budgeting

  • How to Budget With an Irregular Income

     

    When I first started budgeting, I had a regular full-time job and knew exactly how much would be on each paycheck. I loved the sense of control that came with it. I knew exactly how much I made and how much I spent. 

    But within a few years, things looked very different. I had started freelancing, which brought in an inconsistent income. Then I met and married my current husband, who had an irregular income that relied heavily on tips.

    Not long after that, I quit my job to run my business full-time. Now my income is more irregular than ever, and there are no guarantees like there were in my government job. 

    Over the past few years, I’ve learned how much more challenging it can be to budget when you have an inconsistent income. 

    If you’re dealing with income that doesn’t look the same from one month to the next, I know these tips will help you too!

     

    How to Budget With an Irregular Income

     

    Determine your bare minimum budget

    The first step to budgeting with an irregular income is to figure out your bare minimum budget. In other words, how much money do you actually need to live on each month?

    This number should include necessary expenses such as rent, loan payments, insurance, utilities, groceries, etc. 

    Your bare minimum budget shouldn’t include discretionary spending such as excessive eating out, travel, or entertainment. 

    What good is knowing this number?

    First, it’ll give you an idea as to whether you actually make enough money. If your irregular income doesn’t allow you to pay all of your bills, it’s time to figure out how to make more money. 

    Your bare minimum budget also gives you an idea of how much you should have in savings. In other words, how much do you need to have set aside in case you stop earning income. 

    Finally, your bare minimum budget tells you when (and how much) you can spend on discretionary expenses. If you have $2,000 per month in expenses and make $3,000 per month, you know you can probably afford to spend some money on fun.

     

    Give yourself regular paychecks

    I like the idea of taking away some of the irregularity of an inconsistent income by giving yourself regular paychecks. 

    So how does that actually work?

    Let’s say you are a freelancer who makes anywhere between $3,000 and $6,000 per month after taxes, depending on the season. That money goes into your business checking account. Your monthly expenses are about $3,000. 

    Rather than transferring all of the money from your business checking to your personal checking each month, give yourself a monthly paycheck of $3,000. 

    By doing this, you are no longer budgeting on an irregular income. You know exactly how much will be hitting your bank account each month. You’re also able to start building a bit of a buffer in the months you make more than $3,000.

    If you have a variable income but don’t have a business account, open a checking or savings account to deposit your income into that is separate from the one you use to pay your bills. 

     

    Move excess money into a savings account

    So if you’re making between $3,000 and $6,000 per month and only paying yourself $3,000 per month, you’re going to have some money left over. 

    In the months where you make more than $3,000, set that money aside into a separate savings account. Then, if there’s ever a month where you don’t make $3,000, you can supplement your income to still give yourself that $3,000 paycheck.

    Another nice thing about this savings strategy is that once you have enough set aside that you feel comfortable you’ll be able to cover any low-income months, you can start using that money for other things! You can put it toward debt or use it to save for other financial goals.

     

    Live on last month’s income

    One of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone with an irregular income is to live on last month’s income. Actually, this is great advice for anyone regardless of if you have a regular income or not! 

    So how does this actually work?

    Most people living on the income they earn each month. So the paychecks they get in September are what they use to pay September’s bills. 

    But for someone who doesn’t know exactly how much they’ll earn this month, this type of budgeting is a bit of a gamble. 

    Instead, I like to always budget ahead. So the money that goes into my bank account in September doesn’t get transferred to my personal checking as my “paycheck” until the following month. 

    That way, before October hits, I know exactly how much money I have available. 

     

    When necessary, dip into your savings account to supplement your income

    One of the downsides of variable income is that some months your pay is a lot lower than others. In the time I’ve been freelancing, I’ve learned that my income can vary drastically. 

    In a perfect world, I would make at least enough each month to cover my bare minimum budget. But just in case that doesn’t happen, I want to be prepared. During those months where your income is lower than normal, you can dip into your savings account (the one you funded with your excess income) to help pay your bills. 

     

    Have a large emergency fund

    Separate from your buffer account, you should also have a hefty emergency fund. 3-6 months is a good size savings account, but I think closer to 9-12 months is ideal for someone who is self-employed.

    That buffer account is to help pay the bills during any months where you earn less than normal. But the emergency fund is to help with any crazy expenses (like home repairs that cost thousands of dollars). More importantly, your emergency fund is there to replace your income in the event that you lose your job. 

