New Year, New Budget: 7 Tips to Help You Budget Better This Year
Your promise to lose 20 lbs might not last through Valentine’s Day, but these expert tips can help turn your budgeting resolutions into a year-round affair.
Welcome to the new year! For many people, the new year is a chance to improve themselves. You decide to go to the gym or eat healthier or finally take those scuba classes as step one of your 532 step plan to prove Atlantis is real.
But this is also a chance to improve your budget. Scuba lessons don’t come cheap, after all. That being said, “having a better budget” is pretty vague. Where would you even start? And then what would the next step be after that? And what comes after that?
We spoke to the experts to find out what those steps should be and now we’re bringing those steps to you!
1. Take a look back …
If you want to know where you should go, it’s important to remember where you’ve been. And in budgeting terms, that means reviewing the ways your budget wasn’t quite up to snuff.
“I would recommend using the start of 2019 to look back at the previous year,” suggested Deborah Sweeney (@deborahsweeney), CEO of MyCorporation.com (@mycorporation). “Evaluate what went right financially and what did not before you begin planning out a budget.
“This allows you to better map out a strategy for what your income looks like and the amount of money you’re spending and saving before you begin budgeting to reach certain goals. If you know you spent too much on entertainment or dining out in the previous year, you’ll have the numbers in front of you. This will allow you to decrease poor spending habits and allocate the funds elsewhere, such as paying off debt or building up savings.”
Everyone’s budget weaknesses are different, so once you know yours, you can work on crafting a unique plan rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all budget approach that doesn’t actually fit all.
2. … So you can look forward.
While you’re aware that saving money is a good thing in the abstract, it can be helpful to give yourself something to look forward to.
“Sometimes, simply knowing that you should be saving money isn’t enough to convince you to change your ways,” cautioned CPA Riley Adams (@TheRiles89). “When there’s something in your life that you’re really tempted to buy, it’s hard to tell yourself that you can’t have it just because you set some arbitrary rules for your spending habits. However, if you can see a goal ahead, then you’re much more likely to remain motivated.
“Think about what you want to accomplish with the money that you’re going to save by budgeting. Maybe you can afford to go on a great family holiday or buy that new kitchen you’ve been dreaming about.”
OK, so now you know where you went wrong—like that no credit check loan you rolled over eight times before paying off—and what you have to look forward to, like finally saving up for a new couch. But how do you get there?
3. Cut down on utility costs.
Utilities are one of those things you can’t just cut out of your budget—unless you want to sit in a dark, cold apartment, and we’re assuming you don’t. But it might be possible to bring down their cost.
“Utilities should be 15-20 percent of your take-home pay,” recommended financial coach and author Karen Ford. “Contact your cell phone and internet providers and ask them for a better deal. The worst thing they could say is no.”
Your heating bill can also blow a huge hole into your budget. Lucky for you, then, that we recently wrote a whole article on how you can save money on heating costs!
4. Find a tool that works for you.
Even before the development of Homo sapiens, apes were using tools to get bugs out from the inside of trees, collect water, and track their monthly expenses. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be taking advantage of budgeting tools as well.
“I think the biggest goal people should set when it comes to budgeting this year is finding a method that they will actually stick to,” advised Kelan Kline of The Savvy Couple (@TheSavvyCouple). “When it comes down to it how you actually budget does not matter as much as actually sticking to it from month to month.
“So my #1 tip would be to check out many different methods of budgeting (envelope system, Mint, Capital One, Pen and Paper, Excel, Printable, etc) and pick a method that fits you the best. Sticking to a budget the entire year will change your life so finding a system you will stick to is a must.”
5. Save smarter.
Cutting nonessentials out of your budget is the most obvious way to improve your financial situation. But there are other possibilities to consider in addition to making cuts.
“Sometimes, people struggle with budgeting because they think that saving cash is just too hard,” explained Adams. “However, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce your spending without draining all the fun out of your life. For instance, maybe you could get a part-time freelancing job to give yourself an extra source of income.
“It’s also a good idea to make sure that you’re spending as little as possible on your monthly expenses. For example, before you get a loan, check all the loan providers you can find to seek out the best interest rates possible.”
6. Be realistic.
If you can’t keep to your budget, then your budget is no good.
“Another reason why people struggle with budgeting is that they don’t know how to be realistic with their goals,” warned Adams. “Although it might seem like a good idea to tell yourself that you’re going to stop spending money on eating out if you currently eat out three times a week, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make such a drastic change so quickly.
“Rather than pushing yourself to accomplish too much too fast, start by making small alterations to your spending habits. If you currently go to the movies twice a month, for instance, try going just once instead.”
7. Try going back to cash.
While 2019 is indisputably a very futuristic year, sometimes it’s still good to go back to the classics.
“Finally, while some technology, like the budgeting apps mentioned above, can help with your financial strategy, some make it more difficult to reach your goals,” Adams told us. “For instance, it’s very easy to overspend when you’re carrying around a contactless credit card that allows you to buy anything at a single swipe.
“With that in mind, make sure that you’re managing your spending actively by carrying and using only the exact amount of cash you know you need. When you’re counting every penny, you’ll be less likely to lose track of your cash.”
Sticking to a budget is a pain, but there’s no better time to get started than right now. Find a budget buddy and get to it!
Budgeting can help you free up money for an emergency fund, which will save you from relying on short-term cash advances and predatory bad credit loans like payday loans and title loans during a financial emergency. To read more about how you can improve your money management habits, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:
- The Broke Person’s Guide to Credit Cards
- 8 Good Habits to Get Your Finances—and Your Life—on Track
- From Budget to Baller: 6 Tips to Grow Your Money
- 8 Ways To Save Money Today, Tomorrow and Every Day After
|Riley Adams (@TheRiles89) is a licensed CPA in the state of Louisiana working as a Senior Financial Analyst for a Fortune 500 company in New Orleans. He has a personal finance blog dedicated to helping young professionals find financial independence at YoungAndTheInvested.com.|
|Karen Ford is a Master Financial Coach, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur, and Best- Selling Author. Her #1 Amazon Best Selling Book “Money Matters” is a discovery for many. In “Money Matters” she provides keys to demolishing debt, shares how to budget correctly, and gives principles in wealth building.|
|Kelan and Brittany Kline aka The Savvy Couple are two thriving millennials that are daring to live differently. They started their personal finance blog in September 2016 to help others get money $avvy so they can live a frugal and free lifestyle. Brittany is a full-time 4th-grade teacher and Kelan runs The Savvy Couple full-time and works as a digital marketer. You can follow them here: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.|
|Deborah Sweeney (@deborahsweeney) is the CEO of MyCorporation.com (@mycorporation). MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best.|