Based on the methods used by The Budget Queen
herself, this system is designed to help people start spending smarter and saving money for the more important things in life. These ideas can be overwhelming in the beginning, so start small and you will find a method that works for you.
1.) Develop a "Smart Spending” Mindset
Develop a "Smart Spending” mindset…or a frugal mindset. Because in order to truly change the way you are spending, you have to change the way you think about money.
Before you buy anything, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
2.) Assess your Budget
If you don't have a budget, you need one – now! If you have one, now is the time to renew it. Keep a spending record for one month, or use your check register to review your spending habits. Divide expenses into categories, such as groceries, entertainment, and clothes, and add up how much money you are spending in each one. Subtract your bills and expenses from your income to figure out what you have left over at the end of every month.
3.) Eliminate "Money Wasters”
There are so many things we have that we really do not need. Rid yourself of things that you don't use and don't need. Do you really need 300 channels? Can you live with a smaller cell phone package? Can you workout at home instead of paying for a gym membership? Can you pack a lunch instead of eating out? Can you bring your coffee in a travel mug instead of stopping at the coffee shop? Look at each bill and expense and decide if it is something that you can live without, live with less, or do in a less expensive way, and make the changes.
4.) Create a Realistic Budget
Create a budget where you choose how much you are going to spend in each category. Be realistic; don't set amounts too low and unachievable, or too high that it leaves room to squander the leftovers. Include your goals -- saving for a vacation, a new car, a new house, college tuition, etc. -- by calculating exactly how much it will cost divided by how many months until you need/want to reach your goal, and put aside a that amount each month.
5.) Carry Cash for Your Expenses
It is essential to carry cash. When you carry cash, you spend 15-20% less than when you use a card. Divide your cash into categories in envelopes, with paperclips, or with a mini-accordion file. Once you have spent the money in a category, you are done until the next paycheck. DO NOT use your debit or credit card to tie over expenses. You have to wait until the next paycheck. You will quickly become aware of your limits and get creative to make your money stretch farther.
6.) Create an Emergency Fund
Any money left in your budget after expenses must go to an emergency fund. There are 2 reasons an emergency fund is essential to meeting your goals. First, you need an emergency fund to keep you afloat if you loose your job. Usually, 3 to 6 months of your total household income or salary. Secondly, an emergency fund will keep you from getting back into debt. If there is an unforeseen expense you can take it out of this fund, rather than creating more debt. Use things like your tax refund, working extra, or selling items to grow the fund more quickly.
7.) Pay Down Debt
Once an emergency fund is established, use any leftover or extra income to pay down debt. List all of your debts, their total amount, the monthly minimum payment required, and the annual percentage rate. Put any leftover income toward the debt with the highest annual percentage rate. Once the first debt is paid off, put all of that money toward the second debt, then the third and so on. Once you are out of debt, you can continue building your savings.
8.) Reduce Your Grocery Bill
This is the one place you can still squeeze money from the budget. I personally spend $50 or less per week on groceries for a family of 3, which includes many healthy foods, organic items and stockpiling items that are on sale. Here's how:
a. Make a list of everything you have in your fridge, pantry, and freezer.
Create a menu plan
based on what you already have.
c. Fill in the rest of your menu plan based on what is on sale.
Make a grocery list
and stick to it! Buy for your menu plan; do not walk down every aisle, do not buy on impulse.
for the items you need. It's especially nice to use when an item is on sale and you have a coupon.
f. Price matching can save time and frustration. Circle the item you want, find the item in the store that most closely matches your circled item, and bring it to the register with your sales ad.
g. Once you purchase the few items needed on your grocery list, use the rest of your planned grocery budget for stockpiling. Stockpile items that are on sale. The next week's menu plan should use these items. This way, you never have to pay full price for anything!
9.) Drug Store Deals
Don't buy drug store items at the grocery store because you can get much better deals when things go on sale at the drugstore. CVS has Extra Care Bucks, which can be obtained by signing up for and using a CVS Extra Care Card. Walgreen's has items each month that are free with a mail-in rebate and Register Rewards which print out on your receipt. And, Rite Aid has +UP Rewards, good sales with coupons and items that are free with a mail-in rebate. These items can be stockpiled and used when you need them.
10.) Saving on Everything Else
There is a way to save on absolutely everything you can possibly buy, whether it's buying used, using a coupon or coupon code, waiting for the perfect sale, clearance, and so much more. For saving on anything else, check out money-saving tips throughout this site.