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How to Keep Your Personal Budget Under Control

How to Keep Your Personal Budget Under Control

Waking up one day and realizing that you don’t have that much money left to use this month is surely nothing nice. I’ve had it happen a couple of times and it wasn’t pretty. It’s not that I don’t have any common sense; the core of the problem sits somewhere else—bad money management.

personal budget

    So how was I able to fix it, and how you can do the same? There are some steps that need to be taken, but before I can tell you what I mean let me explain what this post isn’t about: it’s not about how to make more money, it’s not about saying no to the nice things in life, and it’s not about starving. It is, however, about being aware of where most of your money goes, and about being conscious of your spending habits.

    Monitoring is the first step

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying that what gets measured gets improved. This is a rule that’s valid for your personal budget as well. If you want to keep things under control, you need to start by paying close attention to what you’re spending money on. Now, this isn’t the moment where you should restrain yourself from buying something you’d normally buy. It’s just about writing down your expenses and keeping them for later analysis. Keeping note of very expense sounds like a lot of work, but the 21st century comes to rescue.

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    If you have an iPhone or an iPad (or an Android device) then you can use one of many personal financing apps that are available out there (image below).

    iPad-apps

      There are both free and paid solutions, such as:

      I didn’t have the chance to test them all out, so choosing the exact app you’re going to use is up to you. You can start by going to the App Store and searching for either “budget” or “personal finance”, but make sure that your app allows you to:

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      • categorize your expenses
      • add expenses on specific dates
      • add your salary and any income you have
      • input all costs using your local currency
      • change the currency (optional, if you’re spending money in more than one currency)

      One month head start

      Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do everything overnight: you need to spend some time getting data and building your spending profile, so to speak. Usually one month is enough to gather a sufficient amount of data, but if your spending habits are a bit more unpredictable then you might need more time. During this initial month, make sure to set a habit of noting down every expense you make by putting it into your chosen app. Remember to use the right categories, as this will be the only way you’re going to able to analyze this data later on.

      Let me say this again: categorization is key to success here.

      For instance, you can divide your expenses into these categories: rent, food, going out, coffee, alcohol, bills, gas, entertainment, education, etc. This is also a good opportunity to input your salary and any other profits you’re making (e.g.: freelancing, securities, bonds, stocks).

      Review

      When the month is over, it’s time to review your expenses and take notice of all possible areas for improvement. As I said before, the key here is to look at categories of your expenses: some of these categories are completely mandatory, like rent, or your electricity bill, so you can’t do anything about them. Others are not mandatory, but they are part of your “joy of life,” so to speak, so you wouldn’t necessarily want to get rid of them. The rest, however, may prod you into making some conscious decisions and taking a different direction with your money.

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      Start by looking at each category and deciding if you’re comfortable with the amount of money it costs you. If you’re not, then try to find cheaper alternatives or erase some expenses completely. For instance, one of the most interesting revelations for me was that I was spending an incredible amount of money on coffee. The first step I took was the decision to drink more coffee at home as opposed to going out—this one step cut my coffee expenses in half.

      This is just an example, but I’m sure you can see the potential that lies in this method. The more you categorize your expenses, the more areas of improvement you’ll be able to find. Again, this isn’t about lowering the quality of your life—it’s only about erasing stupid expenses and finding new and improved ways to experience as much joy in life and spending less money at the same time. Of course, if the amount of money you spend is more than the amount you earn, then you’re in a lot of trouble. Once you input your salary, every personal finance app will let you know about such a situation.

      When you have all your categories sorted, you can move to the next phase.

      Planning

      The final step is to plan your spending for the next month. Now, this isn’t about writing down what you can and cannot buy, but more about placing some simple guidelines in the back of your head. Things like: drink coffee at home, don’t buy more than three beers at a time, don’t use credit cards to buy cheap items, buy less clothing, and so on.

