How to stay within a budget

Isn’t it a great feeling at the beginning at the month when you have your finances planned out into a budget you know you can handle? It’s like all will be right with the world; you know exactly what you will be spending and exactly what will be left over for the family. Then all of a sudden, your pet ferret (or whatever creature your kids talked you into getting) chews through your laptop’s power cord. Your child is going on a field trip next week and forgot to give you the permission slip until today (seriously, why does it cost that much to take a bus to the museum??).  You go to the grocery store and swear that gallon of milk didn’t cost that much last week, and don’t even start on gas prices. I don’t know about you, but I’m not seeing any more money on my paycheck. I think it goes without saying that you need to keep adding to a fund for big emergencies, but I have gathered some ideas for attempting to stay under your monthly budget for when life’s tiny catastrophes inevitably make themselves known.

1. Be resourceful Go for a run outside instead of having to factor in that monthly gym membership. Rent books from the library instead of buying them. Fill a washable water bottle from the faucet instead of buying a 12-pack of bottled “spring water.” Pack a lunch for your kids instead of handing out cash. We spend money on a lot of things because it’s what we are used to, not because it’s our only option. Cutting these unnecessary costs can really add up to a lot of left over money.

2. Research If you know where to look, saving money on increasingly expensive groceries is easier than it sounds. Make a list of the specific groceries you need, then go online before your next shopping trip. Look up the supermarkets in your area; many of them will have websites with their weekly specials and any other coupons they are offering. Even if you like your current grocery store because you already know your way around, another store nearby may have more deals on the things you are looking to buy. This could change from week to week, so it never hurts to keep up with it and try out new stores to save a few bucks. At the end of the month, what you set aside for food could have some dough left over.

3. Set mini-goals Instantly cutting $200 off your entertainment/free spending limit for a month is hard to stick to. Start small; maybe try to go three days without spending money on yourself, or tell your family you will all go one week without eating out. Everything adds up, and that goes for savings, too. If you set small goals, you can have the will power to stick with them without feeling new-shoe withdrawals.

A savvy shopper will always find ways to stay under budget in case of unexpected but necessary new costs. These tiny ways to save money and budget sensibly can really help when you find you need that left over money to pay for your ferret’s anti-depressants (true story, except mine was a dog).

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