For the Quarterlette in Desperate Need of a Budget

OCTOBER 22, 2014

Photo by Emily Long

After a summer of weekend getaways, outdoor concerts and parties, chances are you may have spent more money than you should have. I, myself, quickly found my initial excitement at having so many weddings to attend replaced by a sense of shock and awe of military proportions when I realized how much it costs to watch a friend get married!

Fortunately, I was armed with the hard-earned wisdom of previous years when I unintentionally tapped out my bank accounts and suffered the consequences well into the depth of winter. If you, too, are looking to get your finances back on track this fall, making these simple tweaks to your spending habits can boost your savings and make your paychecks stretch farther. Read on for 11 easy and painless ways to start budgeting smarter.

Say No to Cable TV
If you’re still paying for cable, it’s time to cancel your subscription—right now. Between Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, at this point you can find almost anything you want to watch on the Internet at a significantly lower cost than cable, if not for free. By taking cable out of your monthly bill line-up, you could save more than $150 each year.

Learn to Love Thrift Shopping
If you’re trying to stick to a tight budget, the Salvation Army may become your favorite place to shop. If you look hard enough, you can furnish an apartment, find your next Halloween costume, or pick up the perfect gag gift for next to nothing.

Get a Library Card
You may have a lot of plastic in your wallet, but if one of those isn’t a library card, you’re wasting money. Having a library card will give you access to an almost endless supply of books, magazines and DVDs for absolutely no cost, helping keep more money in your wallet.

Just Order Water
The next time you go out to eat, stick to drinking water. By ordering water when you go to a restaurant you can keep your bill lower, making eating out more manageable for your budget.

Clean Up Your Junk Mail
If you have an addiction to online shopping, your inbox is probably full of emails from retailers telling you about their latest sales and promotions. While these emails may seem innocent and even budget-friendly, they really just encourage you to buy more. To help you spend less online, click unsubscribe.

Make Your Nights Out Cash Only
Checking your debit card balance after a night of barhopping can often be a shocking and depressing experience. To avoid remorse and help you spend and drink more responsibly, leave your debit card at home and bring only the cash you’re willing to spend.

Learn to Love Cooking
If you’re currently spending more time eating in restaurants than in your kitchen, you’re wasting a lot of money. To get your budget on track, cooking meals at home is a money-saving must. Instead of getting your favorite meal at a restaurant, learn to make it a home for less than half of the cost.

Socialize Cheaper
If you and your friends are constantly planning expensive meet-ups, it can really take a toll on your wallet. Instead of always going out to socialize, suggest ways of spending time together without spending a lot of money.

Take on DIY Projects
One of the best approaches to saving money is to pay less for what you have to buy regularly. An effective strategy to help you do this is to make and do things yourself. With the help of the Internet you can learn how to make your own laundry detergent, cleaning supplies and even give yourself a near-professional manicure.

Track Your Purchases
To keep your spending under control, tracking your purchases is vital. Many online banking systems will automatically categorize your purchases, helping to manage how much you spend. If your bank doesn’t, consider downloading an app to help you.

Budget for the Things That Matter Most to You
While it absolutely is important to identify areas where you can cut back, it is equally important to determine what is most essential to you. Budgeting is often about determining what you can save money on doing yourself, but there will always be things you just don’t want to do—and that’s okay!

For example, much as I adore my Siberian Husky, Maxwell, neither one of us has the time or patience to groom him. I could brush him for hours each day and both us and my apartment would still be covered in dog hair. So each month I’m sure to set aside the money to have him washed and groomed, which is money well spent to me. Maybe you don’t have a dog, but maybe you color your hair or hate washing your car yourself—whatever it is that matters most to you is always worth budgeting for.

Budgeting is really about finding a way to be happy with your lifestyle and striking a balance between your own personal needs and wants. However you choose to do it, there’s no doubt that conscious spending will help keep your savings in check. Making any of these simple tweaks will have a large impact by the end of a year—so get started today!

Do you have any tips or tricks for budgeting smarter? How do you keep your finances in check? Tell us in the comments section!

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