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      If you manage to pay attention to such guidelines for the duration of the next month, you’ll surely be able to lower some of your expenses with no loss in your quality of life. Actually, being aware of our personal budgets is not that difficult once we realize one thing: the devil is in the details, and when it comes to personal finance, details = small expenses.

      Subconsciously, we all know this. If we’re planning to buy something big—and I mean massively big like some Fort Worth real estate or a new car—then it doesn’t actually affect our monthly budgets. I mean, we always have everything carefully planned out, and know how much we can afford to spend exactly, and how much the investment is going to cost us over the years. However, buying something small here and there doesn’t seem like it can hurt us, but when we add everything at the end of the month, we can see that all those small things have turned into one surprisingly big bill.

      Personal finance apps help us to notice this and then take the right action… as long as we remember to put every expense into the app. I strongly encourage you to give it a shot and check how much money you can save. For me, the change has been significant, to say the least.

      What’s your take on this? Have you faced any surprising problems when dealing with your daily expenses?

       

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      Karol Krol

      Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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      Last Updated on June 20, 2019

      50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

      50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time

      Most people want a few more dollars in their wallets. But between an employer and family, the time most of us can devote to a second job is severely limited. Running a small side business can provide a few more options: you don’t have to show up at a set time and you can use skills you already have. Not all will be perfect for everyone, of course, and I’m sure that you’ll have a few ideas of your own after reading this list. If you’d like to share any other business ideas, please add them in the comments.