     

    Keep ideas on-hand to increase your income

    One thing I’ve learned since becoming self-employed is that I have to be prepared to increase my income at any time. 

    You never know when you might lose a freelance client or when a client might start sending you less work. And if that happens, I have to be prepared to immediately replace that income.

    The same goes for other types of workers with irregular income. In 2020, the foodservice industry is taking a huge hit. Even as restaurants re-open, fewer people are going out to eat. This means fewer tips for those employees. That’s a situation in which you might want to have some ideas in your back pocket for increasing your income when things head south quickly. 

     

    Use a budgeting app to stay organized

    Keeping track of your budget when you have an inconsistent income (or even when you don’t) can be a lot to manage. And especially when you’re just getting started, you might want to use a app to help you stay organized.

    I think You Need a Budget (YNAB) is the absolute best budgeting app, especially those who don’t bring in a consistent income. It’s specifically designed to help you get one month ahead on your budget so that you’re using last month’s income to pay your bills. 

    I actually use YNAB for both my business and my personal budget! First, I keep a separate business budget to track my business income and expenses. Taking my own advice, I budget a month or two ahead for my business expenses and set money aside for taxes.

    Then, I pay myself a monthly paycheck, which I use to budget ahead on my bills.

    Using YNAB has gotten me so into budgeting ahead that I actually try to budget ahead two months at a time rather than one. This single habit has made the cost of YNAB more than worth it! 

     

    Final Thoughts

    Budgeting is stressful enough for most of us. And when you add on the extra layer of an inconsistent income, it can quickly seem like too much to handle. 

    After years of learning the ropes of budgeting with irregular income, I’ve streamlined my process and hope you find it useful for your own budget! 

    CONTINUE READING

  • 9 Reasons Your Budget Isn’t Working

     

    Like many people, my first attempts at budgeting were a complete failure.

    I would get really motivated to get my finances on track and spend a ton of time putting together a budget. 

    But then one thing would go wrong, and I’d completely abandon the entire thing. It was an endless cycle that repeated itself every few months. 

    When I finally started getting serious about personal finance, I was able to look at my budget through a more holistic lens and figure out why it had failed in the past. 

    In this post, I’m sharing some of the mistakes I made in my own budgets, and some of the reasons your budget might not be working.  

     

    9 Reasons Your Budget Isn’t Working

     

    You aren’t being realistic with your expenses

    One of the most common reasons that budgets fail is because people just aren’t realistic when they’re making a plan for their money. 

    Here’s what happens most often. Suppose I start tracking my expenses and realize my husband and I have been spending $750 per month eating out. I panic, and start budgeting $50 per month to eating out. 

    Do you see the problem here? For a couple who spends a lot of money on eating out, cutting out almost all of it at once just isn’t realistic. 

    Another area I see people make an unrealistic budget is when it comes to groceries. People try to drastically cut their grocery spending, but budget too little. And then they end up not being able to stick to it. 

    Instead of planning your budget around what you wish you spent, start by planning it around what you actually spend. Then you can slowly start cutting back in the areas you want to.

     

    You aren’t budgeting for fun money

    If you aren’t leaving room for fun in your budget, you’re going to have a hard time sticking to it. 

    I know plenty of personal finance experts who push people to cut back in every area possible, especially when you’re paying off debt.

    But time and time again, I talk to clients and potential clients who have tried that kind of budgeting and burned out. 

    Leaving some room for fun money in your budget will help to make sure the process isn’t a miserable one for you and will make budgeting a lot more sustainable in the long run.

     

    You aren’t planning for occasional expenses

    Have you ever had a month where you’re totally rocking your budget, and then your annual Amazon Prime membership comes due, or its time to renew your vehicle registration? 

    Because it’s not a regular expense, you totally forgot to budget for it. Not it’s thrown off your budget for the entire month.

    It’s easy to remember to account for the things you spend money on every month, but far too easy to forget those irregular expenses. 

    So what’s the best way to deal with those expenses?

    Sinking funds. Rather than budgeting for your entire Amazon Prime subscription in a single month, divide the entire amount by 12, and set aside money for it every month. Then, by the time it’s time to pay, the money is budgeting. 

    Sinking funds are great for so much more than just annual subscriptions. Here are some expenses you might have sinking funds for:

    • Vehicle registration
    • Car repairs
    • Car insurance
    • Home repairs
    • Christmas
    • Medical bills
    • Pet expenses
    • Vacation
    • Association dues
    • Clothing
    • Car replacement
    • Weddings
    • Tuition
    • Annual subscriptions

     

    You aren’t tracking your spending

    Making a budget is a great first step. But if you don’t actually track your expenses to make sure you’re sticking to it, then it really doesn’t do a whole lot of good.

