Trouble spots in a budget are common, and they are often easily identified when you begin the budget process or begin tracking expenses item by item.
Typically, you will find a-ha moments after tracking expenses for only two weeks. Much to his chagrin, one gentleman discovered he was spending $75 a month on ice cream. A single lady found she was spending upwards of $400 a month on breakfast drinks and snacks on her way to work.
However, the severe checkbook bleeding can often be found in the groceries, eating out, cell phone, cable bill, or discretionary spending areas of your budget.
Here are some tips, tricks and tools to help stem the tide.
Make a list. It’s the oldest habit-building tool in the belt, and it will work for groceries, eating out (e.g. list a schedule and stick to it), and even projects (Luke 14:28).
Limit your trips to the store. You need a plan because it helps to set boundaries. One of my clients decided they would go to the store only four times each month. If they didn’t get it or forgot it, it would have to wait till next time. Be creative. What areas can you make this work?
Consistency. Go to the grocery store on the same day and/or time each week, plan to eat out only with family on Sunday after church or with friends on Friday night. Be intentional and stick to the plan.
Get a separate debit card. You can pick these up anywhere and put the amount on it you need. For example, If your budget allows you to spend $500 on groceries each month, buy the debit card and add $500. When the debit card is empty, you’re finished shopping for groceries for the month. You can apply the same principle in various areas of your budget, such as groceries, eating out, gas for your car, travel, clothing, entertainment or hobbies.
Pay cash. Yes, Washington, Lincoln and Jackson are still a thing. And when you have to pull out an extra $10 bill to pay for that dessert, it gives you pause. More so than swiping the card.
Use delivery or pick up. This became popular during COVID, and it’s here to stay. It’s not only convenient but it’s guaranteed to save you money and time on groceries and eating out.
Be careful with bulk. Everyone loves Sam’s and Costco. But beware of loading up on things you will never use or have to throw out. Just because you can buy 10 apples at Sam’s doesn’t mean you should, and five apples at your local grocery store may be less expensive in the long run if you have to throw out six of those from Sam’s or Costco.
Here are a few other tips.
- Buy generic brands.
- Shop the perimeter of the store.
- Coupons and sales are still a thing.
- Shop in-season fruits and vegetables. They’re less expensive.
- Know the sales cycles and clearance sections of your store.
- Freeze leftovers.
Saving money in your budget can be easy, but it takes a plan, a little patience and some discipline. You can do this!