If you’re like most people, you know it’s remarkably easy to find your bank account sliding closer to triple zeroes at the end of each month. Between bills and daily expenses, the costs add up quickly.
Budgets are so important for this very reason. They allow adults to make sure they have enough money to keep the roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.
It isn’t easy keeping track of your budget, though — especially if you attempt to just remember everything you spend money on. Somewhere along the way, you’re going to lose track of a major purchase.
Even though budgeting can be tedious, it’s necessary — and there are a few inventive ways for you to stay on top of your finances.
Use Cash for Daily Expenses
This may seem like a step backwards, especially since the credit card was invented as a way to conveniently buy things without having to carry around wads of cash.
Believe it or not, the average independent adult can slip into a habit of treating credit cards like Monopoly Money — it’s not real. When you instinctively perceive the money isn’t real, since it’s not in front of you, you begin to lose track of how much you’re letting go of.
Limiting your daily spending to just the cash you have for a week makes you more likely to stick to a budget. It changes everything to see a 20 get reduced to just four 1s after getting lunch with a friend.
This isn’t to say that you should pay for literally everything with cash. Don’t pull $800 from the ATM just so you can pay rent, or pay a bunch of your bills with cash.
Write checks to pay rent and bills, then use cash only to pay for daily expenses: food, gas, bus or train tickets or various hobbies you might have.
The point is that using cash makes your spending more tangible, thus making it more likely for you to pay attention to what you’re buying each day.
Live Off a Set Amount Each Month
You know what all of your expenses cost you each month — correct? That means you also know how much you’ll typically have left over in each paycheck.
Ever thought of putting that spillover straight into savings? Doing so could make you rich.
Before the start of next month, sit down and total up all of your set expenses (rent, car payments, estimated power bill, etc.). From there, calculate how much your common living expenses are (gas, food, household items, etc.).
Add the two together, and you’ve got your budget for the month. For example, if your monthly paychecks total roughly $2,500, and your basic expenses total $1,350, then you’ve got $1,150 left over. Put that into savings, and you’re building up a great buffer for yourself, as well as learning frugality.
You can even toss in an extra $100 per month for emergencies. Just make sure the majority of your leftover money is going into savings.
Using this method, it’s possible for you to live on less than $1,500 a month, and all it takes is a bit of forethought and some math.
Save Your Receipts
Then, make sure that those figures reflect what’s in your checkbook. Yes: that means you also have to actually keep up with your checkbook.
Keeping accurate records in your checkbook is a good practice to have, as it forces you to double-check your daily expenditures. Saving your receipts simply makes this process less painful.
Yes, balancing your checkbook constantly seems tedious, and it is, but with so many moving parts in your finances, it’s a good idea to keep physical records of everywhere your money is moving.
Have you ever written a check and then forgotten about it? Does that monthly Netflix charge of $9.99 come out of nowhere every once in a while?
Try as you might, there’s no way you can simply do all of your financial organization in your head. So keep your receipts.
Use an Online Tool
Remember when you read earlier that you shouldn’t try to just keep track of your finances in your head? Guess what? There’s an app for that — several apps, actually.
Putting the tools for tracking your budget on your phone ups your chances of consistently monitoring your finances. What better constant motivator than the device that you keep on your person literally every second of every day?
These apps will help you plan your monthly budget, send you alerts when any of your account balances are getting low and even track your progress toward various goals, such as retirement funds.
No matter which app you choose, it’s important to take the initiative and download one today. Doing it yourself hasn’t worked so well — why not let technology help you out?
Most of the best ones are free anyway, so what do you have to lose?