- The first step is finding a budgeting tool that works for you. If you prefer to have your budget accessible from anywhere, I suggest exploring budgeting apps for your phone. Some highly rated apps are You Need a Budget, Mint, and EveryDollar. YNAB offers a free 34-day trial, but requires an $84 yearly subscription after that. EveryDollar is free, but there is a Plus version that offers more features and is billed annually for $129.99. Mint is completely free, so start with that first and see if that works for you.
- Identify what your priorities are each month. These can shift from month to month, but this should always be at the forefront of your budget. Identify what you most want to accomplish, or what you value most. For some, it’s experiences and dining out, for others, it’s remodeling your home. Knowing what you want your money to do helps you stay focused on that goal.
- Plan ahead for upcoming larger expenses. When you know something costly is on the horizon (such as licensing your vehicle, Christmas, or let’s say, your washing machine will need to be replaced), you can accommodate and make plans for how to account for the extra expense.
- Plan Your Meals. Meal planning is more than just a trend, it allows you to save money and shift it to your other priorities. One of the most important tips when meal planning is to base your meals off the grocery ads and what is on sale. Also, shop in meals, so you don’t have a collection of random ingredients and food items that won’t go together in meals. Utilize the savings rewards programs at your favorite grocery stores, and let the fuel points accumulate for savings at the gas station. If you use coupons, keep in mind that many coupons are for name-brand products; however, the generic brand is usually (but not always) cheaper than the name brand ones even with coupons. And last, but most importantly, never shop when you are hungry.
- Learn how to DIY. Most of what we end up paying for is for convenience and time. Instead of paying other people to do the work of maintaining and updating your home or yard, learn how to do those same projects on your own. Pinterest and YouTube are gold mines when it comes to DIY. Or enlist the help of a handy friend to help. Also, when shopping hardware and home improvement stores, take advantage of their rebate programs to save money on your next project.
- Automate savings transfer and everything else. If saving money is a priority (which it should be), decide on a set amount you are capable and comfortable with setting aside each month and automate the transfer so it is taken care of for you. Also automate bills such as utilities, mortgage or rent, or car payment. This frees up time to focus on other expenses and relieves some of the stress of physically paying bills.
- The last and probably the least popular tip is to get rid of cable TV. It isn’t as painful as it sounds. Netflix and Hulu are affordable streaming services with award-winning original series and reruns of your favorite cable TV shows. Amazon Prime also offers streaming service, and for many, it is a tax deductible purchase. Some other options along these lines are to downgrade your internet speed to the lowest available option or to use your phone as a hotspot to stream. As an added bonus, you will find yourself watching less TV and being more productive.
Budgeting on a Single Income
According to a 2017 report in Market Watch, half of American households are living paycheck to paycheck, and about 49% of Americans worry about their financial well being. Living on a single income only amplifies the stress and worry about finances. Having a plan, maintaining fidelity to it, and re-evaluating that plan can all help minimize the stress and allow you to have control over your expenses and your future. Below are some helpful tips and reminders when budgeting on a single income. It is important to note that all tips mentioned in this article can also be applied to households with dual incomes.