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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).

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      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?

       

      More by this author

      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 April 19, 2021

      40 Healthy And Really Delicious Meals You Can Make Under $5

      40 Healthy And Really Delicious Meals You Can Make Under $5

      Ever had those moments where you really wanted to eat something delicious and healthy but didn’t have the financials means to do so? Whether you’re a student or parent, this compilation of 40 great, healthy, and inexpensive recipes will make every night special and help you get fit! No more meals where you have to force the food down! It’s time to make that budget your best friend and turn it into great recipes. Enjoy!

      1. Fish Tacos in Crunchy Shells ($3.56 per serving)

      Is there a better way to end the day than a Fish Taco dinner filled with protein and nutrients and is easy on the wallet? This recipe calls for a boys’ or girls’ night in front of a good movie or game.

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        2. Mini-Meatball Noodle Soup ($3.43 per serving)

        We’ve heard of the delicious spaghetti and meatballs recipes, but imagine having that same meatball goodness in a soup? It’s like Christmas in a bowl. Healthy, warm, and only $3.43 per serving.

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          3. Spaghetti and (Vegan) Meatballs ($2.13 per serving)

          Now it’s time to look at the traditional spaghetti and meatballs recipe, but with a little twist: vegan meatballs. This way, you can enjoy the Italian tradition without adding on the extra calories. I’m sold!

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            4. Kabocha Squash and Lentils ($3.12 per serving)

            Absolutely delicious way to end the day with a Kabocha Squash and lentils dinner. The beauty of this recipe is that you can actually make many other things from the mixture, from dips to full-on meals. All under $5 per serving.

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              5. Baked Coconut Lentils ($0.91 per serving)

              Coconuts are always a good idea, but it doesn’t have to be eaten only for dessert or breakfast. With this great recipe, you can now eat a lunch or dinner filled proteins and a coconut twist. Yum!

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                6. Easy Marinated Roasted Chicken ($3.40 per serving)

                We love chicken and at less than $5 per serving, we are in heaven with this recipe. Add some vegetables and rice on the side and you’ve got yourself a full meal!

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                  7. Organic Greens and Goat Cheese Gratin ($2.36 per serving)

                  This is absolutely divine. You get in your healthy greens and your fat macros with this great recipe. Takes only a few minutes to make and it’s easy on the wallet. Bon Appetite!

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                    8. Beef Pot Roast ($3.22 per serving)

                    One word: perfect. This meal will warm your insides and fill you up with the high protein content.

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                      9. Fajita-Style Quesadillas ($0.43 per serving)

                      If you want to eat Mexican tonight but want to stay in your budget, this Quesadilla recipe is your best friend. It’s tasty and filled with healthy ingredients for less than a dollar per serving.

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                        10. Fish Tostadas with Chili Lime Cream ($2.82 per serving)

                        Another great lunch idea for the busy days ahead. Prep this in the morning or the night before and you’ve got yourself a healthy and cheap lunch meal!

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                          11. Beef and Black Bean Chili ($1.36 per serving)

                          Might not look like much, but this amazing chili is actually extremely healthy for you. The protein from the beef and the carbs from the black beans will fill you up in no time, and keep you full for a long period of time. Delicious and warm, just right for the winter!

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                            12. Crispy Fish and Peppers ($2.18 per serving)

                            Amazing recipe for anyone looking to change up their meals while keeping their macros in check and not going overboard on spending. Satisfies your crunch tooth (see what I did there?) and gives you all the protein you need to stay full and lean.

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                              13. Vegetarian Gumbo ($1.50 per serving)

                              You have the perfect macro mix here with the carbs, fats, and proteins. At less than $5 per serving, you’ve got yourself a meal that will last for the whole week!

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                                14. Mexican White Bean Soup ($0.99 per serving)

                                With the cold weather creeping in, it’s not a surprise that soups are coming back in style. This great Mexican White Bean Soup dish will keep you warm for winter without making a hole in your pocket.

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                                  15. Black Beans with Mango & Cilantro ($0.38 per serving)

                                  Mangoes make every dish a little bit sweeter, which is why we absolutely love this recipe. A normal rice and bean dish might be a little meh, but add the sugary taste of mangoes and you’ve got yourself a party!

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                                  Black-Bean-Cilantro-Mango

                                    16. Bean Burritos ($0.71 per serving)

                                    If you’re having people over tonight and don’t want to spend too much time or money on food, this dish is a great option! You can even cut up the burritos into pieces and make finger foods while everyone’s watching the game or gossiping.

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                                      17. Five-Spice Beef Kabobs ($2.43 per serving)

                                      The spices in this recipes add a delicious twist to the beef kabobs, which is definitely worth trying!

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                                        18. Cornmeal Crusted Pork ($1.92 per serving)

                                        If you like the fried crunch but want to opt for a healthier alternative, cornmeal is your man. This healthy recipe will satisfy all your fried desires without making you pop open your pant’s button.

