We are one day away from 2016, and one thing we can agree on that we both want to work at is budgeting. We are sharing some tips we are taking to heart in 2016. Some of these are super simple, but we need reminders! What are your tips? Please tell us!
Food is a big one for both of us! It is one of the most obvious ways to save money. For us, meal planning for each week eliminates the inevitable money you spend eating out when you don’t know what to fix each night. One thing that helps me is meal planning for the whole week (not just a few days). When my husband and I plan out the times we will go out to eat and we plan for meals to fix at home through the weekend, we find that we save money. One thing we also both agree on, don’t go to the grocery store without a list. Plan out your meals, make a list and don’t stray from the list at the grocery store. You will save by not buying random items that you might not eat. And, you will stop eating out so much. This has worked for us in the past (and it is so simple), but it is time to kick it into high gear!
Buy Timeless, Quality Pieces
Not so many years ago, I used to be the queen of the impulse outfit purchase. I could be strolling the isles of Target and grab a few outfits I thought were cute, or I would have a dinner and run to my favorite affordable clothing boutique and grab a top. Since having children my outings have become fewer but I have also become into timeless, quality pieces. Instead of 5 mediocre blouses I have started paying a little more for one blouse that will last longer and be timeless. A few years ago my sister and I both bought the same yellow dress from J Crew. We paid a little more for it and it still fits perfectly and look as new as it did on the day we bought it. In the long run I have started to save money because I am not impulsively buying clothes I will wear a few times but pieces that will be wearable for years to come.
Take a Food Inventory Before Grocery Shopping
I cleaned my pantry and refrigerator out yesterday and had the thought that so many have: “Why didn’t we use this?” My husband and I decided next week we will look in the pantry and try to use some of the things we already have with our meal planning. We will also look in the freezer. For instance, we have frozen chicken and a yummy chicken marinade that will go bad in a few months. So, we are having grilled chicken next week!
Stay At Home More
Okay, another simple tip, but one we need to practice this year: stay home more. It seems like the more time I spend “running errands” or on the road, the more money I inevitably spend. Now, you know we love traveling. This doesn’t mean we will cut that out, but we will try to spend more time at home over the next month or two to jump start our savings plan. At the end of the day, saving money is about contentment with what you have. We want to be more content with being at home and using what we already have. It also might cause us to be more creative with how we entertain ourselves!
Budget With a Separate Account Or Cash
Something that has helped me and my husband budget better is having a separate bank account for spending. We got together and decided we would have $800 a month drafted into a completely separate bank account with a debit card linked to it. All of our purchases including food, eating out, hair cuts, all pharmacy purchases, hygiene products and any household items have to come out of this account. When the money is gone, it is gone. We call this our modified cash system. When we were first married we withdrew cash every month for our monthly spending. We have found having a debit card is more convenient. All of our spending comes out of one account and our other account is strictly for bills. After all of our bills come out of our account, any remaining money is put into a saving account or tucked away for our retirement.
Use Your Credit Card Less
I don’t consider us to be people who cannot handle a credit card. We have always used one to get the cash back rewards of a credit card, and we pay it off every month. However, we still swipe that card way too easily. It sometimes keeps us from being truly aware of what we are spending. When I was in college, I had a checking account. That was it. When that money was gone, it was gone. It was very black and white: either I had the money to do something or I didn’t. We are going to try to use our debit card more than our credit card this year, so that we have a more realistic take on our account and we may stop and think before we make a big purchase.
Pick One Thing to Pay Off Early
You can’t pay everything off at one time, so if you have some things you want to get paid off (maybe a car or student loans), try and pick one thing that you will give an extra $50 – $100 to every month. That may sound like a lot, but if you think about it, you can probably find a way to pay a little extra on something. That might mean one less outfit, but Dave Ramsey says these small victories will help you get on the right track financially. If you don’t have any debt, try and put that little extra in savings.
Don’t Plan Any Big Purchases for Six Months
This can go with staying at home more. Our family has some big things we would like to do in 2016, but we are going to try and hold off on those things for six months. That means not talking about it or planning for it. This goes back to contentment. We need six months to get more content with what we have and get a jump start on saving more. We are dreamers, and I cannot tell you how many times savings plans get off course because of some new idea or purchase we think we have to have. So, we want the first half of the year to teach us restraint and what we can live without. Do we have to have it? If the answer is no, let’s wait!
~ Laura and Lindsey