Did you know that in 2016 the average American’s credit card debt rose to $8,377? That’s a big number, and it doesn’t even account for lines of credit and other forms of debt! Judging by those numbers, I’m guessing a lot of Americans are having a hard time sticking to a budget.
If you’re one of those people who have trouble controlling spending and you’ve been wondering how to stick to your budget, this post is for you!
The goals listed in this article are designed to help you take control of your finances little by little. Mastering the art of budgeting takes time, but follow along with these bite-sized goals, and you’ll be headed in the right direction.
And don’t worry, you won’t be alone. I’m going to be working on these goals with you each month and letting you know about my successes and failures. I won’t be perfect, but I’m hoping to see a difference in my ability to stay on-budget.
For September, I’m going to be focusing on three goals: weekly accounting, meal planning, and using the app Checkout 51.
Read on below to get the specifics, and check back in at the beginning of October to see how I did!
Weekly accounting is a really important part of budgeting. I guess there might be some people out there who can keep track of a budget without this step…somehow…but not me. If you want to stick to a budget, you HAVE to track everything.
Here’s how it works:
- I pick a day (Sunday for me) and a general time (after my kid goes to bed) when I’ll enter all my expenses into my budget spreadsheet.
- I open up my online banking and go to the transactions page for my checking account. I also get out any receipts I have saved (it’s a good idea to save receipts because sometimes the online transactions aren’t easy to figure out).
- I plug all my spending into my budget spreadsheet, see how much money I’ve spent so far and see how much I have left to spend for the rest of the month. Then my husband and I go over everything (it’s good to have someone around who’ll keep me accountable if I overspend a lot).
Doing a weekly accounting of my spending is the ONLY way I am ever able to stick to a budget. Trust me. I’ve tried and failed enough to know. So get your act together and start tracking expenses with me! Next month I’ll let you know how I did.
The next goal for September is meal planning. Planning out meals is essential for me when I want to stay on a food budget (This is also something I’ve figured out through many, many failures haha)
If I don’t meal plan, I go the store and buy pints of ice-cream ($$$ Haagen Dazs $$$) and chocolate bars four times a week and go waaaaay over my grocery budget…and my ideal daily calories.
While meal planning is simple it can also be time-consuming. Luckily, once you have a system, planning will get easier every week.
This is what menu planning looks like for me:
- Write out breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner ideas in a list.
- Find recipes for each meal I want to use, and make a note of where I can find the recipe again.
- Write the above meals in a calender, making sure I have filled in 3 meals for each day of the week (you can also plan lunches for family members who eat away from home).
- After I know the meals I’m making all week, I write down the ingredients required for each meal and put those ingredients on my shopping list.
And voila! I usually order all the ingredients through an online shopping service because that keeps me from buying ten chocolate bars on the way out of the store, AND it’s so easy to pick up pre-ordered groceries with my toddler.
Having meals planned also makes things way easier when I come to the end of the day. I don’t have to sit around thinking, “what will I make for supper?”
The last goal for September is to make some extra cash back on my shopping by using Checkout 51. All. The. Time.
Checkout 51 is an app/website that gives you money back on things you buy–mostly groceries and household products.
I’ve looked at it a bit in the past, but never really given it a full out try. I’d really like to see how much I can actually earn in a month if I use it all the time.
Here’s how to do it so you can try too:
- Download the checkout 51 app on your phone (I think you can also just use the website).
- Sort through deals and choose the ones you want.
- Take a picture of our receipts and upload them to prove you bought the items.
- Once you earn a minimum of $20, you can cash in your earnings.
Stick to Your Budget
If you’re having a hard time sticking to your budget, now is the time to start being better, and these three goals are the perfect place to start!
So join me in weekly accounting, meal planning, and using Checkout 51; your budget will thank you.
Next month I’ll let you know how it goes for me, and I’d love to know how you do too!