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32 Hacks for Sticking to Your Budget

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32 Hacks for Sticking to Your Budget

In January, we asked you for your tips about living within your means and keeping to your budget, with the chance to win a db clay wallet. You gave us 144 responses in total – some of which had excellent advice.

Here’s our round-up of the best tips and tricks for budgeting:

1. Don’t spend more money than you have.

2. Stick to your grocery lists – compile them based on an itemized overview of your household needs and never stray too far from it.

3. In a similar vein, never go grocery shopping hungry!

4. Keep your receipts, or write your own – at the end of each day, list your expenditures. At the end of the month, group those expenditures to create a simple overview of where you’re spending too much or even too little.

5. Pack a brown bag lunch each day. Save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars each year.

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6. Develop a distaste for Starbucks.

7. Talk yourself out of purchases. Ask yourself, do I need this? Think of various ways you can avoid a purchase that seems necessary through innovative MacGyvering.

8. You don’t need the $100 shirt from the pricey store when there’s a $10 equivalent at the thrift store. You don’t need a room-sized plasma TV when your old CRT still works.

9. Remind yourself frequently of your financial goals, especially when you’re at the mall: paying off a big debt, retiring early, the Macbook Air. Remind yourself that by living frugally, you’re at least in some small way helping the environment.

10. Use cash. Take money out of your account and use real cash from a real wallet to pay for your daily expenses. When you run out of bills, you run out of money to spend.

11. Use credit. Run your finances on credit cards so that you don’t lose big money over the course of the year in spare change spent on coke and McDonalds. Always repay within 48 hours.

12. Never watch commercials. Get a PVR.

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13. Sleep on your purchases. Give yourself a night to consider and rationalize before buying a new toy, and if you rationally decide you need it, you can go back and get it. Mac users may need to take longer – much longer.

14. Review your budget and spreadsheets regularly. Keep your financial situation constantly fresh in your mind. This helps to curb your desire to spend, spend, spend, ensures you know how much you actually have to spend if you need to, and motivates you to pay off debt and save more.

15. Use spreadsheets instead of expensive apps like Quicken – use Google Docs for spreadsheets and you can even save on overpriced office software.

16. Use every last scrap of every last thing you purchase. Don’t waste anything. Don’t leave taps running, don’t throw out the quarter of a plate of dinner you didn’t eat.

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    17. Become a power Nazi. Switch off lights and appliances at every opportunity, and tweak your computer’s power settings to give you the optimum balance between power savings and practicality.

    18. Think about money philosophically – consider your spending behavior as a reflection of who you are. If you would not like to be defined by your purchases of cigarettes, hard liquor and pork rinds, reconsider and make better purchases that reflect the person you’d like to be.

    19. Respect money like you do your family heirloom; that which you respect, can’t be hastily thrown away. It’s not about how much you make, but how much you save.

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    20. Exercise in the great outdoors, or use your own body weight – forget expensive gym memberships and personal trainers.

    21. Diligently organize rebates and send them in on time, every time.

    22. Do extensive research before all purchases, especially impulse purchases. Find the best price online or off, even if it’s “almost new” from eBay.

    23. Do extensive research not only on price, but on durability and quality; buying everything from Crazy Clark’s is a bad decision as far as your long term savings go.

    24. Don’t fall for the vicious technology upgrade cycle. Your laptop is still fine until there’s something actually wrong with it; performance is all in the software you run. Do you need to be running Vista or Leopard or the latest version of Photoshop? For most people, probably not. Wishing for more drains what you have.

    25. If you come under your budget, save the excess. There is no legal obligation to spend it!

    26. Pay yourself first. Take 10% or so off the top of your income and save it before you even start paying bills.

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    27. Base your meals on cheap, but nutritious, food sources instead of fresh produce that goes off quickly all the time. They might be a better food source, but if you want to pinch pennies go to grains, lentils, legumes and beans.

    28. Preventing an impulse purchase with this motivation hack: simply think about how many hours it took you to earn that amount.

    29. When keeping track of credit card purchases, put them into your checkbook as soon as the transaction occurs. That way the checkbook will always have as much money as you actually have, letting you freely pay off your credit card when the time comes.

    30. Don’t keep credit cards in your wallet, or near any of your computers with an Internet connection.

    31. Water is cheap (for the time being) and can easily replace most other beverages, such as soda – just not coffee.

    32. Borrow books from your library, don’t purchase them. This puts an imperative on you to actually read your books (how often do the ones your purchase just sit on the bookshelf?) and saves huge amounts of money if you read a decent amount.

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

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    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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