How to live within your budget
Times are hard for just about everyone. In an effort to make ends meet, many families are forced to find ways to live on less.
In order to do so, careful planning by way of a reasonable and realistic budget has been the key to successfully surviving this economic downturn.
As noble an idea as establishing a budget may be, often it has been a struggle for many families to stick to one once it has been established.
If you are one of the many families or individuals that have found sticking with a budget somewhat challenging, here are a four ways to help you successfully do so.
Get everyone on board
In the initial stages of establishing and sticking to a budget, it is extremely vital to get everyone on board. Siting down and discussing the whys, how’s, who’s, what’s, and whens surrounding a family budget will reduce the chance of miscommunication, as well as increase the chance that every family member will stick with it. How so?
Getting everyone on board encourages a sense of individual ownership, making everyone fully aware of what is considered essential and nonessential. Therefore, this will reduce any internal and external pressure to purchase things that your family cannot afford or do not need.
If you are single, getting a «budget buddy» will help you stick with your personal budget. A «budget buddy» is a trustworthy family or friend that will help keep you on track. Have them sit down with you and familiarize themselves with the budget you created.
Allow them to honestly and openly evaluate if this budget is realistic and if there is room for tweaking. A written pact should be made between the two of you, signifying that you will stick faithfully with said budget.
In the event temptation arises, avail yourself to the moral support of your «budget buddy.»
Think before you buy
We have all heard the phrase «think before you leap», well the same concept can be applied to successfully living within your budget.
Before making any purchases (especially unplanned ones) get into the habit of asking yourself: ‘Is this an essential or nonessential item? If it is essential, so I have something similar at home, and if so, is it still usable or do I just want something new? How often will I use the item, and if I will be getting much use from it, will it be conducive to purchase a good used one instead of buying new?’
In addition, sticking to a shopping list will help curve and eliminate impulse shopping — another key to living within your budget.
Although determining before hand what you need is a major contribution to sticking within your budget, learning how to shop smart is also a major key to successfully keeping within your means.
Here are some great ideas to help you shop smart:
- Avail yourself to in-store discounts and specials such as «two for one» specials. Even then still be wary. According to www.health.msn.com, «bargains aren’t always a bargain. Any time you see numbers in a sign, you’re likely to buy at least 30 percent more than you may have purchased otherwise.»
- Clip coupons and mail in those rebates.
- When grocery shopping, plan your weekly menu around what is on sale.
- Avoid purchasing pre-packaged foods — these tend to be more expensive than if you purchased basic staple ingredients that allow you to cook from scratch.
- If you have the room to spare, stock up on items that are on sale or in season. However, when buying in bulk, take care not to overstock perishable items (items that will spoil quickly).
- When purchasing clothes and shoes, shop out of season, look for clearance items, or visit your local resale stores for quality used items.
- Buy quality used items instead of new.
- If it is cost effective, travel to areas where prices are known to be lower. Therefore, you can get more «bang for your buck.»
- According to www.health.msn.com, «Research has shown that 60 percent to 70 percent of what ends up in our carts is unplanned.» Therefore, cut back on how often you shop.
- Look for discounted services in your local area. For instance, many trade schools offer discounted or free childcare, dental, auto repair, and hair styling/cutting services.
Even when all is said and done, there are still things you can do to ensure you live within your budget.
With a little bit of resourcefulness, you can make those dollars stretch even further, and still find room for those nonessentials:
- Carpool instead of using two automobiles — this will save on car insurance and gas. In addition, plan your errands in such a way, that you will get the as much done in one trip — plan them close to each other instead of running all over town.
- Always follow manufacturer’s maintenance instructions to prolong the life of your household appliances — this will cut back on expensive repairs or the need to replace appliances so quickly.
- Grow your own fruit and vegetable garden — think of all the money you will save on groceries.
- Instead of renting movies, get a library card and rent movies for free.
- Borrow books and magazines from the library instead of buying them.
- Keep an eye out for free museum days and other free fun activities in your local town.
- If you have a computer with Internet access, watch your favorite programs online — this can eliminate your need for cable and a pricey cable bill.
- Bundle your cable, television, and Internet bill into one — if you must have all three.