    This is the problem with a lot of budgeting apps out there. You spend a ton of time setting up your budget. You get excited about finally getting on track with your finances. 

    But then, if you’re not proactive about tracking your expenses, you have no idea if the budget is actually working. 

    This step is most people’s least favorite part of budgeting. But it’s also a critical step to make sure you are sticking to your budget.

     

    You spend more than you make

    Budgeting is a great way to take get control of your spending and be intentional about where your money is going. But things can go off the rails if your budget includes spending more money than you actually make. 

    This leads to an endless cycle. You get paid, but then end up spending all of the money and more. Because you don’t have enough money to cover your expenses, you end up putting some of them on a credit card.

    Now in the future, you’ve got to budget for your existing expenses, as well as your credit card bill.

    In reality, there are only two ways to fix this problem: decrease your spending or increase your income.

    There are a number of ways you can reduce your spending when you’re on a tight budget. You also might consider picking up a side hustle to help you make some extra money to cover your extra spending.

     

    You’re struggling with impulse or emotional spending

    Even the most well-planned and well-intentioned budget will go off the rails if you can’t get your impulse spending in check.

    For some people, impulse spending is simply a result of a lack of dedication to their budget. For others, it’s far more than that. 

    If you’re struggling with emotional spending, a budget alone probably won’t help you to get back on track. Instead, it’s time to get to the root of why you’re spending. 

    During and shortly after my first marriage, I spent a lot of money. Seriously, I could not stop shopping. Every time I felt lonely, anxious, sad, or any other myriad of emotions, I would shop. 

    And while learning more about money helped me make progress in other areas of my finances, it wasn’t until I dealt with the feelings that were causing me to shop that I was able to stick to my budget.

     

    You and your partner aren’t on the same page

    If you share your finances with a partner, then your budget is dependent on both people being committed. And if you and your partner aren’t on the same page, then it’s easy for things to get off-course.

    When you share finances with a partner, communication is critical. You and your partner have to get on the same page if you’re going to have a successful budget. 

    If you’re the budgeter in the relationship, talk to your partner to make sure they feel included in the process. If one of you is overspending, work together to come up with some strategies to get back on track. 

    Finding the right budgeting app that the two of you can use together is a great step in getting on the same page and making sure you’re both included!

     

    You don’t have an emergency fund

    Failing to have an emergency fund is one of the quickest ways for your budget to get off track.

    In a perfect world, emergency expenses wouldn’t happen. Unfortunately, they’re something that we all have to deal with from time to time. 

    And if you don’t have an emergency fund, then you’re forced to find room in your budget to cover the expenses in the month they come up. 

    Because most of us don’t have wiggle room in our budget for an emergency, this can throw your budget off not just for one month, but for many.

    If you don’t currently have an emergency fund, make this your first financial priority for the next few months. At the very least, set aside enough money to cover a month of expenses. 

     

    You aren’t being flexible

    Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I see people make is expecting their budgets to look exactly the same every month and then giving up when they overspend in one category. 

    First, know that your budget doesn’t have to be the same every month. One of the biggest problems with many budgeting apps is that you create your budget, and then are expected to use it every month. 

    I don’t know about you, but every month is different for me. In a month where several friends have birthdays, I might spend more money on eating out. But in a month where I’m staying home most nights, my grocery budget might go up. 

    Just know that it’s okay for your budget to adapt to whatever is going on in your life at the time.

    The other problem people have is that when they go over budget in one category, they think their whole budget is shot. That’s not the case at all!

    Listen, we all have a finite amount of money to spend each month. But it’s okay if you don’t end up spending it exactly as you thought you would on the first of the month. 

    Did you go over budget on eating out? No problem. Just find a different spending category that you can cut back on a little bit. 

    As long as you spend within your means, your budget is working. The mark of a successful budget doesn’t have to be that you stuck to your original plan 100%.

     

    Final Thoughts

    Getting started with budgeting is one of the biggest hurdles you have to jump when it comes to getting your finances on track. Unfortunately, it’s also one that people most often give up on. 

    The good news is that if you can figure out why your budgets have failed in the past, you can avoid making those same mistakes again.

