According to a recent survey, 40% of Americans say that they would be unable to pay for a $400 emergency expense. This leads people to turn to solutions like credit cards or payday loans to cover things like car or home repairs, health problems, or other fees.
There are a variety of reasons that people find themselves cash-strapped. Stagnant wages and creeping inflation are two that come to mind.
At the end of the day, however, we have limited control over the economy. What we do have control over, is our spending habits. Learning how to say no and stick to a budget can help you grow your savings.
Ready to get your spending under control? Here are some tips to help.
Step One: Setting a Budget
Before you can know what you need to say no to, you need to have a basic budget in place. This will help you know your priorities and know when you have reached your spending limit.
Start With the Nut
No matter how much you cut down your expenses, there are certain payments that you have to make every month to keep a roof over your head. This is called your “nut”. Basically, your nut is any money that is already spoken as soon as your paycheck comes in.
When calculating your nut, you should include the following expenses:
- Car payment
- Car insurance
- Health insurance
Depending on your life situation, there might be other expenses here (such as childcare or prescriptions). Once you figure out how much these essential expenses cost every month, you can subtract that number from your monthly pay. Whatever you have left is your discretionary budget, which is yours to spend on other expenses.
Dealing with Debt
As mentioned above, an important factor you will have to work into your budget is repaying your debts.
You may have heard advice that you should seek to be debt-free. In reality, however, debt is usually necessary for bigger purchases like a home or a vehicle. So, instead of being debt-free, your goal should be to pay off any debt that has an interest rate higher than 7%.
To make your debt easier to pay off, you can look into a consolidation loan. You can learn more about loan options at Bonsai Finance.
Step Two: Practicing Self Control
Once you’ve determined what your monthly discretionary budget is, the next step is sticking to it. Whenever you spend more than your discretionary allotment, you are either dipping into savings or going into debt. The key is to learn to live within your means.
Here are a couple of practices to help you stay on track.
Evaluate Your Subscriptions
With all of the applications, streaming services, and subscription boxes available, it’s easy to spend a significant chunk of change without ever even swiping your credit card. These charges simply recur every month, making it easy to forget about them.
Go through your subscriptions and ask yourself some hard questions.
Do you really need HBO and Showtime? Do you need meals delivered to your home, or should you go grocery shopping? Are you using all the toys that come in the subscription box for your dog?
Cut Back on Convenience
Another category of spending that is relatively easy to target is convenience spending. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little extra money in return for your time. In other instances though, it’s important to say no and save.
For example, bringing your lunch to work every day instead of ordering out or going to the cafeteria could save you hundreds of dollars a month. The same goes for taking public transit or walking instead of using a rideshare service.
Take Advantage of Deals
Sticking to a budget doesn’t mean that you can’t go out with your friends. It just means you need to be more thoughtful about finding the best deals.
Instead of going out at night, go out for happy hour and enjoy drink specials. Grab lunch instead of dinner to take advantage of midday prices. See a movie on a weeknight or during a matinee.
Another easy way to save money is by getting creative with your activities.
If your friends want to go out for drinks, invite them to come over for drinks and play board games. If you want to go on a date night with someone special, go to the liquor store and buy a nice bottle of wine and make a romantic, cozy meal at home.
Step Three: Treating Yourself
As the old saying goes, the key to success is to do “everything in moderation.” This includes self-control and budgeting.
A good way to reward yourself to sticking to your budget is to occasionally treat yourself using the money you’ve saved. For instance, if you’ve saved $1000 over a year by not buying coffee out every day, you can treat yourself to a vacation or a few nice dinners out.
By treating yourself, you’ll be able to make budgeting and saying no easier as you realize the things you are saving for are better than what you would have spent money on.
Say No to Spending and Yes to Saving
With these tips in hand, you will soon find it easier to say no to spending temptations. This will help you get more money in savings, which will lead to great financial freedom.
Looking for more great tips and advice? Check out the rest of our blog for further reading.