Why is it about finding ways to stay on budget that ends up being so difficult some weeks? I responsibly pay my bills, juggle figures as I make my way down grocery aisles, look for deals before reaching for the clasp on my purse. Yet every once in a while, all that sensible thriftiness collapses and all my adult points seem to go out the window. I find myself popping into the drugstore to buy deodorant and instead leave with an Armageddon-amount of lipstick. We've all been there, right? There are Marie Antoinette-like tendencies peppered here and there that make those weeks of scrimping and saving moot. The kicker? We ignore the pattern time and time again and end up blowing the budget. Seriously, why does spending money have to be so fun?
Though it's hard to keep that budget hovering in the black, there are a few unexpected budget tips that will help you save money and resist the temptation to overspend. Follow them and you might just taste buyer's remorse a little less every month.
1. Do The Envelope Trick
Do you have something that busts your budget? Maybe it's takeout, or maybe it's Uber. Whatever that particular category is, get it under control with the envelope trick. Every month, set yourself a goal on how much you can spend on your vice (for example, coffee: $25). To keep yourself accountable with that ceiling, put $25 into an envelope and only use money from there to pay when you're at the coffee shop. If there isn't enough to cover a latte? Well, you aren't getting that latte.
According to Dave Ramsey, financial author and motivational speaker, "You must remember that the very purpose of the envelope system is to curb your spending and teach you discipline. When you run out of grocery money, you eat leftovers instead of going food shopping. If you see your gas money is slipping away faster than the remaining days of the month, then limit your trips or even carpool."
The trick here is to actually stay on budget, and to make changes when you see the amount dwindling. It might not always be convenient, but it's necessary.
2. Leave The Credit Card At Home
Here's the deal: You have cash in your bank. So instead of waving around your plastic aimlessly, limit yourself by bringing out an allotted amount of cash when you go out. Seeing the cash actually pass your hands and go into another's will make you very aware just how much you're dropping.
For example, I have a devil may care attitude when I go out and grab drinks with my friends on Friday nights. We like to sample new bars and nibble our way down cheese menus, which means when the bill arrives I usually have to take a moment in the ladies' room to splash cold water in my face. The bill always hurts. But it always falls reasonably low when I only have physical cash in my wallet — mainly because I would be too embarrassed to ask my friend to cover my portion for me.
3. Keep A Splurge Emergency Fund
You know yourself. While you would love to say that, starting this month, you'll be good when it comes to spending, there will always be a little slip up. Maybe you had a hard day at work and buying a box of macarons is what will smooth out the edges. Whatever it is, you have to allow the small joys and make-it-feel-better Band-Aids in life. So prepare ahead and keep a little emergency fund every month that will act as padding for your budget. According to Anum Yoon, work and money contributor at Refinery29, "It's easy to account for these occasional slipups by setting aside a portion of your income specifically for these types of expenses. If your monthly budget includes room for some indulgences, you won't feel so bad next time you impulsively buy a new pair of shoes that's on sale."
Set aside $20 to $50 that you're allowed to spend, but try not to. Give yourself the incentive by letting yourself roll over the balance each month, so the petty cash grows. That way you can do two things with it: Either A) gather a pretty sum to put into savings at the end of six months or B) drop that cash on something seriously wonderful, like a vacation or a dress that makes you see hearts. This way you're retraining your brain on what it means to have a budget. It's not about denying yourself little splurges and fun pleasures; it's about relocating it towards something else.
4. Shop With A Time Limit
If you know you're in a spend-y mood, shop with a time limit over your head. Go grocery shopping right before a date, so you focus on getting in and getting out with enough time to spare to shower, which will cut back on your loitering in the snacks aisle. Go shopping before popping into work, satisfying your window browsing mood and not having the luxury of a whole hour to find something you can't live without. Having an engagement loom over your head will make you hustle out of there faster. According to small-living blogger Melanie of A Small Life, "There’s less temptation when you know you need to just get five things and get out. Sometimes I’ll shop on my lunch break and store the food in the break room fridge at work. It gives me a chance to get out of the office and shop on a deadline."
5. Replace One Thing A Day With A Cheaper Version
Do you like stopping in for a morning macchiato? Drink the office coffee instead. Do you always take an Uber when you can leave a little earlier and walk to wherever you're going? Walk instead. Do you usually go for cocktails when it's happy hour time with the gang? Try going for a draft half the price. If you make one small swap per day, you'll be surprised how much money you save by the end of the month.
According to Chris Reining, financial blogger (and millionaire) of Mr. Everyday Dollar, "How much can you save by giving up soda? Well, I used to drink three sodas a day (and witness many co-workers doing the same). At the vending machine where I work those sodas run $1.50. That’s $22.50 a week or $1,170 a year. Plugging the numbers into an investment calculator (I always use 10 years and a 7 percent rate of return): Drinking soda will cost you $17,000 every 10 years!" So... meet you at the water fountain?
When you work long hours every week, looking forward to treating yourself every now and then can become a major part of your routine — the things that keep you going. But if you make some simple changes in how you save money, you might find that those little splurges feel even better when backed up with some savings and budgeting self-control.