Getting into shape financially is no different than getting into shape physically. They both require hard work, discipline and a plan. The first step in that plan is to create a budget. Establishing a budget doesn’t have to be a chore or drudgery. Instead, it can be a great opportunity to work together with your spouse to create a budget that is effective, creative and meets your needs.
As a one income family, these are some practical tips my husband and I employ to stay on top of our finances and give our budget some breathing room.
Eat Out, But Eat Less
Our biggest guilty pleasure as a couple has always been eating out. That was until I viewed a bank statement and added up how much money we were spending at restaurants, coffee shops and fast food. I was embarrassed by the amount! It was time to figure out a way to still enjoy eating out, but in a way that made sense financially.
The solution was to set a limit of $20 – $30 total for the both of us (and our toddler) whenever we go out to eat (reduced to 1-2 times a month). This means cutting the appetizers, ordering water or refillable fountain drinks and skipping dessert. We also like to take advantage of the popular “2 for $20” deals many restaurant chains offer. It was an adjustment at first, but adhering to the limit has become second nature to us now and we love the challenge of finding new places to eat in our area that have delicious and affordable menu items. By modifying this behavior we save over $100 a month, without having to give it up entirely.
Get on the DIY Train
I’ve never been a do-it-yourself kind of woman. In an effort to save money, however, I started looking into things I was outsourcing that I could do myself. I loved getting a monthly manicure and pedicure at the nail salon, but decided that $30 could be better served elsewhere. Armed with a decent bottle of nail polish and other basic supplies, I get the job done at home and keep that money in my pocket. I also save a great deal of money (anywhere from $50-$70 per salon visit) by doing my own hair. I still like to indulge in those things – but just on occasion now, instead of monthly.
Get Creative with Gifts
While it’s tempting to buy a gift for every birthday, wedding, or special holiday, doing so can quietly eat away at your budget throughout the year. Use gift giving occasions as a way to foster your creative skills and start making gifts like scarves or body butters. Join Pinterest and you’ll never run out of ideas! If making gifts doesn’t work for you, be sure to set a limit for the amount you plan to spend for each gift and stick to it. This method works for us and if things are really tight, we may skip a gift altogether and send a card; with a handwritten note, of course. There are plenty of ways to give thoughtfully without going broke!
Cut the (Cable) Cord
According to the Wall Street Journal, the average monthly cost for cable is $128. We reduced that amount dramatically by only ordering internet service through our local provider and signing up for subscription services such as Netflix and Roku. By doing this, we still are able to watch the programs and movies we love without the hefty price tag of cable. Additionally, most shows are available online to watch the day after it airs, so we never miss out!
Whichever method you chose, keep track of how much money you saved each month. Even if it’s only $20, take those savings and transfer them to a separate account that is not linked to your debit card, to pay down any debt you may have, build an emergency fund, or vacation planning.
These are very practical steps to that have helped my spouse and I give our monthly budget a boost. Every household is different, so be sure to make adjustments according to your family size and income. Always remember that small changes now can yield big results later!
Tell us, BMWK family: what practical ways do you use to make budgeting easier and stay in shape financially?