5 Habits to Adopt for Sticking to Your Budget

posted in: Money Blog

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.

17 Responses

  1. judylawrence
    |

    You got it. Those little ways for saving money can often add up and can add up fast once you really start to pay attention to the details.

  2. judylawrence
    |

    Glad you liked the habits. These are definitely practical and help you get a grip on your spending.

  3. Get Smart
    |

    Mint only “reads” your information. No one can move your money in Mint–not even you.

    • judylawrence
      |

      Since you’re talking about Mint, this is a good reminder for everyone to have some system that works for them in terms of tracking, managing and planning their personal finances. Of course I can’t help giving my shameless commercial to try “The Budget Kit” workbook and Excel worksheets for tracking, managing and planning their personal finances as thousands have done for the last few decades.

  4. Franklin Cole
    |

    Unless you budget your money, you’re practically inviting unnecessary debt into your life and making it impossible to save . These steps will help you figure out how to make a budget so you can control your spending accordingly.

    • judylawrence
      |

      Thanks Franklin.

    • judylawrence
      |

      Thanks Franklin. Sounds like you speak from some personal experience. Keep up the great work.

  5. Roman Garrett
    |

    I have been reading Crystal’s blog for over a year now. Generally I like her advice. I pre-ordered the book in December and I eagerly awaited my copy arriving. My family has a budget but we can’t seem to stick to it and I was hoping for tips and tricks I hadn’t heard before that would give us some breathing room.When I got the book I read it in a little over an hour, front to back. I wish I wasn’t disappointed, but I was. From the reviews written by lots of other bloggers I thought I’d find some gems but unfortunately there wasn’t anything in the book that I hadn’t already heard about how to save money. All of the advice given was very basic, and common sense. Which is probably super helpful if you haven’t already been down this road before!Also, and I don’t know how to say this without sounding a little bitter- Crystal mentions quite a few times that she has always been thrifty, never owned a credit card, has always had good control of her finances. And that really is WONDERFUL but is not the case for probably 95% of her readers, so… I got tired of hearing about it. And it made me think a little about how she’s never really been in my shoes financially, which makes it harder to take her advice.I normally don’t write reviews on books I’ve read and I do feel bad about writing this one, because I truly think Crystal is a wonderful, beyond generous woman. I just wanted to tell people who have been cutting costs for a while that they may not get any new ideas from this book.

    • judylawrence
      |

      Hello Roman, I’ll admit I’m not familiar with Crystal’s blog or book, but the point I noticed in your comment is the issue with sticking to a budget. As a Money Coach and Financial Counselor, I have coached couples and individuals for over 20 years and your concern is quite universal. I work with high end professionals who certainly know all the basics as you mentioned. Many times when working with clients, I find the solutions are often very unique for the individual households, especially when many have already found clever ways for cutting back and managing their money the best they can. I help them find the one missing link that could make the difference for them. Part of the challenge I see today is the increased area of consumer choices and expectations of how to live that did not exist ten years ago or even five years ago in some cases. All of these new and fun conveniences and services have added to the bottom-line of many households making it more difficult to keep up. And yes, I also agree with you about the 95%. Most households are sitting in different shoes than the experts who make money management sound so cut and dried and easy. In today’s economic environment, managing our personal finances effectively is more critical than ever for having financial peace of mind.

  6. Johnathan Duncan
    |

    Computers are a fairly major purchase. They are just like other consumer appliances and we expect them to last for several years. The price ranges for laptops and desktop PCs can vary greatly though. There are ways to find ways to save money on a computer purchase. Below are a list of some of the different methods for getting a PC for less than standard retail pricing.

    • judylawrence
      |

      Thanks Johnathan. Finding reasonable prices for computers is going to be an ongoing money management issue to keep in mind when budgeting. One other point to remember with computers is proactive planning. When using the “Yearly Budget Worksheet” in The Budget Kit to plan out all the periodic expenses coming up for the year, be sure to include the cost of an upcoming computer purchase.

  7. Iva Z. Cardenas
    |

    Often it is the little ways to save money that really count. So, if you are saying to yourself “I need to save money, and I need to save money fast …..” you can take the first step here – every little saving counts.

    • judylawrence
      |

      Hi Iva, yes all the little savings do add up and are critical for the bigger savings. At the same time, it still helps to remember the bigger picture of what is important in life and stay balanced emotionally and financially, so life is not always about fixating on every tiny savings.

  8. Wendell Knight
    |

    Martin deals with basic budgeting, and ways to save money without cutting back. He also covers how to get the most out of the big companies that are after our hard earned money.

    • judylawrence
      |

      Thanks Wendell, more power to people who are able to get their needs met and save money without cutting back. I encourage the concept of cutting back generally as a choice if it seems like a reasonable solution.

  9. Darrel Q. Garza
    |

    With consumers seeking ways to do more with less money, this book is a must have for gardening on a budget. With helpful tips and advice, gardeners can create beautiful, healthy sustainable landscapes with recycled materials and limited resources. Author Mauren Gilmer includes a chapter on food gardening and preserving precious resources.

    • judylawrence
      |

      Thanks Darrel. Gardening is getting very popular again. The book sounds like a great way to manage our money, resources and health more reasonably and responsibly.