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How to stay on a strict budget and be happy at the same time

We put ourselves on a budget for a reason, though it can sometimes feel like being on a strict diet. Maybe we are on a budget because we need new tires for our car, or a pet became ill and we have to face the expensive veterinarian bill, or we are going through a difficult divorce. Unexpected events that leave us in a financial panic pop up at the most inconvenient times, and they seem to happen one after another. Planning ahead for a vacation or special purchase is wise, but if we have to cut out everything fun, it makes us wonder what we are working for. What are some ways that will help with budgeting so that we can meet our goals while still enjoying ourselves?


Do

Do establish a play day

Pick one day out of the week or out of the month (depending on how strict your budgeting plans are) to indulge in something that you normally wouldn’t. For example, institute Sundays as your day to eat out and enjoy whatever it is that you want from the menu. Go to breakfast if dinner is too pricey. Or maybe you are a movie lover, but you can’t afford to take the entire family out to the movies. A solution for this would be to select one day from the month to treat the family or find a movie theater that shows interesting movies from the past at reasonable prices. The key is not to live in total deprivation or you might “binge” and break your budget.

Do track your expenses

You’ve heard it before and it is not an exciting task, but it is enlightening. It can be amazing to see where your spare dollars disappear to. Knowledge is power and once you know, you might find it is much easier to control where it goes. Letting $20’s slip out of your wallet unaccounted for can bust your budget in a hurry!

Do differentiate between your needs and your wants

Start from ground zero. It’s easy to end up with the Cadillac of cable and internet packages but are you watching much of those 1,000 channels? Maybe Hulu and Netflix can meet your needs at a much better monthly price. Can you downsize your car or make the old one last another year or two? Repairs and lower insurance are often cheaper than starting new and that is money in your pocket. It is perfectly normal to have wants; it gives us something to work toward. But it is important that we put our needs before our wants. You can create lists or vision boards of everything that you need for the month, year and next five years. It is really up to you how far ahead you want to plan, but at least creating a visual that you can reference to keep your financial goals in order.

Do think of new ways to make money

We often limit our thinking to exactly what is coming in at the moment. It can be a good exercise to brainstorm other ways to make money. Can you put some of your unused, saleable items on eBay? How about getting a roommate? Do you have a hobby that could turn into an income source? (Check out all of the people on Etsy.com who are doing just that.) Barter a service that you are skilled in like bookkeeping to someone who has a service you need.

Do check your bills and count your change

Last month, a monthly charge for a service my bank claimed I asked for was on my bill. We noticed and asked for it to be removed. No problem. If we weren’t checking, $120 per year could have been wasted. I ordered “free” business cards and in the fine print agreed to a $14.95 charge per month. I ended it, but again, not checking is expensive. Restaurant bills are frequently wrong and grocery clerks sometimes scan something twice. You wouldn't throw $5 in the garbage, so take a moment to check on the people who could be wasting your money. It could add up to hundreds or more each year.


Don't

Do not be clueless with credit cards

Take the time to educate yourself on how credit works and its importance because having good credit is essential for some of life’s most rewarding purchases. For example, maybe one of your goals might be to get a new car or buy a home. The worst move you could make would be to make late payments on a credit card. Building your credit score back up can be extremely difficult and will put you at risk of not receiving a loan or getting it at a very high percentage rate. Make sure you have the money saved up prior to using your credit card so the full payment can be made on time.

Do not borrow money

Borrowing money from a fanatical institution such as, loan centers could dig you an even deeper hole. Cash loans will always opt you into a higher interest rate. If worse comes to worse, you might have a family member or friend to turn. But even then, valuable relationships can be ruined when money is involved.

Do not be uninvolved

If you are in a marriage or partnership with someone, make sure that you both are involved with all financial decisions. Financial responsibility should not solely rest on one person in a relationship. Also, if there comes a time where you are ending a relationship (i.e. divorce), knowing how much money you have and where it is being spent can be vital.

Do not budge

It is easy to justify buying something that you want, but We have established that you should differentiate between the things that you need and the things that you want, and it is critical that you don’t stray from this. You don’t want to kick yourself later for spending your cell phone bill money on an impulse buy.

Do not expect it be easy

Hard times happen. Setbacks and mistakes happen too. Try to keep from getting discouraged. Life is a series of ups and downs and we can restart our goals any time. Stay strong and have that visual of your needs handy to keep your goals in mind everyday.


Summary
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We all have one reason for budgeting in common, and that is to reach our goals, whatever they may be. Expecting the unexpected while still trying to save for life’s planned events can be quite the task. Implementing good budgeting habits can significantly help relieve some of our financial burdens.


More expert advice about Budgeting

Photo Credits: Maridav/bigstock.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Kelly WalshOwner

Kelly Walsh, M.Ed, ACC is the president of 1 Smart Life. Over the past 18 years, Kelly has successfully coached business leaders and people from all walks of life to reach their highest potential. With a Master’s in counseling, professional coac...

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