BREAKING FREE from debt is a step by step process. It begins with knowing where your money is going each month. Keeping track of your spending is easy if you get yourself organized.
When my husband and I first got married we had expenses through the roof from child support to car payments. After a couple of years and after we moved into our current home, things got tight enough that we needed to take a look at our spending habits.
What I found actually shocked me!
I found that we were spending a great deal of money on eating out every month, so much so that I added it up twice just to be sure I was calculating it correctly.
When you are buying for four people it can add up quickly. By then both of my sons were working and that’s when we started not only restricting how much we eat out, but how much they went with us to eat out.
We started taking date night and letting them fend for themselves sometimes since they had their own money.
It doesn’t hurt teenagers to learn to stand on their own two feet.
Budgeting is the first creative way to lower your debt. Make yourself an attainable allowance each month for eating out and entertainment and try to stay under that amount.
After that we began limiting our spending to such a degree that I started keeping track of everything we spent down to the dollar.
I also made more sacrifices than I normally would have without even telling my husband I was doing it. For a while I was no longer getting pedicures, buying all of those extra personal items like lotions and hair supplies, and I slacked off on the pain treatments I normally got once a week and switched to once a month.
I figured doing my part meant being the first to sacrifice. I still to this day have kept that to myself because whether my husband realizes I did my part or not, I still had the personal satisfaction of knowing that I helped us to save us money. 🙂
Below is a list of creative budgeting ideas I have come up with over the years to keep my spending in check and to make sure that budgeting is covered in all areas. I found these to be extremely handy ideas when I was a single mother as well, when every penny counted.
-Calculate Your Spending
When you are wanting to lower your budget, my first advice is to calculate your spending for things like eating out, entertainment, household spending, and see every where your money goes on a monthly basis.
If possible you need to look at what you have spent over at least a six month period and then average together what you spend per month, since holidays and birthdays, etc can affect what you spend.
What you find might shock you like it did me and if it does, use that as a tool to help you control your spending next month. Put that money that you would normally be spending on eating out and on excessive things toward a bill.
Make small sacrifices on a daily basis. Things you would normally buy, like a coke, or coffee, sacrifice it for the good of your family. Take the money from each thing you sacrifice and drop it in a bucket. At the end of a month take all of the money out of your sacrifice bucket and pay it toward a bill.
No matter how insignificant it may seem, it really does add up over a months time.
If you don’t use cash, make an IOU bucket. Each time you sacrifice something and the money is actually in the bank, go ahead and remove it from your bank balance and drop an IOU in the bucket. At the end of the month add up all of your IOU’s and write one check toward a debt.
-Make a “For Sale” Box
This is a box where you will drop anything you find in your home that could be sold instead of keeping. Non-sentimental things are usually just clutter anyway so getting rid of them will actually help your home to feel and look much more managed and organized.
Why not turn those items into cash and pay that cash toward a debt? Have a yard sale at some point or place those items on Craigslist or trading sites. There are many apps now you can use to sell things as well.
-Make a “Give-away” Box
I like to give things away on a regular basis. I feel that we all reap what we sow in this life so giving is extremely important. If you want to get to where you need to be financially, help someone else who may not have as much as you do.
Even if you give it the Hannah Home or a local charity, at least someone will get some benefit out of it and it will not be just lying around your house collecting dust.
-Buy Groceries from the Outside Edge of the Store Only
How can shopping from the fruit, nut, and meat department save you money? Before I went on the keto diet, I would have told you you’re crazy if you think that buying fruits, vegetables, and meats would save you money because they are the most expensive items in the store.
Now that I have actually done it, I realize that it really does save you money.
The trick is to stop buying all of those things that are not good for you like cereal, grits, canned fruit which is packed full of sugar, mac & cheese which is nothing but carbs, rice, instant potatoes, and the list goes on and on.
Eating organically is more expensive if you are also buying a lot of boxed or canned goods but the trick is to stop buying those things and just get fresh items instead. You will have to buy groceries more often, but you will actually not buy as much each time, which means saving you money.
Not only does it save you money, it saves you carbs. Carbs are the number one culprit for obesity and health issues, so getting rid of those means a healthier happier you.
-Make a Cash Only Envelope
If you’re not cautious, it is extremely easy to swipe a card without taking into account the amount of money you’ve spent. If you have trouble spending too much money from your bank account, make an envelope designated for cash only purchases.
For example, if eating out is your weakness, make that your designated “cash only” purchase. Set a certain budget at the beginning of the month for it and then whenever the money runs out of the envelope, you are done eating out for the month.
Swiping a debit or credit card can be addictive. You don’t feel the urgency to stop spending money the way that you do when cash gets low. Stop using your card for extra spending.
One thing you will learn about me is I am extremely thrifty. No shame here, if I can get it cheaper somewhere else I will do it.
Shopping around is smart budgeting. I shop sometimes for months before making a large purchase because I want to be sure I have found the very best deal possible, and that I am not impulse buying.
-Wait a While
It is smart to wait a while before making a purchase. I have seen impulse buying get people in SO much trouble. Sometimes I wait months before purchasing an item for that reason.
Some things may not be there tomorrow when you go back to buy them so it takes quite a bit of wisdom to know when to purchase something or when to let it go.
If you are looking for investment items, you will want to use discretion before making an impulse purchase. Some things are not worth what you think they might be if you are planning on selling them.
Typically when buying new items, I give it a while to be sure it is something I truly want. Nine times out of ten, I am glad I waited.
-Get Your Mind in Gear
Realize that a budget may mean sacrifices for now, but it means freedom for later. My husband and I sacrificed quite a bit to get things on track with our spending, but the freedom we are experiencing now is well worth it.
I no longer have to work as many hours, and I am hoping my hubby will get that privilege soon as well. We are planning for retirement, traveling, pursuing our dreams, and so many things that we wouldn’t be able to plan for yet.
If you are married, working together as a team is the best way to create a plan that will work for both partners. So, get your heads together and create a budget that is realistic and reachable. Remember- everything starts as a dream, but dreams become reality for those who consistently pursue them.