    CONTINUE READING

  • The Best Budget Apps to Help You Manage Your Money

    The Best Budget Apps to Help Your Manage Your Money

     

    Do you have a monthly budget?

    I was probably in my early to mid-twenties before I created my first monthly budget. It was definitely eye-opening – I honestly had no idea how much money I was spending every month!

    When I first started budgeting, I just used a simple spreadsheet. However, there are so many awesome budget apps out there that can make it so much easier for you to manage your money!

    Using a budgeting app has been such an amazing way for me to keep my spending in check and save for some big financial goals – like paying for a wedding, vacations, and someday a home. 

    In this post, I’m sharing 8 of the best budget apps on the market. Whether you’re looking for a basic free budgeting tool or a more robust budget system, there’s something in here for everyone!

     

    The Best Budget Apps to Help You Manage Your Money

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    Best Budget App for Hands-On Budgeters: You Need a Budget (YNAB)

    As someone who loves hands-on budgeting, You Need a Budget (YNAB) has quickly become my favorite budgeting app that I’ve tried! 

    With YNAB, you sync the app with your bank and credit accounts to track your income and spending. 

    You break up your spending categories. This includes financial goals, which is a feature I love. For example, we have spending goals set up for our wedding and for a trip to Spain we have planned for later this year. 

    The thing that really sets YNAB apart from other budgeting apps is that rather than creating a set-it-and-forget-it budget, this app works on the premise that you only budget the money you have now. 

    For example, each time we get a paycheck, we hop into YNAB and divvy up how we’re planning to spend that money. So we wouldn’t budget for all bills for the money, only those that are due before we get paid again. And rather than budgeting for our food spending for the entire month, we’re only budgeting for our food spending for the next two weeks. 

    It’s definitely a hands-on approach to budgeting. But that’s how I prefer to do my budgeting! Prior to using YNAB, I was using a spreadsheet where I typed in every transaction manually, so this is still less work for me!

    You Need a Budget is a paid subscription, but they do offer a generous free trial.

     

    Related Article: How to Create a Monthly Budget

     

    Best Free Budget App: Mint

    Mint is definitely one of the most – if not the most – well-known budgeting apps out there. Mint is owned by Intuit, which is the same company that owns QuickBooks and TurboTax. 

    Mint works by connecting to your bank and credit accounts, importing and categorizing transactions, and allowing you to set budgets for each spending category. 

    The app is super easy to use. You can add your own categories, recategorize expenses, split expenses into multiple categories, and split ATM transactions into the cash purchases made later on. 

    The budgeting features in Mint are really robust, and they send alerts when you’re approaching or over your budget. 

    I also love that Mint allows you to set financial goals and budget money monthly for those goals. 

    Mint also tracks your net worth by connecting to all of your investment and debt accounts and updates your credit score regularly. 

    And as robust of a budget tool as Mint is, it’s relatively hands-off for those who don’t want to be updating their budget on a daily basis. 

     

    Related Article: 16 Personal Finance Tips to Help You Master Your Money

     

    Best Budget App for Investors: Personal Capital

    Personal Capital is a personal finance app with a primary focus on investing. 

    Personal Capital does allow you to connect to your bank account and monitor spending, but it does not have the robust budgeting features and Mint and YNAB do. 

    Personal Capital is really for those looking for a tool for investment management. You get access to project portfolio values, as well as retirement forecasting to make sure you’re on track for retirement. 

    Personal Capital has many free features. Personal Capital also offers premium features for those look for true investment management. 

     

    Related Article: The 7 Best Personal Finance Books to Read in 2019

     

    Best Budget App for Couples: Honeydue

    If you want to budget with your significant other but don’t share a bank account, then Honeydue is the app for you. 

    Each of you connects the app to your bank account, and you can choose what you want your partner to be able to see (all transactions, account balance, etc.).
    Honeydue then has basic budgeting and spending tracking features where you can budget using the spending from all bank accounts. 

    My favorite feature of Honeydue, and the reason we signed up is that you can divvy up expenses and the app will keep track so you can square up bills. This app makes it so easy for us to split expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, etc. 

    The app has a “pay what you want” function. And yes, you can choose to pay $0.

     

    Related Article: 25 Creative Ways to Save Money

     

    Best Budget App for Dave Ramsey Fans: EveryDollar

    If you follow the teachings of Dave Ramsey, then you might enjoy the app EveryDollar, which he created. The premise of EveryDollar is that every dollar gets a job. 

