Let’s face it – budgeting can be hard! Making one, sticking to it… taking care of money can be a major pain. Use these 9 Clever Budget Hacks to help you save money and make budgeting a little easier.
1. Use cash for everything you can.
We didn’t get control of our budget until we started using cash for a lot of expenses. I had read Dave Ramsey’s books multiple times and didn’t implement it until a few years ago. My husband and I would see the money in the bank and think “hey, we have plenty of money!” and spend it. Well, that was fine until the end of the month came around and we didn’t have money for things like gas. So we would put it on the credit card. Which led to over $11,000 in credit card debt over time. Ouch! Now we use cash for the following items:
Tithing, groceries, dining out, clothing, gas and oil, repairs (car and house), pets (we have cats and chickens), pocket money (because everyone needs a little money to spend on whatever they want!), entertainment, hair cuts, baby items (like diapers!) and gifts. Then, when the money runs out we try not to spend any more in that category (which gets hard sometimes with the dining out money, but we’re working on it!). It has really helped with having to charge anything on our card.
2. Stockpile nonperishable foods and household items when they are on sale
Did you know that most items have a sales cycle? They do! If you know what to buy when, then you can save a lot of money by stocking up when the item is the cheapest. This works not only for food but also for fitness goods, healthcare items and more! I’m sure you know the best time of year to shop for clothes is at the end of season clearance sales, but there is a lot more to it than that.
3. Meal plan!
Planning what to eat will help with food waste and help you eat at home more (which is cheaper!). When we take the time to meal plan we really eat healthier as well as save money. I used to take the time to look up new meal plans each week, buy ingredients we didn’t have at home, and get frustrated with recipes that took way longer than I liked to make. Now, I have a rotating list of things that we all enjoy and that don’t take forever to make. I do try to add variety in, but my meal plan is now mostly trusted ideas plus one or two new items thrown in per week. My wallet has never been happier.
Need help meal planning? Check out these 5 great printables to help you out!
4. Use these tricks to minimize your dining budget.
Most Americans eat out several times a week, and my family is no exception. We are working hard to change that but some nights we find ourselves at a restaurant. We use lots of different tricks to save money when we go out. Here are a few:
Use coupons! If you frequent places that have coupons, take advantage of them. One of our favorites is Arby’s. They run the “2 Can Dine for $8.99” coupon all the time and you can buy up to 3 deals with one coupon, so we get 3 of them and pay just under $30 for our family of 6! You get 2 sandwiches, 2 fries, 2 drinks and a large mozzarella sticks per deal so everyone always has enough to eat with this deal. Not the healthiest, but good in a pinch! You can see more tips for eating out here.
We also tend to visit restaurants that have a kid’s night. Check out all the great Kids Eat Free promotions!
5. Cut out convenience items.
Sometimes I value my time over my money and I am willing to spend a little more for the sake of convenience. When I am really watching the budget, though, I can’t afford that luxury and we cut out the convenience items. It costs so much less to make things yourself, whether it be laundry soap or sugar scrubs, bread, muffins and waffles. Taking the time to make these yourself will help keep your budget on track.
6. Keep track of every penny spent for a week.
We haven’t done this one in a long time (like, before kids!!) but when we did it was a real eye-opener for us. At the time my husband was in the Army, it was just the two of us and we lived in a one bedroom apartment. We really didn’t know where our money was going, so we decided to keep a written log of every penny we spent for a week. Wow! All those little things here and there really added up!! We also found that we were spending an inordinate amount on dining out so we had to cut that down to a couple of times a week. This was the first step to getting our budget under control and I really recommend it. In fact, I think we need to do it again soon now that our budget has changed so much with four kids, house, pets, etc!
7. Sell everything you don’t need
This is something we have been doing lately that is SO liberating!! About 5 months ago we completed our family with the birth of our fourth son and we have been getting rid of baby/maternity things and it has sparked a decluttering frenzy in our house. I mean, most of the stuff we have in the garage and attic we never even take out of the box so we obviously don’t really need it! I’ve been listing stuff on eBay and selling larger things locally through Facebook and we have already made several hundred dollars without even having to have a yard sale!
I got interested in minimalizing our lifestyle by reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (a GREAT read and I highly recommend it) and the novel approach to organizing really made me want to change what we keep in our home. It’s a very easy, short read and it’s less than $10 – it has over 13,000 reviews on Amazon and has 4 1/2 stars so you know it has to be good! I’m still working on implementing it in all the areas of our house, but it has really helped us to think about our stuff differently.
8. Find alternatives to the expensive things in your budget.
If you have tracked your spending you have probably found areas that are costing you more than others. How much is your daily latte costing you? Make it at home! Love dining out? Recreate restaurant dishes at home or make it a game to see how cheaply you can eat. Like to buy new clothes? Start scouting yard sales and thrift stores for clothes that are just as good as new. Be creative and you can find ways to cut down on what is costing you the most.
9. Cut out or negotiate your bills.
One of the things we decided when we moved into our house 8 years ago was that we would not have a TV anymore and would ditch cable. We were paying over $150 a month for TV, internet and home phone. We never even used the phone and didn’t want to have our kids watching much TV so it has really been a great move for us. The kids use our iMac to watch shows on Netflix and we have a laptop in our room that we can watch after the kids go to bed. We were really surprised how much more time we had once we didn’t have the TV on all the time!
You can cut out some bills like that and you can also reduce others. How much data do you really need for your phones? We were paying for unlimited and found that we really only need 2G a month since both our jobs have wifi. That was a huge savings!! Remember simple things like turning off lights and get a programmable thermostat to save on electricity. Call your credit card company and ask for an interest reduction – sometimes they will! It never hurts to ask.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these 9 clever budget hacks to save money. Have another budget hack? Leave a comment below!