One of my New Year’s resolutions (besides losing the baby weight!) was to get our budget back and track and save more money! No matter how hard I try, by December of each year, my budget has gotten a little messy. It’s partially from the chaos of the holidays, but mainly from me being lazy and not wanting to do it when I could be spending time with family. And the fact that we normally take a trip to visit out of state family this time of year doesn’t help!
So if you, like I do, need to get your budget on track and save some extra money this year, here’s how to do it.
1. Stop paying late fees. As I mentioned in my last post, one of the biggest money wasters is having to pay late fees! Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees and other penalty charges. Using Manilla.com or the Manilla mobile apps is a great place to start: With its automatic email and text bill pay reminders, Manilla can help you keep track of your bills and due dates so you never make a late payment. Even if you are spending as little as $10 in late fees, you could still save up to $120 a year! What could you do with any extra $120?
2. Adjust your grocery budget. The next budget buster is groceries. This is the most flexible part of your budget, so it’s where you can either save the most money or spend the most money. To save as much as possible, use coupons and shop sales. If you cut just $10 off your grocery budget a week, you will save $40 a month or $480 a year.
3. Start eating at home. If you eat more at home and spend less eating out, you will save a bunch of money. We slacked one month on cooking, back when I was pregnant and just wasn’t feeling up to cooking. So we would order pizza and other takeout, and when I sat down the end of the month to do my budget, I saw we had spent more than $600 in eating out — $500 over our usual dining-out budget! Now I think about that anytime I think about ordering takeout instead of cooking. My best advice is to stock up on freezer meals. Make a double batch of taco meat and freeze one for a day when you don’t feel like cooking something new. Have slow-cooker meals in bags and ready in the freezer for days you won’t be in but 15 minutes before dinnertime. Even just cutting out one fast food meal a month at about $25 for a family of four can save you $300 a year.
4. Review your budget. This next step is not so fun. During the beginning of each year, you should really sit down and look over last year’s budget so you can make the right adjustments for this year. Where do you need to budget more money? Are there any changes to your income you need to account for and set up a new normal budget for the year to come? Look over your grocery spending — were you over or under you budget? If you were over, you need to cut spending or increase your budget. If you increase one budget, you will have to take that money from another budget. Did you get another source of income? Make sure it’s included. Same if your income decreased. Start budgeting now for holidays and birthdays. Where else can you cut expenses? Do you really need all those movie channels? Do you spend too much on clothes or other luxury items? This is the time to prune your budget.
If you make the right cuts and get on track now, it will save you headache later down the road this year. And trust me — you’ll be happier for it! Start budgeting now >