Budgeting: Revisited

I’ve written posts on budgeting before.  What I’m learning, however, is that learning how to budget is a continual work in progress.  It’s only from trial and error that we come to learn what works best for our situation.  And depending on how our situations change, our budgets change.

And with our newly changing situation of welcoming a baby, dealing with the uprising cost of living in Southern California, as well as job changes, I’ve learned a few more ways of budgeting.

In any case, living on a budget can be difficult regardless of how tight your monthly income is.

We are careless with money; we are in more debt than ever because we don’t have to interact with our money.  We have plastic that is so easy to swipe in any situation that we easily justify purchase after purchase and rack up the debt or drain our savings/debit accounts, or we simply waste money because we’re not keeping track of where we are spending.  It takes an extreme amount of discipline to keep track of what we buy with a card.  So, go a little old school and take out cash.

After the bills are paid, figure out how much money you need per week for groceries, gas, and household, and take out cash for each category.  Designate envelopes and only take the envelopes with you when you’re running errands.  Plan your meals and grocery shopping around that budet.  Once the cash is gone, that’s it until next week.  It’s a lot harder to justify that mid-week ice cream run where there’s an empty envelope staring you in the face.  Depending on what your budget looks like for that week, allow yourself some personal money and/or going out money.

Save the change.  Each week, save your change left over from the week’s budget.  This may seem like it wouldn’t be worth the pay off, but I’ve racked up a good chunk of change without really thinking about it.  It’s an easy and nearly mindless way to save money.

Learn where to cut costs.  Learn how to trim your own hair.  If you’re married, learn how to cut your husband’s hair.  Learn what works for you.  In many budgeting articles, you’ll read that Starbucks should be the first to go.  Personally, I’d rather trim my own hair and put that 30 bucks toward coffee dates with my husband.

Rework your bills.  Call companies and see what your options are.  You might be surprised how much money you can shave off your monthly bills.

Be a part of a rewards program at a grocery store.  This one speaks for itself.  We’ve saved 20 cents a gallon on gas because of programs like these.  And when gas is well over four dollars?  That savings adds up.

Be reasonable.  The biggest thing I’ve learned with budgeting is that you have a realistic budget.  If you set too strict of a budget, you’ll get frustrated and stray from the budget which will be more costly in the long run.  If you set a realistic budget, it’ll be easier to manage and you’ll end up saving money in the long run.

As difficult as it at times, there is something truly beautiful about living on a tight budget.  It teaches you how to find true happiness in whatever situation you’re in, it teaches you how to better communicate with your spouse, it gives you a new respect for money.  When you get to a point where you have a disposable income, you’ll be more disciplined, you’ll be a better judge of what you need or don’t need, and you’ll always appreciate what you have.