If you are anything like me, you have champagne taste on a beer budget. So many of us millennials have a side hustle (hello, my lovely blog!) where we devote our “downtime” to, in hopes that it may turn into something bigger someday. With the burden of student loans and general adult things like bills (being an adult is really no fun sometimes), having a handle on your finances is a must in today’s world. However, to get a handle on things, it requires some effective budgeting.
I have pulled together some of the best tips I could find to make sure that you can finally get your finances in order and start socking money away for whatever your dream may be!
1. WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING YOU SPEND
Yes, I know. This is a royal pain in the ass. But trust me, it will help. And even better, if you have a gmail account, you can use a monthly budget and expenses tracking spreadsheet from their templates. The reason this is so great is that if you have a smart phone, you can access these templates from anywhere and enter your purchases into them while you’re on the go. Google spreadsheets will house the updated document on your Drive – so you will always see the most up to date info, no matter whether you enter it on your phone, iPad, tablet or computer.
While nothing will completely get rid of the suckiness that is writing down all your expenses, being able to do it remotely and on the go will make it much easier. Some of the highest rated budgeting & expense spreadsheets can be found here, here, and here.
2. CALCULATE YOUR MONTHLY EXPENSES
This goes hand in hand with #1. Using the same templates above, look back at the past two months of your life and put in the amounts for each of the sections. See where the money has been going – obviously, a large chunk will be bills, but where else has it trickled out to?
Once you see where the money has been going, you can better create a budget on par with what your expenses are likely to be. This will also allow for you to know where you can cut excess expenses (i.e. do you REALLY need that new pair of shoes . . .) and work towards paying off any debt you may have.
3. WRITE DOWN ON A CALENDAR ALL YOUR BILLS AND WHEN THEY ARE DUE
Regardless of whether you use a wall calendar, a planner or an online calendar, be sure to write down every single bill and when it is due. I write ours both on our wall calendar in red as well as in my planner in green (red was already taken). This helps both the hubby and I know exactly when the bills are due and which ones have been paid (by checking them off). If you’re like us (and hopefully we’re not the only ones who do this), you will forget that you have paid a bill or you won’t be sure if a certain bill was paid this month. This method means that everyone knows when things are coming up and what exactly has been paid.
The most important reason to pay your bill on time is because when you don’t, you incur a wide array of fees. Fees bog you down even further into debt and away from maintaining your monthly budget.
4. UNSUBSCRIBE FROM FLASH SALE EMAILS
When I was organizing our budget, I realized that I had a habit of impulse buying. I would be moving along, doing great on budgeting, and then BAM! Impulse by would knock me off track. Where was it all coming from?
Then I realized – much of it was from the ONE DAY SALE! FLASH SALE! type of emails. I just couldn’t resist the temptation. And the couponer in me thought, oh, it’s such a great deal and I will miss out if I don’t get it right now!
But that kind of thinking leads to overbuying. It makes you feel competitive and like you MUST PURCHASE NOW, without a lot of time for really thinking about whether you need it or not. The solution? Unsubscribe from these emails. I know, I know. It’s hard and painful (and may take a few tries), but it will be better for you in the long run.
And if you are worried you might miss a coupon or deal, follow websites like Hip2Save or others so that you can stay up on which stores are having sales if need be. You can also follow sites like RetailMeNot so that you can always have a coupon code when you need it.
5. DOES THE PURCHASE FIT YOUR LIFESTYLE?
I have an absolute love for fall and winter clothing. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because when I was little, I lived in Florida, and there wasn’t really a need for it? Who knows. But whatever it is, I am a sucker for a great coat or some killer jeans.
However, right now we live in one of the warmest states in the country. Last winter, I think it got below freezing ONCE. That’s right. One time the entire winter. So my love of coats and jeans is really superfluous.
Make sure that whatever you’re buying, you are doing it because it actually fits a need in your life. As much as I would love to buy one of the killer coats already coming out for the fall, I know that I have absolutely no need for it. Not only do I have plenty of coats already, but I can really only wear them for about a month.
Helping to ensure the purchase fits what you actually need in your life, is a great way to take a step back and re-evaluate your purchases.
6. USE PINTEREST AS YOUR SUBSTITUTE FOR SHOPPING
I feel the same way about shopping as I do about looking at attractive men, even though I am married:
[bctt tweet=”Just because I’ve made my selection, doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu! #bestmarriageandshoppingadviceever”]
To stifle my shopping addiction and yet still allow myself to lust over the gorgeousness that are the Fall Collections, I took to creating a Pinterest board of all of the items I find particularly stunning for that season. This allows me to satisfy my need to look and enjoy the clothing, without spending a dime. Plus, I get to share these stunning creations with all of you!
7. DON’T GO COLD TURKEY
Do you know someone who has ever gone on a really restrictive diet or tried to quit smoking cold turkey? How quickly did those resolutions go off the deep end because they completely cut themselves off from everything?
The same goes for budgeting. If you try to completely pull yourself back, and not allow a little indulgence here and there – you are much more likely to feel SO restricted that you flail off and go crazy buying a whole bunch of items.
With the holidays coming up shortly, plan your mini-splurges accordingly. Is there something you’ve been wanting? Put a little money aside so that you can splurge on that item when the time comes. I know that I have personally been lusting after a Blue Yeti microphone so I can start doing podcasts. I am waiting for Black Friday sales, since that is when electronics are usually the cheapest, and will be buying one then 🙂 It helps having a little mini-fun-goal to keep you on track.
8. ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED IT
According to many websites, you can call or write your creditors and ask for specific due dates if you think it would help. Most creditors – especially credit card companies – will allow you to change your due date if it can help you pay on time. (Sadly, Sallie Mae is a bitch and won’t – but you can try for others).
I haven’t done this with our credit card companies, but I have had to do this with other unexpected expenses. Last year, we incurred a surprise, budget-busting expense when our baby girl had to visit the animal hospital.
How pathetic is she? Anyways, this added expense might not have been an issue, had we not also had to put down a $2000 deposit for my hubby’s medical school seat that same week. Since the hospital bill was $1000, there was just no way we could afford to pay both of those at once.
I went into the vet’s office and asked if it was possible to break the payments into installments and pay half from my current paycheck, and half from the next paycheck. I explained our situation, and why I was asking them for this. They were super agreeable and said it was no problem.
I’m not saying that everywhere is going to be like this – but it never hurts to ask! The worst they will do is say no and then you are in no worse of a position. Never, ever ignore the issue or wait until the last possible moment to ask for help. Delaying the pain only makes it worse. Just rip the bandaid off!
So there you have it – 8 ways to help you finally organize your finances. Finally getting a handle on your budget and money will give you the feeling of having a better handle on your life in general!
I know that may sound silly to some of you, but on a subconscious (or conscious) level, you inevitably stress about money if you aren’t raking it in. When you are stressed about funds, that can creep over into other parts of your life and dampen your mood. By staying on top of your money and budget, you will not only feel better, but you will be able to devote that energy to something far more important.
[bctt tweet=”I’m finally getting my finances on #fleek. Find out the 8 tips I just learned to do so at http://thecolorcodedlife.com”]
Have any other tips to share? Feel free to add them below in the comments!
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CONGRATS to Jen ‘Reis’ Cannon for winning the How to Find Your Passion in Life giveaway! A May Designs journal, pencils, and those two fabulous job books will be on your way shortly!
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