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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 July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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