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You may have, at one time or another, created and even stuck with a budget for a period of time. I sincerely hope you did. Maybe your budget helped get you through a difficult month, or maybe it’s helping you get out of debt now.
Still, sometimes you feel like your budget is just not on point.
You want to tweak and adjust it, but you’re not sure how to get it to a place that is really workable for your lifestyle. It’s either too restricting or not detailed enough. In both cases, your budget needs to change.
I’ve been there, several times actually. Often, every 3-4 months, my husband and I sit and review our working budget. And almost always, there is something we need to update or eliminate altogether.
If you’re going through this, it’s a great sign that you are trying to improve your money habits. And you’re on the right track if you start with reviewing your budget.
I want to share with you 5 easy ways I’ve been able to improve my budget. They are simple changes, but they make a big difference immediately. Again, I’m repeating that these are simple changes, which doesn’t mean the same as easy. But they are doable, and I believe they would really help improve your budget quickly.
1. Cutting Extras will Save You Hundreds
You’ve probably heard of this before, but to me, this was the hardest concept when I first started out with a new budget. But ultimately, some things made sense to cut.
4 years ago we decided that we would cut the cable completely, and opt for watching network TV and having a Netflix subscription.
That one item saved us $110 per month!
And you know what, we don’t miss it at all. In fact, my husband asked the girls last month if they’d rather have cable (mentioning they’d have the Disney channel and other cool shows to watch) or Netflix and they both chose our current plan of Netflix.
Because we work full time and are out of the house most hours of the day, we only really watch TV for 2-3 hours per day, and with Netflix, this helps us watch what we want, when we want.
Other non-essential items you can probably reduce or cut our altogether are your premium cell phone plan, lunch budget (if you buy lunch at work), personal care (hair and nail salon trips), car wash budget, makeup budget, etc.
2. Your Utilities are Costing You a Fortune
People often overlook this expense category for so many reasons. First, it is a necessity. Second, it’s a pretty fixed cost. And third, it will never really go away. But, you’d be surprised on how much you can save here.
Changing your habits even a little will make a difference in next month’s bill. We used to turn on the heater anytime the temperature dropped below 70 in the house (we are spoiled-living in great California weather), but this year, we’ve been able to suck it up and put on a sweater. We’re in February and have not turned on the heater once.
It saved us between $30-$50 per month.
Our water bill is one that we have struggled with. Having 3 girls in the house (including yours truly) makes it a challenge to keep the water cost down.
But, this week, we started timing our showers, and hope to see the water bill decrease by next month. It’s always in the little steps you take, remember that.
3. A Grocery Hack that Saves You Thousands per Year
The average American spends about 33% of their income on groceries. For a person making $40,000 per year, that’s a whopping $13,200 annually!
Your groceries should typically be about 10%-15% of your total income. And this is totally doable. You can read more posts about ways to save on your groceries below.
If this is a hard one for you, try lowering it by $20 a month at first. I guarantee that you will find you can lower it even more than that in the coming months.
We all justify putting something in our shopping carts that shouldn’t be there. For me, it’s usually chips and chocolate (my 2 obsessions). If a bag of chips is on sale for $2 and I skip it, will it kill me? No.
How many other items can be skipped? Let’s try this for a month and see how much we save?
The one trick that has lowered my grocery bill significantly was buying all raw ingredients and cooking at home. I buy fresh veggies and fruits and fresh meat and poultry.
The more natural the state of your food is, the cheaper it is! Prepackaged, precooked, and prepared-for-you foods are all costing you a premium and will never taste as amazing as a homemade version.
Trust me, I used to be a pre-made food junkie when I didn’t know how to cook. I taught myself how to cook little by little and now my kids even prefer my food to eating out. Lucky me!
4. Cut out $400 from Your Budget with this One Change
So many of us finance at least one car. We personally just finished paying off my husband’s car last month and mine was paid off since 2011. It is an amazing feeling to drive a car that you don’t owe anything on! Really, it feels so good.
But, also it feels good knowing that you’ve freed anywhere between $200-$400 in monthly expenses from your budget.
Now, of course, I’m not expecting you to pay your car in full this month. But, I encourage you to put even $50 more into each payment and start cranking out the loan faster. If you can put more, that’s even better! This small change will help your budget so much faster.
5. Save Hundreds on Car Fuel for Your Commute
Obviously, if you have a car, you’re going to be using it to commute to work, right?
I did something crazy about 4 years ago that drastically changed my budget. I say it’s crazy only because it’s not something I would have ever thought of myself doing, since I had a decent new car.
But, I started taking a commuter bus to work everyday. My commute is about 45 minutes one way. I’ve been able to save 70% of my fuel cost, I save a lot wear and tear on my car, and I’ve saved $82 a month in parking expenses alone.
This one change made such a big difference in my budget.
I also get the added benefit of working on my blog, catching up on social media, and taking naps during my commute. It’s such an awesome thing that I never thought would have been for me.
If you live near a bus or train station, I recommend at least trying it out for a week. You’ll be able to see if this option would work for you.
I was always in the mindset that bus takers were people who don’t have a car of their own.
Boy, was I wrong! All the people that take the bus with me are parking their nice cars and taking the bus. They know wassup! The only regret I have is I wish I had made the choice sooner. I’d never go back to driving to work again.
Improving Your Budget just got Easier
It’s one thing to create a budget, but the most important step is tweaking your budget to make it work for your lifestyle. Every single budget is different, make yours work for your life and for your future.
These 5 changes made a huge difference in my budget. They saved me hundreds of dollars each month, which I’m now using to tackle my mortgage debt.
The debt-free life you want is completely reachable if you use your budget as a primary tool to manage your money. And making regular changes to your budget will let you see the areas that you can change, eliminate or replace.