15 Ways to Improve Your Budget Today
There are a myriad of ways to make improvements to your budget. Some are easy, some are more intensive, but there are ways. Even if you've been budgeting for awhile and feel like you've squeezed your budget every which way, there's likely something on this list that can help you improve your budget. I wanted to create a very practical and actionable list for you to improve your budget, (even today) if you're willing! Some things require making sacrifices, some are funner than others... Even if you pick one and do it today, you're in a better position than you were before reading this post. My contribution to society... you're welcome!
1. If you haven't already... start a budget
A budget is nothing more than a list of ways you plan to spend your money. If you do this on a regular basis and stick to your plan, you will start to gain control of your spending, and align your priorities. Keep it simple for your first go round and commit to fine tuning it as you go.
2. Budget Billing
Utility bills can fluctuate quite a bit from month to month. Most utility companies offer something called budget billing which takes your total yearly usage and divides it into one even monthly payment.
Each year they review your total expenses and make adjustments to that monthly payment. This helps the budgeting process greatly as you'll have one static amount to budget for each month.
EXAMPLE: Instead of having a $100 gas bill one month and a $400 bill the next, you'll have one number to plug into your budget month after month.
3. Sell Something... or a lot of Things
We spent one Saturday last year listing some things on our local for sale group on Facebook and made about $200. Some big items, some small, but regardless, we got rid of some stuff we no longer needed and brought in some cash at the same time.
You could also use Craigslist, or eBay depending on what you are selling, but I've found the for sale groups on Facebook to be the least time consuming and easiest process.
4. Declare a Spending Freeze
How many days can you go without spending any money? Cleaning out your fridge, freezer, cupboards, and pantry. Obviously, you'll want to pay your bills, but other than that, can you go one week, two weeks, or even a whole month?
Use the money you've saved to jumpstart your next financial goal, like paying off debt, funding an emergency fund, or saving for vacation.
This is something I've wanted to try, but haven't actually done. Anyone have any experience? Please share in the comments.
5. Review Your Bank Transactions
If you've been budgeting for awhile and it's feeling a little stale. Maybe, taking a deep look into your bank transactions you'll uncover some areas in need of improvement, fine tuning, or elimination.
6. Look for a Better Bank
Switching banks can be a lengthy process, but worth it in the long run. We made the switch a few years ago from a big national bank who kept charging us hidden fees and earning us no interest to a local branch that offers 3% on our checking account.
Now we earn $40 a month ($480 per year!) in interest, with no fees or hassles. Totally worth the work it took to switch everything over.
7. Cancel Your Credit Cards
A lot of people I talk to who are trying to start a budget and stick to it, get hung up on how to stop using a credit card, or how to budget while still using a credit card. The problem is that you're budgeting and spending this month, doesn't come due until next month and that tends to confuse people, and render the budgeting process too difficult to manage.
And of course, the "bonuses" of a credit card are marketed so well that it's tough to understand that overspending by $400 a month is not worth the 2% you earn back. Save that money for yourself through discipline and you'll achieve your financial goals quicker.
Credit cards just complicate everything!
Find alternative ways to watch the shows you love, or just cut back on your TV watching time in general. You won't die... I promise. We've been without cable for years and have saved thousands of dollars because of it.
9. Make a Grocery List and Stick to it
Your grocery list is a micro version of your overall budget. Having a plan before getting to the store and avoiding stray items from jumping into your cart is a sure way to keep your food budget on track.
When we first started budgeting, we were able to save $350 a month by simply using cash for our food category.
10. Reduce Your Energy Costs
Shutting off lights, turning down the heat a degree or two, sealing windows, etc. By being observant you can see what ways you are throwing money away on energy.
Combined with #2 above (budget billing) this is more of a long-term savings, but you can start today.
11. Shop at Costco
It will cost you a minor membership fee, but you can save a lot of money shopping at Costco for things you already buy. Hear me there! You have to put your blinders on to the other enticing deals you don't "need." But, if you stick to your list, you'll rack up lots of savings throughout the year.
12. Shop Smart Online
If you prefer to shop online, always make sure to look for the best deal. Google the product you're looking for and see if you can find it used, or at least see if there is a promo code or deal available. And always use Ebates!
13. Pick up a Side Job
If you've squeezed your budget all you can on the expense side, but still looking for some better traction within your budget, it might be time to pick up some extra work.
Don't get too over-analytical about this, just find something that fits your schedule, and will pay you money. If you have a skill you can utilize as freelance work, great, but if not, start paying attention to places that are hiring.
This doesn't have to be forever, or a lot of extra hours. 10 hours a week at $10 per hour is an extra $400 per month.
14. Check Your Tax Situation
Getting a big tax refund this year! That's nice; be sure to do something intentional with it! But, better yet, change your withholdings so that you put that money in your paycheck instead of lending it to the government for 12 months.
15. Cancel Your Gym Membership
Ok... It's February and time to be honest with yourself. Are you using the gym like you hoped, or are you just donating your money to the gym every month? If the latter, cancel the membership and put that money into your budget and give it a good workout there.
There you have it. 15 ways you can improve your budget today. Hopefully at least one of these sparked an idea. Take action, improve your budget!
Which one of these items sound the best to you? How many will you implement? What did I miss?