    With this app, you add your monthly income and plan your expenses so that every dollar gets a job. Then throughout the month, you add your transactions and track your spending. 

    The big downside I see with this app is that you can’t connect to a bank account and automatically import transactions unless you join EveryDollar Plus. However, true Dave Ramsey fans might still be on board because signing up for EveryDollar Plus gets you a spot in Finance Peace University, Dave Ramsey’s nine-less class that teaches you to pay off debt, save, and build wealth.

     

    Best Budget App for the Envelope Budgeting: Mvelopes

    The “envelope system” for budgeting has become super popular. The app Mvelopes allows you to digitize that system so you aren’t actually carrying around envelopes of cash. 

    First, you connect Mvelopes to your bank account to track your income and expenses. 

    Then, you split your money into different categories, or “envelopes”. 

    The budgeting features are pretty basic for a paid app, but if you find the envelope system is what works best for you, then the $4 basic plan might be worth it for you. 

    Mvelopes also has two more premium options that include features such as their Learning Center, Debt Center, quarterly coaching, or a monthly call with a Personal Finance Coach. 

     

    Related Article: 8 Important Habits of Financially Successful Women

     

    Best Budget App for New Investors: Acorns

    Acorns isn’t technically a budget app, but I still wanted to include it since it helps users to save! 

    Acorns works by automatically rounding up transactions and investing the change. For example, let’s say you make a purchase for $1.50. Acorns would round the purchase up to $2 and send the extra 50 cents into an investment portfolio diversified with exchange-traded funds. 

    Acorns is a great way to get started with investing for those who want to dip their toes in, but really don’t feel ready to do any hands-on investing. 

    The app is free to join and charges a small fee on your investment earnings.

     

    Related Article: 35+ Legit Ways to Make Extra Money

     

    Best Budget App for Bloggers & Small Business Owners: QuickBooks

    In addition to using an app for my personal budget, I also use QuickBooks Self-Employed to manage my blog income. 

    If you are a blogger or small business owner, you know by now that you should be tracking your business finances separate from your personal income. QuickBooks allows you to do that super easily. 

    QuickBooks connects to my business bank and PayPal accounts so track all business income and expenses. It tracks my revenue and profit for the year and lets me know how much I need to pay in quarterly taxes. 

    One of my favorite parts of QuickBooks is that since it is owned by the same company as TurboTax when tax time comes around I can export all of my business financial information over to TurboTax with just one click of the mouse. It makes things SO easy. 

    QuickBooks is a paid subscription, but you can snag it for 50% off through this link.

     

    Related Article: Tax Tips for Bloggers & How I Manage My Blog Finances

     

    Final Thoughts

    I’ve talked many times before about the importance of maintaining a monthly budget. It has honestly helped turn my financial situation around!

    These budget apps for iPhone and Android are some of the best on the market. And there’s an app for every budget style, whether you prefer a set-it-and-forget-it system or a super hands-on system like I do!

    CONTINUE READING

  • 25 Creative Ways to Save Money

    25 Creative Ways to Save Money

    There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, see my full disclosure policy here.

     

    I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much always looking for ways to save a bit of money every month.

    Sometimes it feels like you’ve cut costs as much as you can, and you’re stuck on ways to save more money.

    In this post, I’m sharing 25 of the best ways to save money that you might not have already tried.

    These money-saving tips can go a long way to helping you build up your savings account or create a little extra wiggle room in your budget.

     

    25 Creative Ways to Save Money

     

    Start a Budget

     

    The most effective way I’ve found to actually start saving money is by creating a budget. I know it seems simple, but a lot of people aren’t doing it!

    There was a long time where I didn’t feel like I needed a budget. I didn’t think my spending was a problem, and I had money left at the end of every month.

    Then I sat down and started tracking where my money was going, and I was slightly horrified. Seriously, the amount of money I was dropping on take-out and trips to Target was eye-opening.

    Once I sat down and created a monthly budget for myself, I was quickly able to cut back my spending and start saving more money.

    Ready to start your own budget? Head over to this post on creating a monthly budget and some extra budgeting tips.

    Once you’ve got your budget up and running, here are some of my favorite budgeting apps you can use to stay on top of it every month.

     

    Automate Your Savings

     

    If you find that you don’t have money left at the end of the month to put into savings, then it’s time to reevaluate how you’re doing things.

    Instead of saving whatever you have left at the end of the, put money into your savings FIRST, and then only spend what’s left.

