Money problems can be difficult to conquer. Every time I choose putting money toward student loans rather than something I ‘want,’ I second guess myself. I wonder if I’m missing out.
But creating and sticking to a budget doesn’t have to be painful. I’ve actually found the challenge to be, dare I say it, fun. If you’re in any debt whatsoever, you need to get on this. Create a budget today and focus on getting rid of debt.
Debt is not good. Period. If you’re in debt, you probably know this. I have a decent amount of debt thanks to student loans, and it can be pretty unsettling. Often I wonder what I would be doing if I didn’t have to make these large payments every month. But there’s no use in focusing on what could have been. Instead, I am doing what I can with what I have to rid myself of debt ASAP.
Whether you’re in debt or not, a budget can help you. Although I believe focusing too much on money—whether it’s on saving or spending—can have a negative effect on your mind, keeping you financials in check is a healthy and simple way to live.
Tips on budgeting:
1. Sign up for Mint.com. (Note: I am in no way affiliated with Mint, but I absolutely love their FREE services and would recommend it to anyone.) Mint allows you to view all of your accounts in one place: checking, savings, credit cards, loans, car payments, etc. They will also remind you when you have a bill coming up or when you go over budget.
2. If you’re old-school, map out your spending. Include the following: monthly income total; mandatory bills (ie: rent, groceries, gas); debt payments. What’s leftover is spending cash to do with what you please—just make sure you calculate what is left and don’t go over your limit.
3. Automate everything. Make it all electronic and automatic. Have your paychecks automatically debited to your checking account. Set up credit card, loan, etc. payments to be automatically drawn from your account. Call your bank or go online to set up an automatic transfer from your checking to savings every month—which, by the way, is super important!
4. Focus on debt first. Although you should save and eventually invest money, first focus your attention on getting rid of debt. Put as much as possible towards it. Pick up a side job—babysitting, housekeeping, dog walking, coffee shop, etc.—for additional income.
In an ideal world, you’ll have money leftover after all’s said and done, instead of breaking even or going over. If you’re having problems in this area, you may need to simplify your lifestyle and cut back. The good news is saving money and green living go hand-in-hand. See below.
Ways I save money & be good to the earth at the same time:
1. Eat less meat & processed foods. Fresh produce has a reputation for being much more expensive than foods of the Standard American Diet, but I notice a huge difference in my grocery bill when I shop wholly vegan. Typically (for two people) we will spend somewhere around $80-100 per trip. Last week I eliminated all processed foods, like expensive crackers and cereals, and slashed the bill to $65. Swap chips and crackers for carrots and celery. Instead of burgers, fries and all the condiments, opt for a big pot of frugal and hearty veggie soup. Click here for some cheap vegetarian dinner recipes.
2. Slash unnecessary utilities. We don’t have a TV, so we don’t have a cable bill. Instead, our computer doubles as a TV and we subscribe to Hulu, which is just $8/month. The savings are notable. You have control of your electric and water payments, so do all you can to save every penny possible. Save power and waste while lowering your electric bill.
3. Compost. Although the savings aren’t nearly as substantial as the first two, it’ll save you a decent amount when the time comes to plant for spring. Free organic fertilizer!
4. Quit the gym. You. Do. Not. Need. A. Gym. Instead, get outside and climb some mountains or go for a nice long walk every day. Do some burpees. Buy a jump rope. Do exercise videos for free on Hulu and Youtube.
5. Stay healthy. Take public transportation. Walk to work or the store, if possible. Eat more veggies. Quit smoking. Get outside and plant a tree. Volunteer. All of these will contribute to your holistic wellness and will dramatically reduce healthcare costs in the long run. Invest in yourself by living a healthy life.
6. Travel less. Traveling has a major environmental impact. Limit it and save some green.
7. Cut back on regular treats. Going out to eat, getting coffee from expensive shops, pastries, ice cream—the whole sha-bam. Cut back or eliminate them all together.
Additional helpful resources for you:
- I paid off $90,000 of debt in just three years
- 10 ways you can have enough money & stuff
- 33 proven ways to reduce personal debt
- 10 ways to simplify your budget