The previous post in the ‘Keep it Simple’ Series was all about meal planning (pop over and get our new free printable meal plans and shopping list!) and the reason I started meal planning way back when was to save money, but it’s not the only way to save money, so this post is all about simple tips for sticking to a budget.
With a single wage and a growing family, meal planning really helped me stick to our budget in the early days, and over the years I’ve learned a few other ways to make sure I am not spending more than we have, but budgeting is still something I struggle with.
Numbers, and maths, and budgets, are really not my thing, so I need it to be as simple, as straightforward and as tangible as possible if I am going to stick to a budget and make it work.
The tips I’m sharing today are perhaps not the best budgeting habits, and I know you could go a lot more in depth with spread sheets and software, but these are simple tips. Some of them I have tried for many years and swear by, some of them I am just starting out with, but all of them are easy, doable, things that even those of us who are number-challenged can do!
Simple Tips for Sticking to a Budget
I’ve learned the hard way that living with a budget is about having good habits. It’s not always easy to make those changes but if you can make the changes small and simple you’ll have a lot more success.
- Track your income and expenses so you can see what you are spending on and where you can make changes, then you can work out a budget that will work for you.
- Set up an easy place to store receipts you need to keep for tax purposes, for returns, and warranties, or to track your income – I’m trying the ‘big jar’ method, one for tax reciepts and one for any others I need to keep, then I go through them at the end of each month (or two… or six).
- Use the cash envelope system – we only do this for groceries but I find it so helpful to be able to see the actual amount of money I have left for the month – I know if there is only $50 left for the next two weeks I better start getting creative with what we have!
- Set aside a fixed amount each month to pay your household bills and pay them on time – often you get a discount for paying on time and by their preferred method too.
I’ve been using a really basic system to keep an eye on what we are spending and I’ve made up a free printable to monthly budget sheet so you can start simple too.
This free printable is an A4 sized pdf file, if you are printing on US ‘letter sized’ paper be sure to select ‘fit’ or ‘shrink to fit’ from your printer options.
All Picklebums free printables are for personal use only, you may not sell, share, or link directly to these files.
Once we knew how much money we had to spend and what we needed to spend it on, we then had to figure out if and where we could save some money.
It’s been a lot of trial and error for me over the years to work out what money saving ideas we can manage long term, and which ones will actually save us money.
- Meal plan and shop monthly – I was skeptical about whether this would actually save us money but it does, and a lot.
- Limit the amount of times you go to the shops – if you are not there you can’t spend money!
- Eat more vegetarian meals, veggies are much cheaper than meat. Dried beans and lentils are super cheap and very versatile.
- Cook from scratch – for example making your own taco seasoning costs much less than buying it and is easy, making your own tortillas is harder but saves lots.
- Stretch minced beef by adding cooked red lentils or pureed veggies – carrots onion and cauliflower are good options and healthy too.
- Collect the prices of items you buy regularly (there must be an app for that but I just use a note on my phone) so you can easily check if something ‘on sale’ is really a good deal.
- If it is a good deal buy extra if you can afford it and store it.
- Buy in bulk if you can – even things like movie tickets can be cheaper when you buy a whole bunch, but make sure it really is a good deal and you have a place to store things!
- Have a buy nothing extra month, or three. Set a period of time when you will only buy the essentials, nothing else. Not only does it mean you spend less but you waste less time wandering around the shops looking for that perfect item you only think you need.
- Give yourself a cooling off period before you buy expensive items – go home and think about it for a day or two and avoid impulse buying regrets.
- Don’t buy commercial cleaning products – almost everything can be cleaned with vinegar, baking soda and dish detergent!
- Price up making other DIY products like laundry powder and body products. Often spending a little time DIYing can save you money, but not always!
- Hand me downs are awesome – make a chain with some friends and hand things round, or even just store clothes to share with younger siblings.
- Buy secondhand. My kids have never had a brand new pair of tap shoes, but no one would ever know I buy them off ebay for 1/3 the price!
- Sell things you no longer need – those secondhand tap shoes go right back on ebay when we’ve grown out of them and usually end up costing me nothing when we’re done.
- Join your local ‘Buy Swap Sell’ group for great, local, options for second hand buying and selling.
- Get your kids on board… they might even have some ideas for saving money you haven’t thought of!
- Think about what is really important. Having less ‘stuff’ will make it easier to keep your house clean and you’ll save money too!
These are the best, simple, doable, tips I know for sticking to a budget.
I’d love to hear how you manage your money.
Do you have any money saving tips to add to this list, or any fabulous tools that help you stick to a budget?
What would you add to this list of tips for sticking to a budget?
If you are looking for more simple cleaning and organising ideas you can check out the Keep It Simple series where we share our best simple tips for everything from laundry, cleaning, meals, kids and parenting.
And check out my ‘Clean and Organise Everything’ board on pinterest too.