Monday, March 7, 2011

5 Ways I Improved My Budget

I'm not Suze Orman, but I AM a stay at home mom who has reinvented my budget to accommodate my lifestyle. Below are some tips that have worked for me. If you have already done these suggestions, more power to you! 1) Do the envelope system. Why? You can visually see when you're overspending (or not) and need to slow down. Also, when all the money stays in one pot, it seems to be used on "unknowns" or unplanned expenses. With envelopes, you have to be accountable for how much you spend on gas, groceries, meals out, etc.Pictured here is my billfold, which I purchased from the Dave Ramsey website last year.

2) Switch your gas and electric bills to the averaging plan. Why? This takes away the guessing each month. I know exactly how much to budget (give or take $10) between my OG&E bill and my natural gas bill each month. All you have to do is call the number on the bill and ask to set this up.

For all you naysayers, it really does average out to be the same as if you pay a lot in the summer and a little in the winter on each respective bill.

3) Work out at home or switch gyms. Why? There are cheaper, better places. My husband just found a gym he can go to for $10 per month - and there are NO contracts (for real). I've been insisting that he work out at home for a looong time now. He out-negotiated me when he said we could carve out just $10 each month for him to get in shape.

As for the membership fee? A whopping $1.00. Ask around or look in the phonebook to compare costs at other gyms. Find ways to skip payments. What? One day last year, I read the fine print on my insurance bill. It said if I signed up for automatically deducted payments, I could skip a month's payment! I called the next day, and I got to keep $189 that month.

Call your auto loan company or insurance provider and ask if there are benefits like this. And keep reading the fine print on everything!

5) Get organized. Why? Ever missed a payment, forgotten to pay a bill on time or couldn't find information you needed because it wasn't all...organized? Being organized helps you avoid late fees, keeps you focused and can boost your credit score by diligently doing things right. Pictured above is my bill book and, below, other tools like my calendar, post-its and calculator. (High tech, huh?)What things have you done to improve your budget?

Thought For the Day: Budgets are sexy. Regardless if you stick to it 100% of the time, doing your best to maintain structure (on paper) in your financial life improves your quality of life.


Monica said...

I LOVE budgeting tips!! Thanks for the info!! Is it a sickness that I also love organizing things with post-its, notebooks, etc., too??

Allison White said...

These are all great ideas Mere! One crazy but helpful thing I do is to plan out all of our meals for the entire month on a calendar. It is helpful to see exactly what you need to buy at the grocery store. This way I don't buy things we don't need etc. I budget $200 a month for food this way. Aldi is where it's at for cheap food!! I love your bill binders. I would love to be that organized!!

You Can't Spell Practical Without Traci said...

You just convinced me to do the utility averaging billing :)