Do you always seem to be running out of money? Are you one of the reasons banks can afford to give away free checking? (You bounce a lot of checks!) Do you often leave the house with great intentions, but get swept away in the moment and spend more than you had planned? There are simple things you can do to get your spending under control. A budget helps you think about what you want to spend when you are in the space to use your best judgment. Then there are things you can do to help keep your impulses under control and stick with your plan. You don’t have to make a complicated budget to get started. Here’s a simple way to create an budget for your “fun” money.
- Figure out how much money you spend each week on things like eating out, gas, coffee, concerts, downloads, and more. It might look something like this: lunch $50, gas $40, coffee $30, Friday/Saturday night out $50, incidentals $30. Total: $200. This is your “Spending Money Budget.”
- Make a commitment to yourself to stick with your budget. Ask yourself honestly: Do I have this much money to spend each week? Does it cover everything I like to spend money on? Does this leave me enough money for essentials like rent, cell phone, cable, and groceries? Am I able to set any money aside for something unexpected, like a forgotten birthday or a flat tire repair? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, go to the next step. If not, go back and adjust your Spending Money Budget accordingly. (Remember, no one has enough money to buy everything they want, all the time!)
- Withdraw your spending money for the week from your bank. Make just one withdrawal for the total amount, to last the entire week. Withdraw the same amount each week on the same day. Don’t let yourself make any more withdrawals until the next week. Don’t use a credit card if you fall short. And don’t borrow any money from friends to cover your expenses!
- Stick to your plan. You might decide you want to carry only a couple of day’s cash with you at a time. That way, you are less likely to spend it on an impulse. Or keep it all you’re your wallet, but put some aside in a different pocket for later in the week. Don’t pay for downloads with your debit or credit card. Instead, buy a download gift certificate from a store like Safeway. Think ahead about what you are planning for the weekend, so you’ll have enough money. If you start to run short, you might need to change your plans.
- Make a spending list before you leave the house. Think about what you might spend money on and make a list of the things you need. Make another list of things you’ll be tempted to spend money on as an impulse. Figure out what are you going to do when you are tempted to make an unplanned purchase. And stick to your list!
- Wrap up your ATM card! Leave your card in your wallet, but wrap it up and write a note to yourself that you are sticking to your plan.
- Ask your friends to help you.
- Rubber band your wallet with another note that says “do I really need this?”
- Be creative and come up with your own ideas
- Evaluate how you did and make small adjustments to your budget. Were you able to stick with your budget? Did you run out of money early? Did you underestimate how much money you really needed for something like gas? Is there something you can cut that you don’t really need? Think about how you did and adjust your budget if you need to. The point is not to have an inflexible plan, instead get one that works for you!
These suggestions are an easy way to make a budget and gave you some ideas of how to stick with it. If you have other creative ideas of what you do to keep your spending under control, please share them with others as a comment on this page.