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The Simple Way to Track and Save Money

The Simple Way to Track and Save Money

I like to keep track of what I’m spending, what money is coming in, and what my outgoing money is spent on. It helps me to save money for expected and unexpected expenses, as well as setting money aside for vacations and all those seasonal holidays that involve spending money on gifts (Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings etc.). Usually, I use a spreadsheet for this — Excel, in my case. However, I know of many people that have an aversion to spreadsheets, in particular, getting the formulas right and making calculations across several sheets… far too complicated and too much effort.

This is where You Need a Budget (YNAB) helps by providing you with software that assists you in managing your budget. Plus, unlike Mint, it supports more than just the US and Canada, and not only that, YNAB teaches you a 4-rule method to manage your money with the goal of saving enough so that you can live off the previous months savings without spending any of this month’s income.

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Here’s the 4-step rule:

  1. Give Every Dollar a Job.
  2. Save For a Rainy Day.
  3. Roll With the Punches.
  4. Live on Last Month’s Income.

1. Give Every Dollar a Job

The principal behind this rule is to assign your money to an expense, whether that is rent, groceries, etc. So after you add a checking account and put in a total, you need to assign your money to do a job. Any money not assigned can be rolled forward to future months.

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    2. Save For a Rainy Day

    This rule is all about planning ahead. For example, you have home insurance to pay for and it’s due in 6 months. Budget for it across 6 months, so that you don’t spend money impulsively. You can use this rule to save up for vacations and other high ticket items (a new couch or TV). The same method can be used to set aside money for unexpected bills, such as car or home repairs.

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    3. Roll With the Punches

    This rule is all about adjusting your budget when you overspend in one category. This happens sometimes; for example, you spend more on books than you intended, in which case, you can adjust your budget by moving some of the money budgeted towards clothes, or have it deducted from next month’s budget so you spend less on books in the following month. It’s straight forward to put what you are spending by adding a new transaction. This can be income or expenditure, and the main budget sheet will keep track of it for you.

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      4. Live on Last Month’s Income

      This is the main aim of this method. To save up a month’s worth of paychecks before the month has started.

      One of the useful features in YNAB are the charts that let you see where the bulk of your money goes. This can help you to re-budget and see which areas of your life takes up most of your income. You these reports to help you re-adjust your budget if necessary or to create targets. For example, if food expenses eat up a large percentage of your spending, you can try and adjust it to make it more proportional to the other parts of your life.

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        If you follow this method that YNAB coaches, then it can be a useful personal finance (or small business) budgeting tool. It’s free to try for the first 30 days, and if it’s for you, then it only costs $60 to get a license for the software. YNAB also provides a bunch of home study guides and online classes to help you learn and this method.

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        Hoi Wan

        Hoi is a mobilist who blogs about technology trends and productivity.

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        Last Updated on June 26, 2020

        25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

        25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

        “How to save money fast?” This is the question asked by all of us not in the top 1% of rich people.

        If you are looking for ways to drastically reduce your expenses immediately, first look at what you need to spend money on every week. And I mean really need.

        You don’t really need to order in food. You don’t really need to buy expensive perfume.

        Building from that, you can work out how your regular expenses can be reduced.

        As for irregular expenses, they can also be deceptively costly in the long run. Once-off buys can also be tackled with some prudent planning and a little extra research.

        And remember: a budgeted lifestyle does not mean a bad or boring one!

        But first, understand what budget you can cut down on daily:

        • Regular expenses for the average adult (can be trimmed but not eliminated):
          • food
          • rent/mortgage
          • cell phone
          • insurance
          • socializing/entertainment
          • transportation
          • hygiene products
          • household bills
        • Irregular expenses for the average adult (can be eliminated or cut down a lot):
          • travel
          • clothing
          • medication (*depends)
          • grooming (hair, nails etc.)
          • gifts

        Now, let’s dive right into the 25 ways to save money fast:

        Save Money on Food

        1. Bring a stock of food to the office/work

        Instead of popping out for an overpriced salad and a smoothie, leave a set of basic utensils at the office as well as a stock of non-perishable goods such as tinned fruit, tuna, rice crackers and so on (try to avoid the junk food and this can turn into a pretty great diet!).

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        Stocking up means you won’t forget or say “I didn’t have the time” when you rushed out to work in the morning.

        2. Buy the store-brand version

        Many basic foods, such as bread and milk, will taste exactly the same as their branded alternatives. Go for stuff with minimal additives and preservatives. Meat in a tube is probably insanely unhealthy!

        3. Eat cheaper cuts of meat

        Learn how to tenderize and flavour cheaper meat and fish, and save on the (typically) most expensive item on your grocery bill.

        4. Have group dinners

        If 10 friends put $5 each in the kitty, it’s pretty easy to make a giant lasagne and get refreshments, as well as hang out with your favourite people.

        Save Money in Transport

        5. Get a bicycle

        Save on gas money and bus/metro fares with this underrated mode of transport.

        6. Use public transport and/or don’t get taxis

        Some places can only be reached by car. But as a good practise, check your public transport website and see if any routes pass nearby where you need to get to. Walk as much as you can.

