How to create a budget you can actually stick to

We’ve all been there, payday comes, all of your bills are due, and then it feels like you are right back at $0. What you might not realize is if you budget correctly, you can actually save more cash than you originally thought.

I have some tips and tricks that might help you find some of your hard-earned money actually staying in your bank account.

Budget time

Review your due dates

This may sound obvious, but check the due dates of your bills. You might be one of those people who make all their payments at the beginning of the month, but you may not have to. So, grab your calendar and chart everything out.

This will hopefully help you avoid stretching yourself thin and living paycheck to paycheck.

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Make a spreadsheet

After you review all your bill due dates, make a spreadsheet. I find it helpful to break up my bills into two categories: 1st half of the month and 2nd, using the 15th as the cutoff date. Now that you have everything separated evaluate the totals. Is one much higher than the other?

If you find one-half of your month’s bills are higher than the other, you have a couple of options. You can reach out to the company/service and ask to change your billing cycle. If that’s not an option, then save money on the weeks that your bills are lower to help even things out.

Save receipts

Save your receipts. You won’t know where you can save or budget if you don’t know where all your money is going.

It’s no secret that it’s incredibly easy to rack up a credit card bill. And, if you’re spending cash, it can be hard to keep track of where your money goes without saving the receipts.

Don’t just save your receipts, add them to your spreadsheet and track your spending. Those quick trips to Target, Red Bulls or Starbucks coffee add up quickly, and you might be surprised at how much money you’re spending on unnecessary things.

Make cuts

Now that you’ve charted your monthly bills, come up with a monthly payment schedule, and track your spending, it’s time to make some cuts.

Do you spend a lot of money on unnecessary things or extras? Instead of going out for coffee every morning, only treat yourself on the weekends. Set up a type of rewards system to help keep yourself on track, but still enjoy the things you love.

Money-saving tips

Enroll in AutoPay or Electronic Billing

Some companies will incentive you to enroll in an auto payment program or electronic billing by reducing your monthly balance. It could be reduced by a few percentage points, or maybe it’ll be a promotional rate that changes throughout the year.

It’s worth it to take a look and see if it’s something they offer.

Take advantage of being a student

This might be one of the most important tips — tell everyone you are a student! Students get discounts everywhere, and it can help you save money on some big monthly bills.

Bonus: Car insurance companies tend to give you a discount if you are a student with a good grade point average.

So, ask everyone about student rates and discounts. You never know when it might pay off.

Pay your credit cards on time

Don’t keep a balance on your credit cards if you can afford it. Make sure to pay them off every month, so you avoid high-interest rates.

Paying them off will also help you make sure you have a better credit score, which in turn can give you better credit rates later on when you need to make bigger purchases or take out larger loans for a car or even a house.

Ask about payment plans

If you find yourself falling behind on any of your bills, don’t let the balances go delinquent or enter into collections. Work with the companies and see if you can arrange a repayment plan and explain your situation if you fell behind.

Cook at home

It’s fun to go out with friends from time to time, but try not to make it a daily habit. Going to eat becomes expensive, and it adds up really quickly.

Instead, buy your groceries and maybe have your friends over for dinner. Always ask them to bring something to contribute. As an added bonus, if you host, you generally get to keep the leftovers!

We hope you found our tips helpful in maintaining a realistic budget. School is expensive enough, there’s no need to add to your debt if you don’t have to. By being responsible now, you will set yourself up for success later as you become more experienced in being a budget pro!