I loathe the word budget. I hate spending only a certain amount and sticking to it. My motto is always to make more money instead of cut back. Except, that doesn’t always work. It definitely worked when I had 3 jobs in university and my bills were $600/month, including a veeeerrry healthy budget for booze. But, it doesn’t really work as well once you have real bills and a set wage.
I’ve been decent at saving and I always ‘pay myself first’ aka pay the bills and savings account before spending money, but budgets just make me shudder. So, here are my ways for ‘budgeting’ without actually budgeting.
Stop buying your coffee. Legit. I used to mark in my Starbucks habit into my grocery budget (ugh, that word) because I love it so damn much. But, it’s so not needed. You can save so much money by making your own coffee at home, even if you add whipped cream (and sometimes sprinkles or peppermint or caramel and always chocolate milk. Because, treat yo’self, but responsibly).
Stop buying packaged foods. Do you really need a bagged or packaged salad? It’s not that hard to whip up a salad made from whole ingredients and you’ll have a much bigger salad when you’re finished. And, yep, that’s coming from me. Someone who haaaates making salads.
Packaged foods cost more, are wasteful, and you don’t need ’em! At least, not all the time. Try to stick buying packaged foods for a last minute potluck invite and ignoring the prepared section the rest of the time.And while you’re at it, cut out the chips and junk food. You don’t need it and neither does your wallet.
Cook more. This is something I’ve never had a problem sticking to and I’m shocked at how often most people go out to eat. Rarely will we order in or head out to a restaurant, just the two of us, unless we’re celebrating or incredibly, incredibly lazy that day. It’ll be hard at first, but you’ll save so much more.
Cut out any delivery meals first and then work your way down to a healthy habit that works for you and your bank account.
Stop buying bottled water. Unless you live somewhere you cannot drink the water, why are you paying for bottled water? It’s not any fancier than what comes out of your tap once it’s filtered (obviously, filter that because tap water sans a filter is so no thanks) and you’re just throwing away money and contributing to our plastic death.
Pay yourself (and your bills) first. I mentioned it earlier, but seriously, do it. You can live without that dress or fancy meal, but the bank ain’t gonna give a fuck if you try to pay them late, or not at all. Pay your bills first, then your savings, and then spend without any worries! Or, at least, few worries.
Go on a No Spend Month to kick start your habit of spending less…it’ll suck at first and then you’ll start questioning whether or not you really need this or that. I did a No Spend August. Click here to see how it turned out.
Get off Social Media. Seriously. Just because the Kardashians are off in the Maldives doesn’t mean you have to be, too. Shit, do I want to spend a week in an over-water bungalow. Like, I soooo want to spend a week in an over-water bungalow. But, I can’t afford it. That shit is EXPENSIVE. And, so is a lot of seemingly regular trips.
Real Life Example: Wicked Deal to Paris
Hell, to the yes. Flights to Paris were on sale for $600 round-trip from my home-town. You better believe I jumped on it (because I could. I have the money – I didn’t go into debt for this). But, often when we see flight deals we don’t see what’s behind it. Like, accommodation, food, shopping (I mean, it’s Paris), tours, copious amounts of champagne. Paris is an expensive place to go. This trip isn’t going to cost $600 or $1,000 or even $1,500. It’s going to cost more. Yes, you can find reasonably cheap accommodations and save lots by wandering around the city instead of taking expensive tours, but it’s still going to cost more. So, if you don’t have the money – like at all – don’t book it. If you have some money saved up, think about how much it’ll actually cost and then book it – or not if you can’t afford it.
Shop the clearance section exclusively. Unless you need something very specific, the clearance section is your best friend. Nearly all my clothes were bought on sale or clearance. You can skip most of the ugly trends and thank yourself later, opting for classic options that never go out of style.
FYI this isn’t code for spend as much as you normally would.
Switch to walking/biking/public transportation. Stop spending money on gas and parking and figure out a better way there. Some of you may have to drive, but you can cut out parking fees by walking or busing from a free spot. This is what I did my last couple of months at the office. I didn’t drive as far which saved gas and I didn’t have to pay for overpriced parking. Hazah!
Tone it down on the Christmas and birthday presents. They’re not needed. While sticking to a small budget is annoying, promising to spend less is a great idea and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. Pro tip: you don’t have to buy presents for every single person. Try a group gathering, instead, that will give you more than just a wrapped gift.
Get rid of the paper towel and plastic wrap. Not only is it a good eco-swap (see how to rid yourself of paper towel here), it’s a money sinkhole and you don’t need it, at least not as much as you are using.