Recent studies have shown that Americans are spending less money on necessities than ever before. Yet, more Americans are also in debt. The unspoken fact that makes both those statements true is that Americans are spending more and more money on luxury items. Experts recommend creating a budget and sticking to it to avoid debt, but most people find that difficult to do without feeling deprived. However, there are a few things that you do quite painlessly to stay within set spending limits.
Pay cash. That’s right; people spend more when they use plastic, whether it’s debit or credit. Experts surmise that people simply don’t pay as much attention to totals as they do when they have to count out actual money. But resist the temptation to withdraw funds $20 at a time. You’ll rack up huge ATM fees. Instead, withdraw a set amount each week and see if you can make it last.
Practice mindful spending. Rather than keep an exact record of every penny you spend for a month (as many financial experts recommend) spend your time thinking about which of the things you buy on a daily or weekly basis are most important to you. For example, if you love coffee but are in the habit of grabbing a quick bite at your desk for lunch, splurge on good coffee but take a bag lunch to work. Tell yourself that you can have either that double caramel, half-fat cappuccino or a takeout lunch, but not both. Make notes on how much you save by choosing one over the other.
Round up. After you make a purchase using your debit card, when you mark it down in your checkbook, round the figure up to the next dollar. At the end of the month, transfer the difference you’ve accumulated to your savings account or use it to pay off high interest debt. Some banks are beginning to offer this service automatically. You can use the same practice with your change. Throw it in a jar and each month, deposit it in the bank.
Balance your budget. Once you’ve established your budget, be sure to check it on a monthly or preferably weekly basis. Personal financial management software typically contains a budget feature that will easily let you compare what you’ve spent to what you’ve budgeted. At the end of each day, throw your receipts in a basket and set a time once a week to balance your budget.