        7. Find the cheapest gas

        Regularly check out where the cheapest gas can be bought.

        Save Money in General Shopping

        8. Shop online

        Not only will you save on the gas or transport fares from going to the shopping mall but you will also find better deals

        9. Sell your old stuff

        Get your unwanted belongings up on eBay ASAP and earn a few dollars.

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        Here’re more ideas for you: 25 Things to Sell to Make a Lot of Money

        10. Bulk buying stores

        For regular non-perishable/slow perishable purchases such as toilet paper, cat food, pasta, washing powder and so on, do an epic stocking-up trip to a co-op or equivalent (my mum used to go to a place that restaurants buy from).

        Be wary of supermarket “deals”, as some have been found to be fraudulent after working out a simple calculation.

        11. Become a flea market/car boot sale/street market guru

        You can find original gifts and develop good negotiation skills at these places.

        12. Generic brand medication

        More often than not, the generic version of paracetamol and other basics work the same as the branded version.

        13. Choose deodorant, not perfume

        It blows my mind when someone drops $70 on a bottle of spray. Stick with a nice deodorant, and not only will you smell just fine but you’ll be sweat-free as well!

        Cut Down on Household Expenses

        14. Printing

        Ink is one of the most expensive substances in the office and coloured ink is doubly so. B

        e more efficient and choose black and white, and if your printer doesn’t have a print-both-sides options, just print odd pages first, re-insert the paper and print even pages.

        Expand the margins of what you are printing as often as you can to save on paper.

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        15. Minimize SMS and phone calls

        A combination of a free chat service such as WhatsApp and a free call service such as Skype can reduce your bill to nothing (so long as you have a decent Wifi connection).

        16. Shop around for insurance

        Most people don’t spend enough time searching for the best insurance deal.

        Keep a watchful eye out for deals and new competitors in the market.

        17. Try re-negotiating your rent/mortgage

        If you have built up a good credit history or a good rapport with your landlord, then chances are a frank chat about needing to tighten your spending could result in lowering your payments. You’ve nothing to lose from trying.

        18. Don’t get a TV

        Invest in a computer/laptop and an internet-only package. You can watch more (and often better) entertainment on the web, and skip the advertisements as well.

        19. Pool your internet bill with a neighbour

        My apartment building is basically a big old house split into three apartments. There are five of us in total. We pool the internet bill, making it crazy cheap.

        Save Money in Socializing, Entertainment And Travel

        20. Have house parties

        Instead of paying for overpriced drinks, set up a series of in-house get-togethers with your friends. Everyone takes a turn, so it’s not always your house that needs cleaning.

        For sound insulation, hang heavy drapes on the walls and windows. For music, invest in a good second-hand set of speakers which you can connect to your computer. Let Spotify or Grooveshark playlists do the rest.

        21. Open festivals, meetups and events

        It never fails to surprise me how much underground stuff goes on around me for free or for very cheap. Find out who runs the blogs and websites that list all the less well-known cultural activities.

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        22. Volunteer

        If you can’t pay for a ticket, volunteer and get to be there anyway.

        23. Housesit

        There are multiple housesitting websites offering you the possibility to avoid paying hotels and skip the discomfort of crummy hostels.

        Save Money on Hygiene and Beauty

        24. DIY beauty

        French manicures, pedicures, waxing, eyebrows… pretty much all of these can be achieved at home (and done well) with some practise. There are plenty excellent blogs and YouTube tutorials to help.

        25. Fewer haircuts/volunteer at a trainee hairdresser

        If you can’t bear the risk of a trainee touching your locks, learn more ways to manipulate your hair as it grows and get haircuts sparingly. Women’s haircuts are outrageously priced in many cities.

        Bonus: Effective Money-Saving Tips for Everything

        Here’s a summary of what you can generally do to save more money:

        • Share/pool resources. Organize a neighbourhood sharing scheme, common resources for your apartment block or with your friends. Not everybody needs an individual lawnmower.
        • Buy energy-saving everything. The easiest way to lower your bills – replace those lightbulbs!
        • Buy in bulk. Be sensible about it (i.e. make sure you have space!), and drastically reduce weekly expenditure.
        • DIY. Skill up using YouTube tutorials on plumbing and many other essential services so you never have to pay for simple problems again.
        • Research a lot before making a decision. Most money-wasting is the result of poor preparation and planning. Don’t shirk this part just because you don’t like it!
        • Use your network. Your network is full of resources that can ease the pain of budgeting. Ask for help.
        • Stop and think. Do I really need it?

        Unfortunately, there are some things that require plain ol’ giving up for the time being. This can include high-cost sports such as skiing, the latest versions of some technologies, the finest brands of food/drinks, premier seats at the opera and most other indulgences.

        What is important to remember during lean times is that when you look back on your life, it will be the experiences that stand out, not the extra comforts.

        Living on a budget can teach you a lot about how much you can really get out of your paycheck. We only live one life, so make the most of every penny you earn!

        More Tips for Personal Finance Management

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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