Stay on Budget During the Tough Economy

I hate budgets. As easy as it is to shop online nowadays, one of the toughest things to do is to stay on budget. It seems however that at times budgets are a necessary tool to help us from spending too much money. Here are some ways you can budget that I have had success with:

The Old Fashioned Way

That’s right, bust out that pencil, paper, and calculator. Write down everything you can remember that you spend money on and try to estimate how much you really need each month. A more effective way to do this is to calculate how much you estimate you are going to spend each year on each category and divide by 12. This is better because it takes into account holidays, birthdays, and other events that do not necessarily occur every month. Think about it for a bit and try to think of everything. Looking at recent credit card statements may help you tremendously so start there if you are having some problems. You can always come back and rebudget if you miss something.

Excel Your Budget

Excel (or if you’re poor: OpenOffice.org Spreadsheet) is one of my favorite tools. I use it for just about everything — from tallying how much running I do each day to organizing my recipes. It is also a great tool to use for budgeting. I just organize all my expenses and list things as categories, amount spent, location/store, etc. It is a great way to organize what you are spending money on especially if you have multiple credit cards or use a lot of cash (just remember to keep receipts or you will forget what you have been spending money on). Once you have organized you expenses take advantage of the nice graphing functions so you can visually see how much money you are spending on each category.

Free Online Tools

Just a few days ago Intuit released their online Quicken version for free. I have not had the chance to test it out yet, but there are many other options that I think are great. Both Mint and Wesabe are also great online money managers. They link to you bank accounts and take the information from all your accounts and display them all in one place. They both use high-level encryption and do not allow transferring money or similar actions so you are pretty much solid on the security front. Mint is what I personally use and I love it due to the great support from the staff and how much they actually listen to the users. I highly recommend them! (And they are not even paying me to say that…)

Saving Money

A great thing you can do is to have a special saving money category in your budget. I generally like to save at least 20% of my post-income and I split that into short term goals (e.g., “I really want a new pair of jeans!”) and long term (i.e., for retirement or emergencies). You can also include a miscellaneous category as a kind of buffer in case you go over somewhere else in your budget.

Stick to It

No matter how much of a hard time you are having with your budget you should stick to it. If you see you forgot about something important when creating you budget, go back and redo that part, but don’t discard you budget completely. That is like giving up.

Conclusion

I hope this helps some of you with your addictive spending habits. I always need to get better, but without blocking Amazon, Newegg, and other stores, I will need some of your suggestions to help me manage my money. Let me hear them in the comments below.

Photo credit: Low Budget by ADVerteaser | No Money by Jeff Keen

8 Thoughts on “Stay on Budget During the Tough Economy”

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  3. Hallo Julia,schade, dass unser erster Skype-Versuch so daneben gegangen ist. Ich bin ja nur selten – eigentlich auf Zuruf in Skype – aber ich werde mich bessern (anpassen)! Deine Gefühle die He/Netimürnbarg betreffend kann ich sehr gut nachvollziehen. Danke für Deine tollen Berichte. Schade, dass sie seltener werden. Oder bilde ich mir das nur ein?Achim

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