Jul 1, 2009

Budgeting

by Ellen Wilson

Sometimes it's okay to cut corners.

We'd all like to get a little more for our money and put some aside for a rainy day. The key to successful budgeting is to make your goals realistic and simple. Don't expect your budget to be immediately effective. It will take planning and time to get into the habit of keeping track of where every penny goes.

Spend a few weeks gathering information on your spending habits. Save receipts and write down every time you swipe your card or write a check. From these, look at your actual expenses and divide them into categories. Once you have your money divided into categories such as rent, food, clothing, fun, school, etc., look at your spending patterns. Are you spending an exorbitant amount of money on food because of small daily snacks or meals? Fast food may seem cheap but eating it daily adds up quickly. For your food budget, try withdrawing the amount of money you'd like to spend per month in cash and only have that much in your wallet. If you just really have a hard time resisting your food cravings, an easy way to budget is the EZ Dining Meal Plan because you have a set amount of money each month. Also, you can save money on many of your food purchases across campus.

If you are spending too much on clothing or fun, take some time to think about what brings you the most satisfaction. If you feel like you'd die from not shopping, then don't leave shopping out of your budget. Just set a small amount aside for some bargain shopping because if you completely constrict yourself, you'll probably explode and go hog-wild on one huge shopping spree. A budget serves to promote good spending habits, so remember to make it realistic to your needs.

Once you have assessed your actual expenses, make a budget sheet that lists how much you'd like to spend in each category. You will need to limit your spending in a few areas because in addition to your other categories, there needs to be one for saving. Even if it's just a few dollars a month, get in the habit of saving.

If all this seems like a lot of work to you, there are some good online tools that use your online banking information to categorize your spending for you. Check out Mint or Quicken Online.
For more personalized advice, think of a few people you know who you admire for their diligence with regards to finance. Talk to them and ask for how they plan their finances and what to expect in the future.

Now, it wouldn't be fair to tell you to cut back your spending without giving you some easy money saving tips.  Just remember to take into account your goals every time you make a purchase and be aware of the worth of your spending.

Easy Money Saving Tips
  • Save on your electricity bill by unplugging your cell phone charger. Also unplug DVD players and TVS (or else plug them into a power strip you can switch off). Unplug or turn off your computer when it's not in use. Or switch to the power-saving sleep mode. All of these appliances suck up energy even when they are not in use.

  • Save on the water bill by turning off the water when you brush your teeth. Also, make sure you run full loads in the dishwasher. You can also save energy by selecting "air-drying" on your dishwasher.

  • When doing laundry, do several loads at once so you can capture the residual heat in the dryer.

  • Go to the library to check out books and movies & TV shows instead of purchasing or renting them. Or even better, borrow from friends. Just make sure you return them promptly.

  • Utilize bargain stores like DI or the dollar store for apartment purchases. You can find great plates, glasses or other cooking and decorating supplies for much lower prices.

  • Search online for coupons. There are plenty of sites that offer coupons for groceries or clothing. Because coupons sometimes justify needless purchases (because they are cheaper), try to only get coupons for the things you need.

  • Workout at home instead of paying for the gym or utilize BYU's gym, if able.

  • Cut down on the driving. Spend less on gas by walking to campus or to work. If you have a bicycle, use it.



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