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                                          19. Chicken, Tomato & Cucumber Dinner Salad ($2.57 per serving)

                                          Easy to do, extremely healthy, and super delicious. A must-try!

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                                            20. Lentil Soup with Beef and Red Pepper ($1.90 per serving)

                                            I can’t believe how cheap this meal is, especially for all the nutrients it contains. You can make a big pot on Sunday night and divide it into small portions to last you a whole week.

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                                              21. Smoky Mushroom Stroganoff ($1.90 per serving)

                                              Craving pasta but not sure what to top it off with? How about smoky mushrooms with a twist?

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                                                22. White Bean Tuna Salad ($1.36 per serving)

                                                You can add this White Bean Tuna Salad in your sandwich or just eat it as-is for a quick lunch on a busy day.

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                                                  23. Sausage Eggwiches ($0.80 per serving)

                                                  Who says you have to eat fast food to get an eggwich? This delicious recipe will give you an amazingly healthy eggwich for less than a dollar per portion. Can you say Breakfast?

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                                                  Sausage-Eggwiches

                                                    24. Baja-Cali Black Bean Salad ($1.17 per serving)

                                                    Great snack to add to a movie-night with friends. You don’t have to use chemically-processed salsas anymore, you can now use this homemade salad for your chip dips.

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                                                      25. Gnocchi, Sweet Corn & Arugula in Cream Sauce ($2.24 per serving)

                                                      Italians always knew how to make carbs look good! This delicious Gnocchi recipe will give your lunch a whole new meaning. Easy to make and only $2.24 per serving.

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                                                        26. Vegetable Lasagna ($1.73 per serving)

                                                        If you were looking for a healthy lasagna, you’ve just found it. At under $5 per serving, you can fill yourself up right away without putting on the extra calories.

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                                                          27. Fajita-Ranch Chicken Wraps ($2.05 per serving)

                                                          Don’t know what to make for lunch this week? How about delicious chicken wraps with a healthy ranch? This recipe will make all your lunches, even the quick ones, healthy and colorful.

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                                                            28. Quinoa with Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($1.24 per serving)

                                                            A dish that has quinoa and brussel sprouts can’t be unhealthy, it just can’t, which is why this dish is one to keep in the books. Easy to make, healthy, and will keep you full for a long period of time.

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                                                              29. Butternut Squash Chili ($1.04 per serving)

                                                              You don’t need meat to make chili now that you have this recipe! It’s 100% healthy, filling, and smells absolutely delicious.

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                                                                30. Fast Shrimp Bisque ($2.03 per serving)

                                                                Seafood doesn’t have to be expensive if you know how to do it right, and this fast shrimp bisque is a great recipe to try if you’re in the mood for some seafood!

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                                                                  31. Chicken-Noodle Casserole ($0.98 per serving)

                                                                  Looks divine doesn’t it? This super easy to make dish will satisfy all your taste buds without burning a hole in your wallet or adding a few extra numbers on the scale.

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                                                                    32. Burrito Cups ($1.18 per serving)

                                                                    Entertaining someone tonight and don’t know what to make as appetizers? These burrito cups are a great alternative to chips or other greasy finger foods. All you need to enjoy it is a spoon and a cup.

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                                                                      33. Lemon-Dill Shrimp & Pasta ($2.45 per serving)

                                                                      Another impressive shrimp recipe under $5 per serving. The lemon-dill twist adds a great taste to the dish.

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                                                                        34. Potato Frittata ($0.87 per serving)

                                                                        If you want to eat potatoes for breakfast but still want it to be healthy, this is the recipe for you. At under a dollar per serving, this potato frittata will make you see potatoes in a whole new light.

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                                                                          35. Grilled Pork and Pineapple ($2.67 per serving)

                                                                          Meat and fruits? Oh, yes. The juiciness of the pork mixed with the liquid sugar in the pineapple will make you wish you knew about it sooner.

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                                                                            36. Greek Honey-Lemon Pork Chops ($2.15 per serving)

                                                                            Another splendid recipe mixing sweet and salty for a healthy meal. Easy to make and absolutely mouthwatering.

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                                                                              37. Jamaican Pork Stir-Fry ($2 per serving)

                                                                              You can add this healthy stir-fry to any dish as a side or amply enjoy it as-is for lunch or dinner. You can even make a wrap sandwich out of it if you’re in a rush to eat.

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                                                                                38. Herbed Salmon ($2.49 per serving)

                                                                                Salmon contains a healthy dose of fats that will boost your metabolism, lower inflammation, and make you happier. At under $5 per serving, need I say more?

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                                                                                  39. Five-Spice Pork Kabobs ($1.96 per serving)

                                                                                  Exquisite recipe under $5 per serving that will most definitely awe everyone at your dinner party.

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                                                                                    40. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Mango-Black Bean Salsa ($1.24 per serving)

                                                                                    You don’t have to eat sweet potatoes alone anymore with this flavorful recipe.

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                                                                                      Featured photo credit: Featured Photo Credit: 5 Dollar Dinners via 5dollardinners.com

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