It’s Frugal Friday! Each week, I’ll share tips, encouragement, and practical ideas for living a frugal lifestyle. Last week we discussed tracking your spending. This week, we’ll start taking a closer look at how to get serious about creating (and sticking to!) a written budget.
If you saw last week’s post, hopefully you have a week’s worth of spending logged on a piece of paper. That should give you a good idea about some of the random expenses that pop up in your life throughout a typical week. I would encourage you to keep tracking your spending as we continue through this series–it really helps to be accountable for what you spend, and helps you make decisions going forward with a budget and other financial planning.
So let’s talk budget. Most of us have a bunch of fixed numbers that we deal with each month: mortgage or rent, car payment(s), insurance, utilities…those are a good place to start when we work on a budget, because there’s not much we can do to change them.
Then there are categories where we have a little more wiggle room: food, toiletries, entertainment, gifts, clothing, etc. If money’s really tight, we have to make some serious choices in these categories. “Entertainment” might consist of a $7/month Netflix payment rather than a $70 date night. Your monthly clothing budget might be a small cash contribution to a “clothing fund” envelope rather than a big shopping spree. It’s time to get intentional about savings goals, and make your budget reflect those goals.
Your first budget goal is to make sure that the money going out is less than the money coming in. The second goal is to make sure it’s do-able…if you’re able, allow yourself and your spouse a little “pocket money” for incidentals…a pack of gum, a cup of coffee, whatever it may be. But also have the clear understanding that when that money’s gone, it’s gone–no more treats till the next week or month.
A budget doesn’t have to be completely set in stone; in fact, it’s probably most useful when it’s evaluated and revised as necessary. A good budget helps you keep non-essential spending in check, and also sets aside a little each month for budget-busters like car repairs, gift-giving, buying clothes, medical bills, and more.
Ideally, a budget also provides for some savings, both building a fund for emergencies, and preparing for things like college and retirement. If you’re focusing on paying off debt, that’s the first destination for any extra money once you have an emergency fund in place. Hopefully creating and sticking to a budget will also help keep you from adding any more to your debt as well.
Here’s a link to a post with some awesome financial planning and budget printables, which I hope you find useful. Getting everything written down in an organized way is a big step in helping get control of your finances. Continue tracking your spending, so that you have a number to put in the “actual” column beside your budgeted amount. This will help you see where you might need to adjust your budget, or more importantly, where you need to adjust your spending habits so you can stick to your budget.
Do you have any budget tips that have worked for you in the past? Experience is the best teacher, so share your hard-earned wisdom with our great Sister and Mister community!
If you’re just joining the Frugal Friday series, check out these other posts:
- Tracking Your Spending
- Making Frugal Choices
- Fighting Spending Envy
- Could You Cut the Cable?
- Saving on Food Expenses
- Schedule to Save (keeping track of due dates to avoid fees & penalties)
- Staying Organized with Holiday Shopping & Rebates
- Frugal Lovin’ (Love & money, plus date night on a Shoestring Budget)
- Waste Not, Want Not (buying what you’ll use, and using what you buy)
- Frugal Fashion
- Frugal Beauty
- Frugal Cooking tip: Prep Once, Eat Twice!
- Budget Check-Up
- Plan ahead for Christmas
- Creating an Emergency Fund
- Getting by on a Single Income
- Reducing Fixed Expenses
- Free Printable Frugal Living Resources (meal planners, expense trackers, and more!)
- Saving on Gasoline
- Tips for Tax Time
- Healthy Eating on a Budget
- Frugal Living with Kids
- Frugal Fitness
- Save with Second-Hand
- Wills and Life Insurance
Megan has been frugal most of her life, but has been really honing her frugal skills as the chief home economist for her family of six, surviving and thriving on a single (teacher’s!) income. If she can do it, you can too!