Part of the value of creating a budget, is having a clear set of dollar guidelines for spending in the various categories of your personal and household financial life. With these limits in mind, you are more encouraged or sometimes forced to develop ways to spend money more efficiently. With some effort, creativity and mindfulness, you can adopt practical habits that keep your purchases within your budget and help you save money. Follow these five habits to get the most out of the dollars you spend.
Habit 1: Buy Used When Applicable
For some people, buying used is very satisfying. Scoring great children’s clothes at resale shops gets pretty exciting, especially when considering the savings compared to the retail price on the same clothes. When it comes to the big cost centers of your budget, buying used is an excellent solution. For instance, if you’re a family of four that’s about to become a family of five, you’re probably ready to upgrade from the four-door car to a larger, more spacious vehicle. Instead of buying new and immediately losing value on the car when you drive off the lot, consider buying a recent used vehicle. When you buy used you can save more money and have more flexibility in other areas of your budget. Buying second-hand works in some areas, better than others, however—when it comes to a new car seat for the baby, you’d probably prefer a new car seat.
Habit 2: Ask For Discounts & Bargains
If you never ask, you’ll never get discounts and bargains. Store managers have more discretion on prices than you’d think. Many can give discounts of 15 percent on certain items. Look for opportunities to ask for a discount, such as imperfections or damages on an item. Take advantage of situations where it’s okay to negotiate, including clothes, household items, cars and electronics. Be sure to ask if there is a “scratch and dent” section of the store. Many times furniture, appliances or other household items are marked down due to some very minor scratches on areas, you’ll never notice.
Habit 3: Remember your Priorities
Be clear on your priorities as you create your budget. These priorities will be your guide during tempting, spending urges. If you’re having one of those evenings when it seems easier and relatively cheap to have a quick drive-thru-dinner, remember your priority for saving money. There are cheaper, easier, even healthier family recipes on Disney Family.com that cost as little as $1.50 per serving. Some couples prefer going out on a monthly date night to a special restaurant to spend quiet, personal time with their partner as a priority. In those cases, both are more inclined to dine in during the month to save money. Stay mindful and occasionally check in with yourself asking “Is my spending in alignment with my true priorities?”
Habit 4: DIY
For your standard budget, think of do-it-yourself projects as falling into one of two categories: 1.) Easy and cheap solutions 2.) Recreational money saving. The former includes making your own cleaning supplies and packing lunches, while the latter refers to hobbies that result in money-saving goods, like making jewelry, toys or quilting. Whether you use homemade products for the home or personal entertainment, both can create some extra room in your budget. Try out homemade cleaner recipes, such as tile and grout cleaner and cleaning wipes to save money and space. A third category of do-it-yourself projects is the home improvement/repair area. More than one household has gone down this path, only to end up blowing the monthly budget when it’s all said and done. There’s a reason plumbers and electricians charge the rates they do.
Habit 5: Take Advantage of Free
Anywhere you live, from Milwaukee to San Diego, you can always find free ways to have fun for the family or personally. Between libraries, parks, the outdoors, and some community events, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy life without spending lots of cash. Especially if you like the outdoors, it may only cost you some gas money and supplies to have a good time. The entertainment portion of a budget is often the first to go when you tighten your belt. If you’re creative and curious enough though, you can find creative ways to have your entertainment needs satisfied and still keep the same level of entertainment without busting your budget.