10 Secrets of People Who Budget
Ridiculously simple ways to achieve your personal finance goals
Some people stick to a budget like it’s no big deal. Others break out in hives just thinking about a spreadsheet. The good news: It doesn’t have to be so hard.
Here, 10 super-smart secrets of people who have their personal finances on lock.
THEY TROLL THEIR BANK ACCOUNTS LIKE THEY TROLL INSTAGRAM
The worst thing you can do when budgeting is set it and forget it. Adept budgeters check in on their spending from day to day and always know where they stand. Mint is hands down the best app for organizing all of your transactions in real time. But it’s also totally cool to just glance at your online bank accounts to monitor cash flow.
THEY KEEP (OR PHOTOGRAPH) THEIR RECEIPTS
In addition to big-picture spending, you’re going to want to keep tabs on your everyday expenses. (All those gummy bears add up!) Expensify is a free app that makes it easy to photograph, categorize and tag your receipts. At the end of a week--or month, depending onyour ambition--assess your weak spots ($45 on gummies? Yikes!) and adjust your spending accordingly.
THEY CONTINUALLY REASSESS THEIR HABITS
Sometimes successful budgeting is all about the easy wins. Pick a recurring expense--any recurring expense--and cancel it. We’re not talking about the big ones (car payments, credit card bills and such), but the small stuff you no longer really need or use (like cable when all you watch is Netflix, or that gym you haven’t been to in 13 months).
THEY ARTICULATE THEIR GOALS
Jonesing for a new pair of ankle boots or a Paris vacation? Each month, jot down a list of the “extras”--the expenses you’re excited about but can’t afford quite yet--and then hang it in a place where you can see it. Just staring at it every day will help you make better spending decisions and stay on track.
THEY DON’T MAKE A PURCHASE WITHOUT LOOKING FOR A DISCOUNT
Shopping online? Before you click “buy,” it’s always worth Googling around for a discount code. Or head over to a site like Coupons.com and print them out before heading to the store.
THEY OFFER CASH
Small businesses hate getting stuck with that 3 percent credit card fee, so if you offer to pay in cash, chances are they’ll drop the price. For instance, the next time a mechanic tells you it’ll be $875 for that repair, see if he’ll take $850 if you forgo the plastic.
THEY ASK ABOUT BUDGET BILLING
Electricity costs dip in the winter but skyrocket in the summer. Budget billing is an option that averages your payments, so each month you have one steady bill and don’t get hit with anything surprising. Call your utility company to set it up--just be sure to check that there aren’t any sneaky associated fees.
THEY SAY NO TO REWARDS CARDS
Look, we love an Ann Taylor sale as much as the next gal, but those cards telling you you’ll get $50 off your next purchase of $100 or more? They’re simply a marketing ploy designed to get you to spend more money than you planned. Spend according to your actual needs—and put purchases on your actual credit cards.
You can call the cable company to ask about better deals. In fact, a lot of businesses actually expect you to do that. With your budget in mind, figure out a number that will make the service you’re paying for more affordable. Then call, be nice and ask what the company can do to help you out.
THEY ALWAYS (ALWAYS) HAVE A BUFFER
Sh** happens. In a perfect world, you have six months of savings squirreled away. But setting aside as little as $300 a month for small unexpected expenses (prescriptions, contact lenses, a parking ticket) can mean the difference between blowing your budget and staying on track.