Budget like a pro: 8 ways to regain control of your finances

If budgeting is the last thing you feel like doing, then let this be the first thing you read today.

We get it. The thought of going through hundreds of transactions to figure out how much you spend (and on what) can feel like an enormous task, one that is too overwhelming and stressful to even think about. Plus life is busy, and there’s never enough time in the day. Besides, if you got this far without a budget, it won’t hurt to keep on winging it. Right?

Well…

When it comes to the future of your finances, leading a budget-less life will probably do more harm than good. It doesn’t matter if you’re the type of person that likes to plan for retirement, or whether your motto is to live one day at a time. Creating a budget is your key to meeting your financial goals — whether a nest egg for retirement, a travel fund, or simply being able to pay your expenses each month.

It also doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, how financially savvy or comfortable you happen to be, or whether or not you have a nice chunk of money put away for a rainy day. Every single one of us, at every stage of life, would benefit from creating (and sticking to) a budget.

Find the right budget for you

The good news is —  unless you love spreadsheets — it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. One of the simplest ways to budget doesn’t require a whole lot of advance planning.

It’s called the Cash Only Budget, and all you need to do is decide how much you want to spend versus save each month. Then, withdraw/transfer the sum you plan to spend on day one and let your dwindling wad of cash determine if you want to splurge on that vintage wine… or stick to your budget.

Of course, the term “cash” doesn’t have to mean paper money in today’s digital world. You can easily accomplish the same thing by using a dedicated bank account to hold your “cash” for the month.  

For the spreadsheet lovers (we know you’re out there), the Zero-Sum Budget may be most appropriate. You get to meticulously track every little detail, and then feel ridiculously accomplished when you meet all your budgeting goals at the end of the month.

And for everyone in between, there are still more options. You may want to take this quiz to determine your budgeting style. You’re much more likely to succeed if your budget and your personality aren’t at odds.

Why money matters

Feeling good about your finances positively affects your mental health. Conversely, any financial stress you are experiencing can do the exact opposite. And no, we’re not saying the more money you have, the happier you are.

Achieving a sense of financial wellness comes down to how you are managing your money and whether or not you have a sense of control over your finances. And if you don’t have a budget in place, you aren’t really in control now are you?

Five tips for saving this fall

Fall can be a tough time of year to save. (Pumpkin-spiced latte, anyone?) You may also be recovering after a summer of splurging. Not to fear, there are ways to get back on track. All you need to do is follow these 8 tips to stay on budget, and start next year off on the right foot.

1. Don’t buy new

If the crisp autumn air beckons you to get a lovely new fall sweater (or five), try buying second hand this year. You might be surprised at the vintage treasures that await you inside your local thrift shop. And, there are usually lots of great finds in online buy and sell groups too. (Try searching on Facebook to see if there are any groups that are local to your area.)

2. Fall in love with fall decluttering

Forget spring cleaning, try fall decluttering instead. Yet another reason to join a local buy and sell group. It’s a really easy way to tidy up your home and make some extra cash while you’re at it.

3. Turn off your AC

Commit to turning your AC off now that we’re out of the hottest summer months. Open some windows and let the cool breeze do the job for free.

4. Try a DIY costume this Halloween

If you love Halloween more than most kids, you’re more likely to wow the crowd if you make it yourself. (And no, you don’t have to learn to sew.) Decide on your costume early and then keep your eye out for pieces you can collect leading up to the big day.

5. Share the love and the cost

From Halloween to all those holiday parties, there are a whole lot of reasons to play host over the next few months. Keeping costs low is as simple as co-hosting with friends or planning a potluck.

6. Avoid shopping to cure the blues

Remind yourself that a spending spree will only make you feel good temporarily. And when you see your credit card bill at the end of the month, you’ll feel even worse. There are other ways to improve your mood — and they don’t involve coming home with bags of brand name items.

Ready to start budgeting like a pro? Just follow the tips above, and you’ll be saving in no time!

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