Earning and receiving a paycheck might just be one of the happiest feelings to experience. You anxiously count down the days until you can get your hands on that elusive paycheck. Once it gets deposited into your bank account…BAM! You’re a happier woman. You can now buy all of the things! The possibilities are endless. Then, like a bad hangover, reality sets in. If you’re like most people, the inevitable downward spiral of overwhelming thoughts begins:
What should I do with this? Do I deposit it into my savings account? Do I buy the new running shoes I’ve had my eye on? Do I invest it? What can I afford? How much should I actually be saving? Should I pay off my credit card? Wait…what’s my credit score, again?
Financial worries plague us all. We always seem to be tiptoeing around that fine line between buying the things we want and responsibly affording the things we need. Can you have your cake and eat it, too? You can—if you’re willing to adjust your priorities and, ultimately, aim to live within your means.
So, where should you start?
Establishing a budget is a wonderful way to prioritize your expenses, understand where your money is going and identify money-wasting behaviors you may not have noticed, otherwise. Where might you be spending the bulk of your money each month? Are you able to afford the necessities (rent, mortgage, car payments, groceries, etc.) and allow for some fun here and there? Perhaps you might revisit your recurring charges each month and eliminate some unnecessary expenses.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average American in 2017 spent nearly 5.3% of their after-tax income on food away from their home. If the average American is making $63,000 after-taxes, this equates to roughly $9/day just on food away from home! You could eliminate half of those expenses (and likely, a lot of unnecessary extra calories) just by packing your lunch or dining in a few days a week. Sure, your grocery bill would likely increase by a bit, but think of how much you could save by not spending your hard-earned cash on tips, delivery fees and inflated food prices! Are your weekly trips to Chick-fil-a and Starbucks the highlights of your week? Start by packing your food or brewing your own coffee only one or two times a week, then increase as the months go on. Saving even $50 a month can add up to $600 in extra savings a year if you commit to doing this monthly!
Traveling is truly good for the soul. It’s so important to hit the reset button every now and then and change your scenery, even just for a weekend. Traveling can certainly be expensive, but there are clever ways you can save money as long as you plan ahead. First, consider traveling during the off-season. Not only does traveling during off-peak times of year save you oodles of money on hotel and flight costs, you’re also likely to avoid the long lines of tourists and overinflated fees wherever you go. Additionally, consider using the Kayak Explorer function to research the most ideal time to travel to your desired destination. Have you always wanted to see the Mona Lisa in person? Use Kayak Explorer to pinpoint the most ideal times to hop on a plane to Paris. Saving money on airfare means more money for croissants and champagne by the Eiffel Tour. Bon voyage!
If a long vacation isn’t in scope for your budget, consider taking a weekend to visit a new destination within driving distance of your location. Research a local bed & breakfast and make new memories in a fun location, all for the price of one tank of gas and, of course, lodging.
Not everything needs to cost money in order to be fun. If you do a little research, you’ll likely discover that there are plenty of free activities to do right in your own backyard. Find some hiking trails nearby and let the magic of the outdoors offer a fresh perspective. Host a BYOB or potluck night with friends. Tickle your funny bone at a local comedy show. Spend a day acting like a tourist in your own city. Explore new neighborhoods, museums and the local art scene. You never know what local treasure you may find!
Love your nail salon visits? Simply cannot live without your yoga membership? No problem! Just plan ahead. Build these expenses into your budget and eliminate other spending as needed. The point of having a budget is not to deny yourself the things in life that sustain and invigorate you. Rather, budgets help provide greater clarity of your spending so that you can prioritize what matters, eliminate what doesn’t and ultimately enjoy everything in moderation.
Originally published on harnessmagazine.com.
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