Do you have days when you feel like your income is like water and now matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to plug up the leaks in your budget? Here are some ways to stop the leaks and make your budget more waterproof.
First, you have to know where the money is leaking from. Yes, this is sometimes painful, but definitely eye-opening. Take out your checkbook or whatever other sources you have for your recent bill paying and other expenditures. Now, print up this expense tracker. Then, sit down and start filling it out.
Next, as part of tracking those expenses, I’d like to ask you this question. Do you start the week with money in your pocket, but have no clue where you spend it? The next step in tracking expenses is to put that cash (yes, CASH-it hurts more to pay cash) into an envelope and keep track of EVERY purchase you make with that cash. (here’s a daily spending worksheet ) Morning coffee, afternoon paper, candy bar out of the vending machine, track it all either with receipts placed in the envelope or by writing on the envelope. How are you spending your miscellaneous funds? Make sure to add it to the expense tracking report.
Once you know where, when and how that your money is leaving the household, you can then sit down and start figuring out how to slow down the exodus. Write down a list of financial goals you have. Do you want to find the money to pay off your credit cards or maybe save for a house, maybe an emergency fund would be nice or a vacation fund? Look at what you’re buying or paying in bills. I can’t tell you to cut this or that. YOU have to decide what is most important to YOU. Personally, I wouldn’t give up my high-speed internet, but I have no problem working harder at chopping my grocery bill to keep that internet. You might feel that giving up high-speed is fine if you can SPEND more on groceries. These are things you have to decide on for yourself, your family and your situation.
I’ll briefly tell you a few things we noticed when we began a serious cutting of our expenses. I loved treating my hubby to microbrewery beers. Probably once a week, I’d buy him a six-pack of something new. When I did our expenses, I noticed I spent an average of $30.00 per month for these. Granted, that’s not a lot of money, but when my husband mentioned that he didn’t NEED that much beer in a month and I didn’t always buy him stuff he liked, I figured it was my first “found” $30 and quickly eliminated the purchases. The $30 soon rolled over onto the purchase of disposable diapers as our first child came along, but I had the $30 to work with.
Over the years, I’ve continued to sit down and re-evaluate our expenses. Two years ago, I came to the realization that our garbage pick up equated to me paying $5 per pick up when I could easily drive by the transfer station myself and save $20/month! I cut down our newspaper to Sunday only and saved $10 a month. I reworked out cell phone contract at contracts end to get us the more free minutes and eliminated long distance calls from our regular land-line. This created a net savings of about $25/month. So, this gave us $55 more per month to do things we enjoyed, like camping. Maybe you would use your found money for that savings account or that lingering credit card bill.
The bottom line is that nothing should be ruled out for slashing. Just don’t rule anything out and just tackle just one part of your expenses at a time. Each month, focus on one thing-cutting utilities one month, groceries the next, get new insurance quotes before your renewal is due. Remember to stay focused on what you’re spending and make sure you’re spending it on what you REALLY want.
Written by Tammy Paquin, owner and publisher of www.frugal-families.com. Available for reprint with active link back to Frugal-Families.com