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32 Hacks for Sticking to Your Budget

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.

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    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 January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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