Often times we hear the word budget and we are taken back. We hate the idea of living life on a budget because we feel confined, like we are being held back. But having a budget is a reality no matter what stage of life you are in. Just think, if you’re a college student, you need to have a budget so you can pay for classes and if you’re a homeowner you need to have a budget in order to make your mortgage payment or to fix things around the house. And if you’re a traveler you need a budget for all those vacations you enjoy. It’s hard to get away from budgeting… but having a budget doesn’t have to limit you. Instead it can help you save for the goals you have.
One of the best ways to keep your budget strong and to avoid spending money that you don’t have is to pay your bills on time. By doing so you avoid late fees and save money on interest too. So if you have a bill that you pay monthly like a credit card or your electricity bill, set up a reminder on your phone. This way you remember to pay the bill and don’t have the excuse of “Oh I forgot!”. I have a cell phone calendar reminder for my credit card and it helps me keep track and remember. Especially since I have e-statements which makes it super easy to forget a payment.
Take out or Dine in?
I enjoy going out to dinner. It’s nice that you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning but rather you can just enjoy a meal. But that gets expensive and quickly too. It’s easy to spend $50 on one night’s dinner. So it’s about finding that balance and compromise. While cooking dinner at home might be time consuming think about how much money you could be saving in the long run. Instead of paying $50 per meal your likely to pay $10-$20 per meal at home.
While cooking can be time consuming and cleaning can be a chore, why not divide the tasks up with your family or your significant other? In my house it is known that I hate to cook, but I do it because I love to eat. Therefore, when I cook someone else does dishes. However, when they cook I have no problem stepping up and doing the dishes. This way we all have our part in the meal prep.
We all have hobbies or things that we enjoy but when we think of a budget, we think it’s time to cut out the fun and focus on the serious. I believe in a healthy balance of serious and fun. It’s important to create a place in your budget for fun. Yes, I know it might sound crazy but if you are not having fun, you’re not truly living life. So, look for deals for family fun, date night fun and even fun that you can have by yourself. There are many great sites for deals and discounts and living in South Florida, we have some great free resources available to us.
We have tons of beaches and parks that are free for you to hang out at. So plan a date night at the park and have a picnic or plan a beach day with your friends and make it a pot luck. Some of the best memories I have with friends are beach days and they cost next to nothing.
Sometimes you might have to think outside the box but there are ways to have fun while keeping within a budget. Like checking out your local library for books instead of buying them or renting moves from Red Box instead of seeing them in the theater. Or carpooling with friends so you’re not the only one always driving.
Think outside the box when it comes to things you like to do and have fun with them. But always have a place in your budget so you don’t have to be the one stressing over finances.
Tuck it away!
If you are not good at budgeting yet you still want to save money or have goals and dreams you are trying to accomplish, then budget backwards. Instead of budgeting for life and using left overs for your trip, budget for your trip and use the “left overs” for life. So If I know my trip is going to cost $5,000 and I have two years to pay it off, I know that I need to save roughly $200 a month for that trip. So each pay period I will tuck away $100. And then use the rest of my paycheck to pay my bills, rent and any other expenses I might have. The best trick I have found when I have a goal in mind is to deposit that money into a separate account. Because, if the money is out of sight, it’s out of mind.
No matter how you decided to save for the goals you have, be sure that you pay what needs to be paid, compromise where there’s room and tuck away money every paycheck so that you can enjoy the life you have!
For more tips on how to manage, build and sustain your credit, make sure to read TFCU's Using Credit Wisely Guide.