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With the cost of living rising all the time, my money is definitely not stretching as far as I need it to. I have made a real effort to cut luxury items off of the grocery list, and I am now buying only things that are essential. I am also planning my daily commutes to ensure that I am not driving back and forth unnecessarily. The problem is that I don’t have a formal monthly budget – I just have a general idea of how much money I need each month to cover our expenses. The fact that my income is not the same every month, can also make having a set budget difficult.
If you are disciplined in your budgeting or if you have any tips to share about keeping on top of your expenses, I’d love to hear how you do it.
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My husband keeps our budget tidy, so I am not a pro in that aspect. But, I am the one that does the spending and I can offer a few tips on how to save a little here and there.
I do online ordering for groceries which really helps me stick to my list and not overspend. It's also really easy-to-use coupons and find different deals online through the grocer's website. Additionally, Ratuken offers cash back at my grocery store, so that is something worth looking into.
I shop at Costco to save on bulk purchases. It might not be the best place to buy everything, but I've found it's great for paper towels, toilet paper, frozen meat, frozen fruit and vegetables, and snacks.
Also, if you shop with a credit card, make sure you're using one with cash back benefits. You can earn around 5% back on some purchases which really adds up over time!
Good luck! The fact that you're willing to put in the time to figure out your budget is already saving you money. It's not easy out there, so every little bit of effort helps!
I am not an expert in this but over the years I have developed my own way of keeping a balance between my income and expense.
I enlist major heads of expense e.g. groceries, utility bills, transportation, school fee etc. and using zero based or activity based budgeting technique, specify budget for each head of expense. I always try to stick to my budget.
For keeping a buffer for unforeseen expenses, I make sure that I save a certain amount every month.
If there is a major expense planned in near future e.g. house repair, I try to cut on some other (manageable) expense to save money for it.
Another thing that works for me is limiting my visits to the shopping malls. I try to do monthly grocery shopping and have only one visit in the middle of the month for fresh produce. This strategy helps me a lot in avoiding impulsive buying. Similarly, I try to buy clothes online to avoid going to stores as much as possible.
When I first became a single mom, I I knew that I would have to stick to a strict budget. I found that the percentage-based budget became my friend, allowing me freedom to choose what was important to me, what was an absolute necessity, and what areas I could live less on.
Budgeting actually gives you permission to spend. It provides you with forehand knowledge of how to spend your money each month, in a way that reflects your financial values and purpose. Think of it as a game plan for how to reach your spending, saving, and wealth-building goals.
There are so many different ways you can budget, but the one I have found works the best, especially for single moms, is to pay yourself first. Having an emergency fund for unknown and unexpected expenses is going to be such a smart way to keep yourself away from relying on credit cards to get you out of a negative situation. When you pay yourself first, when you save your money, you are investing in your present, as well as your future.
So, what about those percentages?
As a general rule, here are the percentages I have followed over the years:
Saving and Giving: 10-20%
Housing costs: 25%
Personal spending: 5-10%
These will, of course, vary for your individual situation, and can be adjusted accordingly.
Another thing I tried for a time, until I became more disciplined in staying within a budget, is I lived with a "cash system," especially for recreation, dining out, personal and miscellaneous spending. This helped me to know that when I had spent all from my cash allotment, that was all I had until the next paycheck came in.
Finally, to start with your budgeting, I would recommend you write down what you spend -- account for every single cent -- for an entire month. This will give you a visual of how your money is currently being spent, so you can see where you can make adjustments.
There are plenty of budgeting apps out there you can check out, an many of them work very well, but also come with a monthly subscription fee. For me, I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my spending, and yes, I still balance my checkbook register every month!
Good luck, and wise spending!!
That can be so difficult when your monthly income is not consistent. I'm not an expert in this space and it sounds like you have a good take on what you are needing to budget. The only other suggestion I can make is to have a look at the book: Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape. I've found also with a moving income week to week that this book gives some great tips and insights like creating 'buckets' of percentages of money to keep aside for bills, extras and savings each pay, despite the changing income level. It might be worth a look!