Personal Finance

3 Ways to Make Budgeting Easier

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Would you like to save more money, but the thought of tracking your expenses makes your head spin? You’re not alone! If you’re looking for a more painless way to save money, one option is to reduce your spending by better understanding your habits and focusing on troublesome areas. You won’t need to enter every transaction into a computer program, but there is some work involved.

Here are three ways to make budgeting easier.

1. Get to Know Your Spending Habits

The first step toward saving more is gaining an understanding of your current spending habits. Review credit card statements and banking records for the past few months to identify your monthly expenses. You may need to track cash expenditures for about a month to better understand where you are spending cash. Once you have an accurate picture of your spending habits, identify those areas in which you consistently overspend. This may be obvious without running any numbers, but it’s always wise to annually review your spending habits. Some common trouble spots include spending too much on eating out, buying clothes, electronics and tools, and overspending on gifts for family members.

2. Find Opportunities to Save

Once you have identified some key areas where you tend to overspend, select the category that provides the greatest saving opportunity. Proactively work to save money in this area rather than tediously tracking every penny you spend. For example, you may spend too much eating at restaurants. Think about some creative and painless ways to save money in this area. Offer to host happy hour at your house, eat at the bar rather than in the main dining room of a nice restaurant, have a picnic, share a meal, prepare meals ahead of time at home, eat a snack before going out, and take advantage of weekly specials or happy hour deals. Get your friends involved, they probably need to save some money in this area as well.

3. Make a Game of It

Another area where many overspend is buying clothes. Have fun saving money; make a game out of it. If you love to shop, challenge yourself to find the absolute best deals available. Some ideas for saving money on clothes include shopping at discount stores, thrift shops or consignment stores. You can find incredible designer clothes in upscale consignment stores at a fraction of their original price. Plan ahead to buy new clothes that complement your current wardrobe. Take care of your clothes, and change out of good clothes once you get home to extend their life. Avoid buying trendy clothes that may be out of style next season. Consider following trends with less expensive accessories and load your base wardrobe with more classic styles. Don’t pay full price for clothing – watch for online deals and end-of-the-season sales.

Regardless of your problem areas, continue working to decrease spending in the area you have targeted. Once you reach your savings goal, do something special to reward yourself. Then select another area where there is opportunity to save money. Continue this process until you have worked through all the areas where you think there are opportunities to save. Over time, you should be able to significantly reduce your expenses by making lasting changes to your spending habits.

Image: iStock

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