      1. Selling collectibles — From antique books to teddy bears, there are plenty of opportunities to buy and sell collectibles. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the collectible of your choice but if you choose something that you’ve been collecting for a while, you’ve got a head start.
      2. Locating apartments — It can take time to sort through apartment listings, but you can make some money by finding the perfect apartment for a renter.
      3. Baby proofing — New parents often prefer to bring in an expert to make sure their home is safe for a new baby.
      4. Calligraphic writing — If you’ve got elegant handwriting, you can pick up gigs writing or addressing wedding invitations, holiday cards and more.
      5. Selling coupons — Search on eBay for coupons right now and you’ll see thousands of listings for coupons. It’s just a matter of clipping and listing what you find in your Sunday newspaper.
      6. Pet training — A surprising number of people don’t know where to start in training a pet. Even teaching Rover simple commands like ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay’ can bring in a few dollars.
      7. Running errands — A wide variety of people want to outsource their errands, from those folks who aren’t able to leave their homes easily to those who have a busy schedule.
      8. Researching family trees — Amateur genealogists often call in experts, especially to handle research that has to be done in person in a far off place. If you’re willing to go to a local church and copy a few records, you can handle many family tree research requests.
      9. Supplying firewood — The prerequisite for selling firewood is having a source of wood; if you’ve got some land where you can cut down a few trees, you’ve got a head start.
      10. Hauling — As more people trade in their SUVs for compact cars, hauling is becoming more important: people have to rent a truck or hire a hauler for even small loads.
      11. Image consulting — Image consultants provide a wide variety of services, ranging from offering advice on appearance to teaching etiquette.
      12. Menu planning — For many people, the trip up in eating home-cooked or healthy meals is knowing what to prepare. Meal planners set a schedule to solve certain dietary problems.
      13. Microfarming — Cultivating food and flowers on small plots of land allows you to sell produce easily.
      14. Offering notary public services — Notary publics can witness and authenticate documents: a service needed for all sorts of official documents.
      15. Teaching music — If you’re skilled with a musical instrument, you can earn money by offering lessons.
      16. Mystery shopping — Mystery shoppers check the conditions and service at a store and report back to the store’s higher-ups.
      17. Offering research services — Just by reading up on a topic and compiling a report on it can earn you money.
      18. Personal shopping — Personal shoppers typically select gifts, apparel and other products for clients, helping them save time.
      19. Pet breeding — Purebred pets can be quite value, especially if you can verify their pedigree.
      20. Removing snow — During the winter months, shoveling walks can still be a reliable way to earn money. You might be asked to take care of the driveway too.
      21. Utility auditing — As people become environmentally-concious, they want to know just how efficient their homes are. With some simple testing, you can tell them.
      22. Offering web hosting services — Providing server space can be lucrative, particularly if you can provide tech support to your clients.
      23. Cutting lawns — An old standby, cutting lawns and other landscaping services can provide a second income in the summer.
      24. Auctioning items on eBay — Want to get rid of all your old stuff? Stick it up on eBay and auction it off.
      25. Babysitting — Child care of all kinds, from babysitting to nannying, can offer constant opportunities.
      26. Freelance writing — If you’ve got the skills to write clearly, you can sell your pen for everything from blogs to advertising copy.
      27. Selling blog and website themes — Do a little designing on the side? Customers that don’t want to pay full price for a website will often pay for a template or theme.
      28. Offering computer help — Particularly with people new to computers, you can earn money by providing in-home computer help.
      29. Designing websites — It may require a little skilled effort, but designing websites remains a reliable source of income.
      30. Selling stock photography — For shutterbugs, an easy way to put a photography collection to work is to post it to a stock photography site.
      31. Freelance designing — Check with local businesses: you can provide brochures, business cards and other design work and get paid a good fee.
      32. Tutoring — Math and languages reamin the easiest subjects to find tutoring gigs for, but there is demand for other fields as well.
      33. Housesitting / petsitting — Stopping in to check on a house or pet can earn you some money, and maybe even a place to stay.
      34. Building niche websites — If you can put together a site on a very specific topic, you can put targeted ads on it and make money quickly.
      35. Translating — The variety of translating work available is huge: written word, on the spot and more is easy to find even on a part-time basis.
      36. Creating custom crafts — No matter what kind of crafts you make, there’s likely a market for it. Etsy remains one of the easiest places to sell crafts.
      37. Setting up a wi-fi hotspot — With a little bit of equipment, you can set up a wi-fi hotspot and charge your neighbors for the access they’ve been ‘borrowing.’
      38. Selling an e-book — You can write an e-book about almost anything and put it up for sale online.
      39. Affiliate marketing — If you’re willing to market other companies’ products, you can earn a cut of the sales.
      40. Renting out your spare room — From looking for a long-term roommate to listing your guest room on couch surfing sites, that spare room can make you money.
      41. Offering handy man services — Handling small household tasks can provide you with plenty of work, although you’ll probably be expected to have your own tools.
      42. Teaching an online class — Share your expertise through a website, an online seminar or variety of other methods.
      43. Building furniture — For those with the skill to create handmade furniture, selling their creations is often just a matter of advertising.
      44. Providing personal chef services — Personal chefs prepare meals ahead of time for customers, leaving their customers with a full freezer and no mess.
      45. Event planning — From planning corporate events to bar mitzvahs, an event planning business can require plenty of work and offer plenty of pay.
      46. Installing home safety products — Particularly as Baby Boomers age, people able to install handrails and other home safety products are in demand.
      47. Altering / tailoring — If your sewing skills are up to par, altering garments is coming back as people try to stretch more wear out of their clothing.
      48. Offering in-home beauty services — Hair cuts, makeup and other beauty services that can be performed at home have a growing demand.
      49. Business coaching — Helping others to establish and develop their businesses can provide many opportunities to earn money.
      50. Writing resumes — Writing resumes can provide a reliable income, especially if you can put a polish on a client’s credentials.

      There are plenty of offers that claim to provide you with the opportunity to make thousands of dollars a week. Unfortunately, none of these businesses will provide that sort of income, but they aren’t scams either. They were chosen because they all require a minimum investment to get started — some require nothing more than a flyer advertising your business. Even better, if you do enjoy any of these businesses, there is a potential with most of them to continue to expand — perhaps even to the point of going full time.

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      Featured photo credit: Omar Prestwich via unsplash.com

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