Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Creating a budget and some more money saving tips

It's necessary to have goals, dreams and wants in life. But achieving these things without planning can lead down a long rd. of struggles. We have all we need at our fingertips, we just need to apply the concepts.

One of the most important things to do for your finances is to budget. It is essential for understanding where your money is going. I mentioned in my previous posts about an expense journal. I find it is helpful to also keep a notebook in my purse to jot down expenses while I'm out to transfer to a larger notebook. I use notebooks because they are very inexpensive (think school time sales, 19 cents or less :0). It also works for me because it helps me be more accountable with what I am spending. To me, it's more hands on then a computer program so I feel more engaged in planning properly, instead of a computer that calculates it all automatically. Which is nice, but it's a matter of preference and what will work for you and your family.
Some great programs are Quicken and Microsoft money if you prefer to use the computer.

If you don't know where your money is going it's impossible to plan a decent budget and expect it to work.
The journal is a great way to help you keep on track. That way you will be less likely to overspend. Equally important is to follow the budget! :-)

Start with your actual bring home pay each month. List monthly bills, and it's also a good idea to keep a journal of your creditors, who you owe money to. I have a separate journal for the amounts owed, as well as the account numbers, passwords, addresses, phone numbers, etc. It takes a little time to get together, but is so worth it to have everything layed out in front of you.

The next part to consider when planning a budget is your wants vs. your needs. This can be challenging for all of us from time to time, but we need to stay focused on our goals. I find it helpful to attach photos of things important to me, such as my home and how I don't want to jeopardize it by making unwise choices.
Another great way to keep track of spending is by using only cash. Once it's gone, it's gone. Sounds simple, yet when using bank or credit cards you don't see the physical money...I feel making us less aware of what we spend, or if we go over we feel it's o.k., or just this one time. But it's not, and a budget needs to be followed.

When planning your budget, don't plan it counting on windfalls, such as tax returns. Your budget should be built around your current earnings.

Do your best to try to figure out ways to cut back. Is cable t.v. a necessity? Can you cut back on beauty services? (haircuts, manicures, etc) Better yet cut your own children's hair and even your spouses. Do you need that cell phone plan or can you buy a cheaper phone and pay as you go with minutes? How often is eating out showing up in your expenses? How much could you get in groceries for the same amount? How many meals could you get from that choice? Little things like this really help to see the bigger picture.
     Using electronic banking is also a great way to track your expenses and keep record of where your money is going. Keep room in that budget for saving! When your income does increase, save more, don't live above your means!

Some more ways to save:

* If you are a smoker....quit! Improve your health and help your budget :-)
* Use only your bank's ATM machines and avoid paying fees to others
*Eliminate magazine subscriptions and enjoy issues at your local library
* Build an emergency fund for the unexpected
* Have a meatless meal at least once a week, and it helps to cut down your grocery bills.
* If you currently have credit card debt, transfer the balances, or call to see if your current lender will lower the interest rate.
* If possible carpool to and from work, or to activities and events.
* Cook large amounts of meals on the weekend to freeze and save for the week.
* Be sure to utilize leftovers! Many can be made into other meals.
* Instead of buying individually packaged foods (puddings, applesauce's, yogurts) but a large container a divide into plastic or glass storage containers you have on hand. Also environmentally friendly.
* Use a dryer rack, or hang clothes on the line (weather permitting) will really cut your costs.
* Use rechargeable batteries for your games and toys, etc.
* Use cloth napkins and towels. Avoid the $$ on paper and the waste!

As you can see I like my posts to have pictures :-) It also makes me smile while writing this today to think of Spring! These are pictures from last Spring and Summer. Some taken at Longwood gardens. Another great way to save is to buy the year long family memberships to places such as these and enjoy as often as you like instead of paying so much for a one- time entrance. Museums are another great place you can benefit from by doing this.
They also offer free days, check your local museums for details. :-)

I will be working on more posts, a more detailed one for groceries and meal planning. Also planning on one for teaching your children how to save and the value of money. Because unfortunately it doesn't grow on trees..... LOL.

Thanks for stopping by today!



Jenny said...

Oh I love all those spring pictures. So pretty. Thanks for sharing those great tips. I think everyone agrees that we can all cut back!

Susan said...

Excellent advice. Great pics! The pink hydrangea pic is my favorite!

Kerri said...

Great tips Jill! I would not have been able to be a stay at home mom these last 8 years without having a budget. My husband and I sit down together every two weeks and draw up our plan and create a budget. I think it helps a lot if couples are on the same page.
We haven't been to Longwood Gardens in probably 7 years...hopefully we can get there this summer!

Heather's Blog-o-rama said...

Jill, These are fabulous tips. i'm going to grab my composition notebook and take notes ;) :) :) Yes, it's important to set a budget..and I LOVED that someone else knows about budgeting according to what you currently have and not a potential windfall. I've seen people do that, and it goes sour.
Another super easy savings tip is to place the change from all those cash purchases into a jar/piggy bank. I'm doing that with my spare change. My own personal challenge is to save enough for a trip to Mackinac Island someday, to prove the point that even small change has value :) :)
The photos from Longwood Gardens are fabulous. It looks like my kind of place. I'm glad you have a year-long pass becase you can visit lots and take lots of pics :) :) The photo of your daughter with those bright pink hydrangeas are really sweet :) Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

Life In a Little House said...

Wow I can't believe that flower is bigger than Kathleen tehehehe I always knew she was a little fairy ~She is just to cute!! great post I look forward to reading more of these. I have a very hard time with my grocery budget. I am always going over and not very good with meal planning. Thanks for sharing all these tips ~Love Heather

Mark said...

All great ideas! I don't cook but maybe I should try my hand at one large dish per week that can last a few days, even for lunches. I don't mind leftovers at all.
Your Friend, m.

A Primitive Homestead said...

Great advise. I loved seeing all the beautiful flowers. I am so ready for spring. Time to divide some of my flowers to fill other areas of the flower beds. Blessings!

Carmen said...

These are great tips, Jill. We budget around here. But, I tell ya the grocery budget needs to get raised! It seems like the prices are jumping up a good bit around here.

The flowers are so lovely! I wish Spring would come. Well, minus the allergy season!

Mama Hen said...

This a great post again! I think the notebook is a great idea and you are right about being more accountable than using a computer program. I think we can all save in mnay areas. These are great tips Jill. Have a great night!

Mama Hen

Tara said...

Su[er great ideas. I keep a notebook of expenses too. Writing it down makes me spend less! Thanks for sharing, tara

Flying Giggles and Lollipops said...

Those are all some fabulous tips. We do most of them already and that is exactly how I am able to stay at home with the girlies!

Liz said...

Great tips! We started watching our budget a couple months ago and it was really interesting to see where all our money was going and what areas we could cut costs in. Thanks for all the ideas!