What’s inside this article: Easy to implement budgeting tips that will allow you to plan your monthly budget, meet your savings goals, and still have money left over to enjoy yourself now. Includes a printable budget tracker.
So, I know Dave Ramsey is considered a renowned financial expert. And, I know many households look to him for advice when it comes to budgeting tips. However, have you actually read any of his books?
Sure, his methods help you save money … but you have to sacrifice practically everything in the process.
I can’t lie… I like to indulge a bit. I don’t want to have a lifestyle where I save cash for 5 years before I buy the car I want, or where I use an old cell phone until it breaks. It’s just not for me.
It’s nice to be able to trade my car in for a new model every few years, even if that means I have a biweekly car payment.
I like to upgrade to the newest Samsung phone every 2 years, even if that means my phone bill is $40/month more.
So what’s important to me? Budgeting without sacrificing and being sure not to overspend and put myself in debt.
Budgeting Without Sacrificing
I have a pretty good system in place for budgeting that doesn’t require sacrificing any of those things.
You don’t need to deprive yourself of everything you enjoy in order to save and buy it outright later.
The key is you need to put aside your savings goal and live within your means with what’s leftover.
I’m going to break down how I budget each month. Then you can download my printable monthly budget form at the end.
Budgeting for Monthly Savings
First of all, you need to set a savings goal every month and you need to put that amount into your savings account no matter what.
If you take away nothing else from these budgeting tips – take away this.
Before you pay any bills, put your savings goal away. I don’t care if it’s only $10 or if it’s $1000. You need to save something.
So near the beginning of the month, I fill in on the budget sheet a savings goal, my YTD saving, and a bigger savings goal.
I also fill in my estimated monthly income, just a rounded number based on what I know I usually make each month.
As soon as I get my first paycheck of the month, I immediately transfer my savings amount into a high-interest account.
The entire rest of my budget is based on my expected income minus my savings goal.
I have switched my mindset so it’s like that money doesn’t even come into the picture when I budget my monthly expenses.
Budgeting for Monthly Expenses
I go down the list of monthly expenses and fill in the budgeted amount for each expense/category. Again, I’m rounding up to a whole number, some things never change, some expenses vary by month.
The leisure/recreation budget is at the very bottom of the list. It’s last because it’s my responsibility to pay for everything else. My recreation funds are for things that I want but don’t need.
I use that fund for eating out, make-up, new clothes, going to the movies, etc. So if I’m having a slow month, that recreational amount is the first part of the budget to get cut.
That means that I do not take away from my savings when money is tight. I find other ways to cut back my budget (unless it was an emergency).
Fill In The Actual Amounts
As income comes in, and bills arrive, I fill in the actual amounts for each of these categories.
For things like gas and groceries, I look over my bank account at the end of the month and record the total amount spent on those items.
When everything is filled in, I start calculating the totals.
So at the end of the month I fill in the total monthly amount in (that’s income), and the total monthly amount out (the expenses), and the difference.
So you can see that the difference is in addition to what you’ve saved.
What To Do With The Monthly Difference
What you do with the difference at the end of the month is really up to you but there are a few different options to consider.
Personally, I tend to split up any extra amount. I’ll save some to use how I want and put the rest either into savings or onto any debts I have.
Budgeting Tips To Keep You From Over Spending
Writing a monthly budget down on a sheet of paper and actually sticking to it are two totally different things.
If you struggle to actually follow your budget, these tips make help.
1. Keep your recreational fund in cash
If you struggle to stay within your limits for that recreational fund, try taking out cash each month. Then anything you want but don’t need, buy it in cash.
This would be things like your morning coffee, fast food, a manicure, going to the movie theatre, or anything else that you’ve decided is part of that fund. Get yourself into the mindset that once that cash is gone, it’s gone.
So, if you run out of cash on the 25th of the month, that just means you’ll be brewing your coffee at home for the rest of the month.
2. Have two seperate savings accounts
I have a checking and a savings account at one bank, and a high interest savings at another bank. Basically, I set aside rent, and car insurance in the savings attached to my checking and leave it there for the end of the month.
Then, I transfer my monthly savings goal over to the other savings account I have with another bank and forget about it.
This keeps savings that are for different purposes separated so they don ‘t get misused.
3. Negotiate and lower your bills
Don’t cut back or eliminate services you love just so you can stay within your budget. But do negotiate your bills – it’s easier than you think to get your rates lowered.
This works for cell phones, internet, cable, etc.
4. Order your groceries online
Online grocery orders are probably the best thing that has ever happened. It makes it so easy to stick to your grocery budget. You can see your total in your cart at all times so you know exactly how much you’re spending.
When you’re actually in the store you’re more likely to buy things you don’t need and you don’t know your cart total until the cashier has scanned all your items at the checkout.
Grocery stores have merchandisers that layout their aisles specifically to make you spend more money. Online, you can stick to your grocery list and also check for the best deal. You may get a better price on an item because that brand hides on the bottom shelf at the grocery store where you would have missed it.
You can also make adjustments to your cart before checking out if you are exceeding your budget. And most sites let you enter coupons at the checkout.
5. Turn your thermostat down
Depending on where you live, turning the thermostat down by one degree can save you 1% – 3% on heating costs for the year. A small adjustment of 1 or 2 degrees can help you spend less money but not sacrifice your comfort.
Lowering our thermostat, along with implementing other tips on how to reduce your electric bill actually helped us reduce our electricity usage over the last 12 months by an average of 23% compared to how much electricity we used during the 12 months prior to that. That’s a difference of $667 per year.