Tips for living within your budget

It's not always easy living within your budget, especially in today's world when it seems as if pay checks are staying the same while the cost of everything from groceries to rent is going up. All it takes is a bit of planning and you can start getting yourself on track to spend less and save more. There are several small changes you can make and start living within your budget.

Know what your current budget is

The only way you'll be able to stay within your current budget is if you have updated totals of what that entails. Make a list of your income, expenses and savings so you know where you stand. Give yourself two days to complete the list - one day to come up with the initial list and use the second day to add on things you forgot.

Make two rounds of cuts

When you make your list of expenses, go through the list once and make as many cuts as possible. Give yourself a day, then go through it again and dig deeper. Really think about what you can do without and where you can make other changes, such as getting a cheaper cell phone plan.

Put the credit cards away

Credit cards can be dangerous when it comes to sticking to a budget. Not only can they encourage you to spend more, but the interest charges alone can take a chunk out of your wallet. Freeze them if you have to, but take them out of your wallet and out of your reach.

Make envelopes

One of the best methods I've found for sticking to a budget is to make envelopes for each of your expenses and various other costs. For example, make one envelope for travel expenses, one for groceries and additional envelopes for each time you have to spend money. When you get your paycheck, put the cash in each envelope and use when necessary.

Pay your bills first

Forget about getting your paycheck and blowing a chunk of it on new shoes. The best way to stick to your budget is to pay your bills first then put some into your savings. You'll know how much you can afford to spend on other things and how much more additional funds you can throw into savings.

Cut your food budget

The best ways to cut your food budget are to eat out less, bring lunch to work and start finding ways to cut grocery costs. If you want to cut back on how much you spend on groceries, start shopping at the dollar store for basic food items. I pick up many of my items there and despite the impression some have, all are good quality that you would find in a grocery store.

Lower your utilities

You may think you can't lower your utility bills below what they already are, but there are several easy adjustments you can make. The first is to shut things off when you're not using them. Seems easy enough but even making a habit of leaving lights on when you're not in the room can add up. The other thing you can do is unplug electronics when you're not using them. You'd be surprised how much power they can draw even when they're off. I unplug the washer, dryer, DVD player, television, microwave and various others when they're not in use. It can lower your bills quite a bit.

It's not going to be easy at first to stay within your budget, but once you get used to it, it's much more simple than you think. Before long, you'll have more money left in your wallet and savings account and be spending less on unnecessary expenses.

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