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MoneyMatters: How to Budget Without Bawling

It can be hard to resist the temptation to splurge, especially in the society that we live in today. Merely existing consists of a constant bombardment of advertisements, seducing you to spend more money. And I would say most of the advertisements are advertising products that you don’t need. I know, I know, the Shake Weight, RoboStir, and Magic Stud Finder sound amazing at 3 o’clock in the morning as you chow down on some Esperantos…but let’s be real, most of the products advertised on TV (not just the enticing AsSeenOnTV novelties) are totally unnecessary to your everyday life. I mean, wouldn’t you rather save for a cruise to the Bahamas than buy a new sweatshirt? Especially seeing as how you already have 3 sweatshirts? If you nodded your head, then you are in luck because MoneyMatters is here to provide you with a list of tips to help budget your money.

1. Don’t Fall Victim to Scams: It’s hard to resist the phrase “Only $14.95 if you call and order now!” But phrases like this are spending traps; you want to spend your money on things that matter, save your money for things (and experiences!) that matter, rather than allotting your hard earned cash to silly products that will inevitably fall apart within the week of delivery. The point: Ask yourself whether or not the product you are buying is really worth it.

2. Prioritize Your Splurges: I probably don’t need to tell any of you this but different expenses are more important to some people than they are to other people. For me it’s roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella, so even when I’m saving, I buy them. You have to remember that saving shouldn’t hurt; you don’t need to start eating brown rice and beans everyday in order to save enough to book a trip to Europe. Make a list of the things that you really value in your everyday life so that it’s easier to figure out where to cut your spending, and where to leave your spending alone.

3. You Don’t Need Another Drink: Of course everyone wants to go to Max London’s for dinner, on Friday night, instead of a Monday or a Tuesday when their prices are actually reasonable. Don’t feel bad, it’s ok to go out and spend some money, but before you give in to pure indulgence, see if they have a fixed price offer, or pass on the appetizer. The name of the game is: Think before you spend. If you and your friends are going to the bar try to limit your spending as much as possible (or go to Gaffney’s on Thursdays. $5 pitchers of Labatt!). And don’t forget to check out SKROUNGE (www.skrounge.com) for daily deals.

4. Always Save for Real Necessities: You need to be real with yourself when drawing up a budget. Even if you would like to save the maximum amount, you can’t cut all spending. Determine what is really important (for example: bills, car insurance, credit card payment made in full and on time, etc.) and figure out how you can reduce those necessary payments. Here’s a refresher from the first MoneyMatters article: turn the lights off, don’t speed, recycle, get a saver card and use it.

5. Scale Back on Excess Luxuries: Don’t get me wrong, luxuries are important; they’re the pick-me-ups of those down-and-out days. You deserve a treat once in a while, but you have to keep your eyes on the prize: jump-starting your savings account! This is the whole point of the article, right? So here’s the deal:

  • Ask yourself whether you really need to go out to dinner/lunch every week. Try hosting a couple potlucks. That way, you aren’t paying for all of the food and there’s no server/delivery fee.
  • You probably don’t need to go shopping, again. Take a fresh look at your wardrobe and mix old pieces with the new. Or host a clothing swap with your friends. Check out this article from HC Washington to learn how!
  • Getting your nails done costs a lot more than a bottle of nail polish (which lasts, while a mani doesn’t).
  • Having a Blackberry/iphone to check Facebook is a little silly, right? Data plans cost a boatload.
  • Why pay for TV when I bet, most of your shows are online. Then, you can watch them when it’s convenient for you!
  • Try to cut out frivolous things that are damaging to your health. For example, cigarettes cost more than $10 a pack these days—that means at least $40 a month, and I have a funny feeling that most of you smoke more than a pack a week. Similarly, alcohol is a costly expense. Three drinks can easily turn into five, which means a bill around $30 plus tip.
  • Limit long car rides to alleviate major gas spending ($3.95/gallon!).

Have any tips to add to the list, or questions about saving or budgeting? If so, comment below! And don’t forget to check back next week for the next installment of MoneyMatters.
For further reading, check out:
“How We Paid Off $30,000 of Debt”
“Your 5-Minute Guide to Budgeting”
“Money 101: Top Things to Know About Making a Budget”

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