    The best way I’ve found to do this is by automating my savings. On the first of each month when I get paid, I have an automatic transfer set up from checking account to my savings account.

    I don’t have to think about it, but I’m still managing to put away money every single month. It’s not money I miss, because it gets transfers literally the same day I get my paycheck before I even have a chance to notice it’s gone.

     

    Download Money-Saving Apps

     

    These days there are plenty of apps that can help you save money or get cash-back on purchases you’re already making. Here are a few of my favorite money-saving apps (btw, they’re ALL free):

    • Ibotta: I use Ibotta pretty religiously to get cash back on groceries, and I get at least a little back every week! All you do is upload a picture of your grocery receipt and you’ll earn cash back on certain purchases. One of the reasons I love Ibotta so much is that they offer cash back on things like produce and generic brand products that you can’t normally find coupons for.
    • Ebates: Ebates is a service that gives you cash back on just about any online purchase. And they now allow you to get cash back on in-store purchases too!
    • Dosh: Dosh is an app that connects to your debit and credit cards and gives you cash back on purchases. One thing that sets Dosh apart from other cashback apps I’ve used is that you can get cash back at some local restaurants.
    • Acorns: Acorns connects to your bank account and will round up the spare change on your purchases and invest them. It’s 100% hands-off, and you aren’t investing a significant amount of money, so it’s a great way to start investing.

     

    Start Meal Planning

     

    Meal planning is essential when it comes to saving money on groceries. Meal planning can help you avoid wasting food, as well as cut down on impulse purchases. Meal planning can also help you avoid those nights where you aren’t sure what to make for dinner, so you resort to eating out.

    If you’re new to meal planning or struggle to stick with it, you need to check out $5 Meal Plan. $5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service that sends you a meal plan and grocery list every week for just $5 per month.

    And since meal planning saves a LOT of money, you’ll more than make up the cost!

    I’ve never been much of a cook and can’t come up with a decent recipe to save my life, so $5 Meal Plan is perfect for people like me!

     

    Check in on Subscriptions

     

    Have you ever checked your bank statement and realized you were still paying for a subscription you had completely forgotten about and weren’t using?

    *slowly raises hand*

    Yeah, I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

    These days there are so many random subscriptions out there for as little as $5 per month that it’s pretty easy to forget about them.

    It’s not hard to figure out what subscriptions you’re paying for. You can either take a few minutes and scan your bank statements or sign up for a service like Trim to automatically scan your accounts and find recurring subscriptions.

    This would also be a good time to check in on subscriptions you are aware of and decide if you really use them. If you’re paying for every TV streaming service, do you really watch them all? Be honest with yourself!

    Finally, figure out where else you can save. My boyfriend and I had been paying for separate Spotify accounts, and just finally got around to signing up for the family account, which gives a discount to Spotify users at the same address.

     

    Save Money on Books

     

    I LOVE to read, and I can power through a book pretty quickly.

    There was a time when I was picking up a new book just about every time I stepped foot in Target. However, that was getting pretty darn expensive.

    Turns out, it’s SUPER easy to get your reading fix for a lot less money.

    I invested in a Kindle a few years ago, and since then have rented free eBooks instead of buying books. You can do this through your local library or, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, through the Prime Lending Library.

    If physical books are more your style, you can also rent actual books through the library.

    I still buy books occasionally, but only if it’s a book I know I’m going to use more than once. And since I’ve cut my spending on books so much, I don’t feel bad about occasionally spending money on one I know I’ll get a lot of use out of.

     

    Compare Grocery Prices

     

    Even if you’re planning your meals and your grocery list ahead of time, you can still save even more money by comparing prices at different grocery stores.

    Stores like Aldi can save you a TON of money on non-name brand foods. I typically start every grocery shopping trip at Aldi and get everything I can there before heading to my other normal grocery store. They have pretty amazing prices on things like meat, organic produce, nonperishables like pasta, and frozen foods.

    I also get the weekly flyers from the grocery stores nearby so I know if any stores are having good sales on foods I regularly purchase.

     

    Ditch Your Gym Membership

     

    Working out is great for your health and all, but the cost of a gym membership can really add up!

    Luckily, there are great alternatives to paying for a gym. When the weather is nice, your options for exercise outdoors are pretty much endless! Running, walking, hiking, and biking outside are all some awesome alternatives to hitting the gym.

    But I live in Wisconsin, and it’s definitely not warm enough year-round to exercise outside. When it starts to get colder outside, I find options for working out indoors.

