As easy as it may be to complain about how getting a raise would make a budget more convenient, a budget was never meant to be easy. However, with the right amount of preparation and discipline, a budget can be feasible.
Know the minimum and maximum of monthly bills
Some bills, such as electricity and heat, may fluctuate, but there tends to be an average maximum and minimum on even those. Fluctuating rates may be easier to predict by looking at last year’s charges on your online account or print documents. Car insurance, cell phone bills, credit card bills and cable bills tend to stay around the same price. Don’t forget to include taxes.
Decide what charges can be removed or reduced
If you’re already a Netflix subscriber, watch TV shows on Hulu and catch your favorite shows on their respective websites, why are you paying for cable again? If you know of a trusted online faxing company or live near a post office or printing company, why are you paying for a fax number? If you’re always opting to talk by cell phone instead of by home phone, do you really need a house phone at all? Pay attention to the bills that you’re paying but barely using the services for, and then cancel those you no longer want or need.
Guesstimate grocery, gas rates
For bicyclists who don’t drive, car insurance and gas prices are convenient (and eco-friendly) ways to save money. For residents who live in communities with public transportation, maybe choosing that route instead of driving works. But for drivers who can’t get around gas rates, set aside a reasonable amount of money for two weeks worth of gas funds. Same goes for groceries. Review the past three or four grocery bills for your household. Set that money aside as soon as the next paycheck hits your checking account. Be sure to download Smartphone apps, such as Gas Buddy, or use online sites, such as Mapquest, to monitor nearby gas rates and save at the pump.
Budgeting the rest
It’s always a good idea to set aside money for a rainy day, unemployment risk and retirement funds. While many investors recommend having this money set aside each pay period, it’s much easier to do if it’s yanked out before you even see it. Set up a savings account so savings money is automatically deducted. That way you don’t have the opportunity to brainstorm on how you could’ve used it for something else. Same goes for a health savings account (HSA). If your employer pays for health insurance but you know you may need a little more help, have money immediately deducted for an HSA.
Consider odd jobs
Maybe you’re the crafty type and could make a killing on Etsy. Or, maybe you’re pretty good with sales so independent catalog businesses may be your cup of tea. Catering, writing, proofreading or even web design may be something you can do on the side. It’s frustrating to try to stay on budget when your paycheck won’t allow it or spending money is out of the question. If taking a second job on would be exhausting for your current schedule, consider online employment or Craigslist gigs. Maybe a onetime client will keep you around for the long term, which could significantly help stay on budget for the long haul.
Staying on a budget may seem initially frustrating, but after sticking to it on a consistent basis, it’ll become second nature. Then when extra money does surface, that makes that trip you’ve been wanting to take or that outfit you’ve been staring at for weeks seem less like a pipe dream and more like a sure thing.