5 Life Hacks for Sticking to Your Budget & Restoring Sanity

5 Life Hacks for Sticking to Your Budget & Restoring Sanity

When you struggle to make it from paycheck to paycheck, even little choices may feel overwhelming. You may not have room for one more decision, big or small, with rushing to and from work, carpooling, and the kids’ soccer games.

But if you’re falling behind on bills and feeling a huge upsurge in stress, you know it’s time for a change.

Even though there may not be a magic wand to wipe out debts and nagging bills, you can access other tools. The trick is learning a few life hacks that can help you chop away at those bills, pay for groceries, and still keep your sanity intact at the end of the day.

1. Create a List of Expenses and Income

It may seem obvious, but if you’re in panic mode when another bill comes your way, you are thinking emotionally, not logically. Defuse the fear by creating a list of monthly bills and expenses.

List everything you can think of (and don’t forget periodic expenses like car registration fees). Grit your teeth and breathe deeply-you can do this!

After you’ve listed your monthly bills and compared it against your income, resist the urge to be discouraged. This is just the first step.

2. Try a Budgeting App

If you own a smartphone, consider uploading a budgeting app. BudgetSimple is especially user friendly and analyzes your finances for you. Other good options are Mint (voted as the top personal budget tool in an informal online poll) and You Need a Budget.

It matters less what app you choose; the main point here is to have something on a mobile device that can help you during your day. Learn how to use the app, and then get in the habit of tracking every expense that comes along. Remember: log your expenses every day. This gives you critical information on where your money is going.

Don’t have a smartphone? These apps also work on laptops or desktop computers, although they’re especially effective on a mobile device.

3. Learn Simple Money-Saving Tips

Did you know that you should never go grocery shopping while you’re hungry? It stands to reason that you’ll spend more and buy things that aren’t on your list. Similarly, just by packing a lunch to your workplace every day you’ll save hundreds of dollars each year.

If you’re addicted to coffee or carbonated drinks, track your expenses for a week. Fair warning: expect to be shocked over the amount you’re spending on that soda or Starbucks frappuccino. Ask yourself what cheap alternatives you have. Stay energized by adding some fresh lemon juice to your water bottle instead.

If you eat fast food, you may be reacting subliminally to all those Carls Jr. commercials. Record your TV shows on a DVR and skip the commercials-and the temptation.

Don’t leave taps running (you’ll cut your water bill significantly with shorter showers and other water saving tips). Turn off lights when you’re not in the room. Cut off your cable or satellite TV; you can watch lots of great shows for free online or via an old-fashioned “rabbit ears” antenna. Just do a little research and you’ll save a lot every month.

4. Find Non-financial Ways to Reward Yourself

In better times, if you may have purchased new music recordings or books. Try checking them out from your local library instead! You won’t miss the extra clutter on your shelves, but this tactic allows you to still read the latest thriller or listen to a vintage vinyl recording or CD.

By the same token, most libraries also have a decent DVD offering. Skip the Redbox and get your next movie at the library instead.

If you enjoy nature, schedule some reward time by going for a bike ride around the neighborhood. Go to a free lecture or musical event. Call an old friend. Learn how to enjoy the little things, and reward yourself if you’ve kept your budgetary goals in the past week or month.

5. Join a Support Group

Still need help? Chances are great that family and friends can offer emotional support as you work on budgeting and debt reduction tactics. Even though not everyone’s advice may fit your particular situation, just knowing you have a sounding board may make you brave enough to tackle your obstacles.

Just pick a friend to report to at the end of each week. If you’re feeling stressed by an unexpected expense, your friend just may offer the sanity you need to find an answer to the latest problem.

The point is-there’s always a way to live more frugally. Join a coupon club with your neighbor. Go to free credit counseling with a family member. Keep your loose change in a jar. Leave your credit cards at home if you’re going somewhere that may tempt you outside your budget.

Before you know it, you’ll feel a greater power to pay bills and live within your means. Then you can enjoy a greater peace of mind and financial freedom in your life. Start today!

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