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The Simple Way to Track and Save Money

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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 January 5, 2022

        33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

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        33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

        In a difficult economy, most of us are looking for ways to put more money in our pockets, but we don’t want to feel like misers. We don’t want to drastically alter our lifestyles either. We want it fast and we want it easy. Small savings can add up and big savings can feel like winning the lottery, just without all of the taxes.

        Some easy ways to save money:

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        1. Online rebate sites. Many online sites offer cash back rebates and online coupons as well. MrRebates and Ebates are two I like, but there are many others.
        2. Sign up for customer rewards. Many of your favorite stores offer customer rewards on products you already buy. Take advantage.
        3. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The extra cost up front is worth the energy savings later on.
        4. Turn off power strips and electronic devices when not in use.
        5. Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the heat or raise the AC when you’re not home.
        6. Make coffee at home. Those lattes and caramel macchiatos add up to quite a bit of dough over the year.
        7. Switch banks. Shop around for better interest rates, lower fees and better customer perks. Don’t forget to look for free online banking and ease of depositing and withdrawing money.
        8. Clip coupons: Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. As long as you’re going to buy the products anyway, why not save money?
        9. Pack your lunch. Bring your lunch to work with you a few days a week, rather than buy it.
        10. Eat at home. We’re busier than ever, but cooking meals at home is healthier and much cheaper than take-out or going out. Plus, with all of the freezer and pre-made options, it’s almost as fast as drive-thru.
        11. Have leftovers night. Save your leftovers from a few meals and have a “leftover dinner.” It’s a free meal!
        12. Buy store brands: Many generic or store brands are actually just as good as name brands and considerably cheaper.
        13. Ditch bottled water. Drink tap water if it’s good quality, buy a filter if it’s not. Get 
            a reusable water bottle and refill it.
          • Avoid vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
          • Take in a matinee. Afternoon movie showings are cheaper than evening times.
          • Re-examine your cable bill. Cancel extra cable or satellite channels you don’t watch. Watch the “on demand” movie purchases too.
          • Use online bill pay. Most banks offer free online bill paying. Save on stamps and checks, and avoid late fees by automating bill payment.
          • Buy frequently used items in bulk. You get a lower per item price and eliminate extra trips to the store later on.
          • Fully utilize the library. Borrowing books is much cheaper than buying them, but in addition to books, most local libraries now lend movies and games.
          • Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Cancel those you don’t read and consider reading some of the other publications online.
          • Get rid of your land-line. Do you really need a land-line anymore if everyone in the family has a cell phone? Alternatively, look into using VOIP or getting a cheaper plan.
          • Better fuel efficiency. Check the air pressure in your tires, keep up with proper auto maintenance, and slow down. Driving even 5MPH slower will result in better fuel mileage.
          • Increase your deductibles. Increasing the insurance deductibles on your homeowners and auto insurance policies lowers premiums significantly. Just make sure you choose a deductible that you can afford should an emergency happen.
          • Choose lunch over dinner. If you do want to dine out occasionally, go at lunchtime rather than dinnertime. Lunch prices are usually cheaper.
          • Buy used:  Whether it’s something small like a vintage dress or a video game or something big like a car or furniture, consider buying it used. You can often get “nearly new” for a fraction of the cost.
          • Stick to the list. Make a list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list unless it’s a once in a lifetime, killer deal.
          • Tame the impulse. Use a self-enforced waiting period whenever you’re tempted to make an unplanned purchase. Wait for a week and see if you still want the item.
          • Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask to have fees waived, ask for a discount, ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card.
          • Repair rather than replace. You can find directions on how to fix almost anything on the internet. Do your homework, and then bring out your inner handyman.
          • Trade with your neighbors. Borrow tools or equipment that you use infrequently and swap things like babysitting with your neighbors.
          • Swap online. Use sites like PaperBack Swap to trade books, music, and movies with others online. Also, look for local community sites like Freecycle where people give away items they no longer need.
          • Cut back on the meat. Try eating a one or two meatless meals every week or cut back on the meat portions. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal.
          • Comparison shop: Get in the habit of checking prices before you buy. See if you can get a better price at another store or look online.

          Remember that saving money is not about being cheap or stingy; it’s about putting money into your bank account rather than giving it to someone else. There are many ways to save money, some you’ve never thought of, and some that won’t appeal or apply to you. Just pick a few of the ideas that sound doable and watch the savings add up. Save big, save small, but save wherever you can.

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          Featured photo credit: Damir Spanic via unsplash.com

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