When it comes to managing our personal finances, we often tend to switch between two moods – either spending money like there’s no tomorrow or counting every penny. However, things shouldn’t necessarily be that way. Developing a realistic and flexible budget and sticking to it at all times will help you gain control over your financial situation in a more productive way.
Besides, spending money without accountability will not only make life harder for you right now but also cultivate financial illiteracy and hurt your financial health in the long run. For this reason, it is crucial to get a hold of your spending habits and debts already in your twenties in order to not hurt yourself financially in your forties. As such, you should take action and learn to manage your money effectively.
Here is how to stay budget-conscious without feeling the strain:
Pay Off Your Debts First
It’s impossible to start saving money or planning any investments while still having debts to pay off. For this reason, dealing with long overdue and any other debt payments should be your top priority on the road to financial stability. Depending on your individual situation, it might be enough to calculate the accumulated debt and determine a comfortable amount of money to pay off each month.
However, in case your minimum monthly payment exceeds your salary, you need to consider other options to pay off your debts effectively. For some people, it will be enough to cut down unnecessary expenses, while for others applying for a debt consolidation loan, an inheritance advance, or similar help will be a more viable solution.
Do Things Yourself
Learning how to do things yourself, especially in terms of home maintenance, cooking, and other similar tasks can drastically reduce your budget. Plus, in addition to saving money on hiring contractors or ordering takeaways, you also acquire new skills and get to live more healthily.
Besides, learning how to do simple chores and repairs doesn’t require too much effort from your side. With so many online tutorials and manuals, you can get a good grasp of how to fix literally any possible issue, from repairing your garage door torsion springs to roof inspection before a rainy season.
Buy Second Hand
A lot of us are tempted to buy new stuff to avoid any inconvenience associated with hand-me-downs. However, purchasing used things works just as well and often even better than opting for new ones. For instance, if you’d like to buy a car, you might want to consider buying a pre-owned model instead of paying for the total cost of a brand-new vehicle. The same approach applies to some household appliances or furniture.
And while you might be on the fence when it comes to buying used items, it’s essential to realize that this approach doesn’t mean that you have to settle for something old and broken. Instead, you can start your search in online communities or sites like eBay and Craigslist and look for mint condition items. And if you’re lucky enough, you might just find something never used before at an affordable price.
Automate Your Savings
To save money without feeling the strain, you need to take a proactive approach. And one of the best ways to do so is by automating your savings. This way, the whole process of putting some money aside will happen out of sight and mind, and you will not have to worry about transferring your money manually to a savings account every month. But first things first – you need to determine your saving goal, a certain sum of money that will motivate you to save.
One of the most convenient ways to automate your savings is using your bank’s mobile app. There, you can set up a direct deposit from your check to your savings account so that the money will be transferred automatically when you receive your paycheck and spent only when you authorize it. You can also set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account or even a separate bank account on the last day of each month.
You should start automating your savings as soon as possible and gradually increasing the money you save every month. Over time, you will see that even having just $50 extra a month can make a huge difference in your emergency fund and overall financial situation.
Keep Your Budget Flexible
Being too strict with your budget and sticking to it at all costs will only lead to financial stress, especially in the long run. Instead, you should make sure that your budget is flexible and allows you to spend a little more money on things you really enjoy.
For example, if you’re planning a vacation, you can opt for a less expensive destination and still have enough money to cover the cost of a comfortable trip. Or, if coffee to go is one thing that indeed makes your day better – don’t force yourself to give up on it, as saving money on your coffee never works out as we expect. Instead, evaluate your other spendings to identify actually unnecessary ones and make sure to get rid of them in the first place. Being able to enjoy life at the same time as saving money will help you feel less stressed about your finances, reducing the feeling that you’re constantly limiting yourself.
Managing your personal finances requires a lot of determination and self-discipline, but it shouldn’t feel like a burden on your shoulders. With a thoughtful approach to budgeting, you can get rid of your debts and start saving money while still enjoying little things. The main thing is to have a realistic look at your incomes and expenses and cut the unnecessary spendings that benefit you neither materially nor emotionally.
And perhaps one of the most important things you can do to stay budget-conscious is to keep it flexible. If you can save more today – do so and grow your emergency fund. But if the next month turns out to be more expensive than on average, having a flexible budget will help you avoid the strain. Happy budgeting!