know what you like. I can try to like vegetables better. But I know for a fact I am not gonna eat them straight for a year, so make reasonable choices and talk to someone that you trust to help you create a budget.