    There are about a million free workout plans online. There are also tons of workout videos on YouTube (yoga and Pilates are my favorites). Finally, there are free apps like SworkIt who will create a customized circuit training workout for you.

     

    Find Free Events

     

    My boyfriend and I love finding new events and activities to check out in town. Unfortunately, this could also get expensive.

    We’re lucky to live in a city where there are always a TON of free activities going on. Just a quick scan through local Facebook events will probably show you quite a few options.

    Even if you live in a smaller town that doesn’t have quite as many events going on, you can probably still find some free activities to check out.

     

    Start a Garden

     

    If you’re lucky enough to have a yard, you have a great opportunity to save money on groceries! By growing your own garden, you can save money on produce year-round.

    You can save money on seasonal veggies during the summer. And if you’re growing veggies that can be easily frozen, you can save money year-round!

     

    Analyze Your Credit Card Habits

     

    There are plenty of people out there who will tell you to never have a credit card. And while I agree with the sentiment of not spending money you don’t have, I don’t think credit cards are the problem.

    If you’re diligent about paying them off every month, credit cards can be a great opportunity for rewards, whether those be in the form of cashback or travel points.

    That being said, it’s important to know your spending habits. If you’re someone who carries over a credit card balance and is spending money on interest, then stop using your credit card. Because in that case, it is costing you money.

     

    Avoid Impulse Purchases

     

    You guys, I used to be SO bad about impulse purchases. I literally could not walk into a Target without impulsively buying a book, clothes, or some piece of home decor I really didn’t need.

    And what made it worse was that I was a stress shopper, so I would hit one of my favorite stores when I was upset and spend money.

    If you’re also an impulse shopper, create a rule for yourself where anytime you want to buy something, you have to wait 30 days. If you still really want it after 30 days and it’s in your budget, then you can buy it.

    That will help ensure you’re only buying things you really want and need and not just impulsively purchasing something you may never use.

     

    Unsubscribe From Marketing Emails

     

    One of the best ways to avoid impulse shopping is to unsubscribe from any marketing emails you get.

    I don’t know about you, but getting a daily email with the best sales at my favorite clothing stores really makes me want to buy clothes.

    Sales are great. But a better way to shop sales is to find an item you really want or need, and then wait for it to go on sale. You’re getting the same deal without getting that daily reminder of your favorite stores.

     

    Take Care of Your Health

     

    This may not seem like something that is going to make a big difference in the short term, but taking care of your health can have a huge financial impact in the long-run!

    Healthcare is freaking expensive, and staying as healthy as possible will help you cut down on healthcare costs.

    Consider the cost of even your run of the mill flu. First of all, if you’re an hourly employee, you’re losing out on that money when you call in sick. And even the cost of over-the-counter cold or flu medicine is steep.

    And really, that’s nothing compared to the long-term healthcare costs of an unhealthy lifestyle.

     

    Pack a Lunch

     

    I realize the idea of packing a lunch to save money is not exactly a revolutionary idea, but I had to list it anyways. It’s such a basic tip that SO many people ignore.

    The cost of eating out really adds up. And sure, I would love the ease of just grabbing lunch out every day. But I also have a limited eating-out budget every month.

    I would much rather devote that part of my budget to date nights with my boyfriend or grabbing brunch with my best friend versus spending it all on lunch.

    The easiest way I’ve found to consistently pack a lunch every day is just to make sure I make enough of every dinner that I can bring some for leftovers the next day.

    Sandwiches and salads are also an easy option. You can mix it up a little every day so you don’t get bored.

     

    Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

     

    I don’t know if it’s having a dog, or perhaps a boyfriend who is a very messy cook, but we go through a lot of cleaning supplies in our home. And personally, I can’t think of a less exciting thing to spend money on.

    On top of that, I get really freaked out by the number of chemicals in most cleaning products.

    The good news is, there are plenty of options that are way cheaper and way less harmful. It’s amazing what can be done with some water, vinegar, and a few drops of essential oils!

    I currently make my own all-purpose cleaner, disinfectant, and laminate floor cleaner. I’m hoping to branch out and start making even more of my own cleaning products.

     

    Trade Your Night Out for a Night In

     

    We love going out for dinner or drinks, but the cost definitely adds up.

    Lately, we’ve started inviting friends over for homemade dinner and game nights. It’s way cheaper, and everyone has a great time!

