I am a college student, married to a college student, and a parent of twins. I have a unique perspective on budgeting. As the new year begins, maybe you want to work on eliminating debt, saving up for a big trip, or simply cutting costs where you can. Who doesn’t want to have a few extra bucks to spend at Target? Here are some (hopefully) new ideas to create and keep a budget this year.
- Make a “test month” and see where your money really goes. However, keep in mind that every month requires different expenses. You obviously will not spend money on the same things in summer months as you do in winter. This tip is mostly focused on things like gas, groceries, and utility bills which should be similar month-to-month. These base expenses will be easy to build your budget on.
- Utilize cash back programs. HEBs in Waco have a super easy program. You receive points for your purchases (groceries, gas, pharmacy), and then quarterly they convert your points to dollars. The pay out is basically a gift card balance on your reward card. Don’t expect to make a ton of money this way, but why not get some of that grocery money back? Also, use a credit card with perks such as cash back. There are many different options with different perks, so do your research first. The time you invest will be worth it when you get your rebate.
- Unplug things when you aren’t using them, and turn off lights. We invested in several power strips so that right before we go to bed, we can just walk around, flip a few switches, and know that our electronics won’t be increasing our electricity bill overnight. I’ve also heard great things about energy-saving lightbulbs, but cannot personally vouch for how much they save in the long run.
- Be generous. This one sounds crazy, doesn’t it: Give your money away in order to save money? However, hear me out. There are so many organizations that are changing the world, and you can be a part of it. Even if you don’t give much, donating money makes you value what you have all the more and is such a liberating experience.
- Three words: do it yourself. I love handcrafting gifts, making my own simple home decor, or helping my husband tackle a home improvement project using YouTube videos. You can save money with the added bonus of having fun.
- Cook at home. It continuously amazes me how quickly eating out adds up. By cooking your own meals at home, you not only save money, but calories as well. Similarly, brewing your own coffee at home can save hundreds of dollars throughout the year.
- Don’t ignore your debt. Pay off your monthly minimum payments on any debt you have. Not including your debt in your budget gives you a false sense of where you are standing financially. Get a clear picture of what you owe by compiling total principle, interest rates, minimum payments, and loan terms for each debt. Consider refinancing options if you feel your rates are unfair.
- Get joy from the little things. Coming from a college student, it does not take much to excite me! It is super important to pamper yourself every now and then, but that doesn’t require spending a ton of money. I treat myself with $2 face masks from Target, buying a coffee at Starbucks rather than using my Keurig, etc. Live simply and you will save money in no time.
- Stay in for date night. Dating Divas website is my favorite resource for creative, cheap ideas for date nights in. When we become parents, we have to add in babysitter fees, and worrying about your children’s well-being, to the already steep cost of a fancy date. By staying at home, you and your spouse can put the kids to bed yourself, grow closer as a couple, and not spend a penny.
- Budget in some fun. If your budget only includes necessary expenses, you’ll feel trapped and start hating your budget. Instead, allow yourself a reasonable amount to spend on fun things.
Here’s to a year filled with fun, simple joys, and a little extra cash!