    You could do potluck style, and have each of your friends bring a dish to pass. You could also suggest that everyone bring a game or activity.

    It’s a great way to have fun with your friends while sticking to a budget. Plus it’s more personal than heading to a noisy bar where you may not get to talk to each other much anyway.

     

    Avoid ATM Fees

     

    ATM fees have gotten a little ridiculous, and I always kick myself later when I end up in a situation where I need cash and haven’t planned ahead.

    If you’re someone who carries a bit of cash on you all the time, then it’s probably easy to avoid ATM fees.

    But for people like me who don’t typically carry cash, just make sure you plan ahead and know when you’ll be somewhere you have to pay cash. That way you can take cash out ahead of time at an ATM where you won’t have to pay a fee.

     

    Make Your Own Coffee

     

    I love grabbing a latte from the local coffee shop as much as the next person, but those daily coffee runs can really add up!

    By making your coffee at home instead of grabbing a latte every day, you could easily save yourself over $1,000 per year.

    You can find a way to compromise your daily Starbucks habit without giving up good coffee, too. As a way to get myself to spend less money on coffee, I treated myself to a Nespresso. I get a daily latte for a fraction of the price of a latte from a coffee shop. Yes, there was an upfront cost with the Nespresso. But it’s already paid off.

     

    Sell Your Stuff

     

    There’s a quote I’ve seen a lot lately that says, “Look around. All that clutter used to be money.” I’m not sure who said it first, but it definitely speaks to me every time I see it.

    The good news is that even though you already spent the money on all that stuff, it’s not too late to make some of it back.

    Just last weekend I sold a small appliance from my kitchen and a bag full of clothes and made over $100!

    The Facebook Marketplace or apps like Letgo can be a great place to sell items to another individual. And local clothing resale shops will give you money for your gently used clothing.

     

    Drink More Water

     

    Most of us are probably spending money on beverages. That might be coffee, soda, juice, alcohol, etc. One of the easiest ways to save money every single day is to trade some of those beverages for water.

    And I’m not talking about bottled water. Get yourself a water filter to keep in your fridge, and you’ll always have cold, filtered water ready to drink anytime.

    Plus, most of us aren’t drinking nearly as much water as we should be, so this swap will be good for your health as well as your wallet.

     

    Keep an Emergency Fund

     

    For people who are struggling to save money, the idea of building an emergency fund can seem daunting. But it will also save you even more money in the long run.

    An emergency fund can help you pay for unexpected expenses that pop up, such as car repairs and medical bills.

    With an emergency fund, you’re stuck either putting these expenses on a credit card or just letting them go unpaid – both of which will cost you more in the long run.

     

    Quit Bad Habits

     

    There are some bad habits that can cost you a heck of a lot of money. If you’ve got one, you probably already know this is killing your budget!

    I’m not proud to admit it, but I was a smoker for almost a decade. Not only is smoking obviously incredibly harmful to your health, but it’s also really freaking expensive! I’m definitely saving hundreds of dollars per year by not buying cigarettes.

    Other expensive habits could include excessive drinking, wasting food, and carrying excessive debt.

     

    Refinance a Loan

     

    There was a time a couple of years ago where my monthly car payment was taking up more of my monthly budget than I was comfortable. I looked into refinancing and was able to get a lower monthly payment and a lower interest rate, saving me money in both the short-term and the long run.

    If you’re dealing debt in the form of car payments, student loans, credit debt, etc., it may be worth looking into refinancing for a better deal.

     

    Create Budget Accountability

     

    Creating a budget for yourself is one thing, but sticking to that budget is a different story altogether.

    In order to make sure you’re sticking to your budget, create some accountability for yourself. There are plenty of personal finance bloggers who started their blogs initially as a way to stay accountable to their budget and document their debt-payoff journey.

    My boyfriend and I recently hung a whiteboard in our living room where we track our monthly budget, as well as the progress we’ve made paying off our debt.

    It seems like a small step, but we see that whiteboard all the time, and definitely helps create some accountability and reminds us of our goals.

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    These 25 ideas are just a handful of simple tips to save money. There are definitely a LOT more ideas out there!

    But just by incorporating a few of these tips, you can start to really see a difference in your budget every single month.

    I know how overwhelming it can be to live on a tight budget. I also know what a breath of fresh air it was to incorporate some of these money-saving ideas and really start to feel more confident with my money!

    I hope you’ll try out a few of these ideas – and make sure to leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite ways to save money are!

     

     

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