Budgeting/March Makeover

6 Effortless Ways To Make Your Monthly Budget Easier To Stick To

By | Monday, September 21, 2020

This article is sponsored by Freshly.

As we inch closer to the fall and eventual winter holidays, having a solid financial plan for the next few months is essential to staying on track for your 2020 goals.

Because make no mistake — even though many of us are physically barred from going out to stores, restaurants, and bars, it doesn’t mean that sticking to a budget is necessarily any easier. Boredom from being stuck inside and constant access to the internet is practically an instant recipe for overspending on online shopping, even if you’re someone who normally has their cash flow in check. And with many of us dealing with sudden changes in our income, it would seem that our 2020 spending habits are primed to be as erratic as ever.

Of course, If there’s one truth to budgeting, it’s that consistency is almost as important, if not more important, than following an arbitrary guide for how much you think you should be saving and spending. Regardless of where you are in your financial journey, it’s never too late (or too early) to make a commitment to be better with your money. This is why TFD has partnered with Freshly, a solution for enjoying healthy dinners on nights when you’re feeling burnt out, to come up with strategies to help you stay on track, even when it seems like everything else going on is so unpredictable.

Keep reading to learn some tips to make your budget more stable this fall: 

1. If you’re overspending on food, consider subscribing to a meal delivery service.

Age-old personal finance advice says that the key to not overspending your food budget is to fall in love with meal planning. However, with the pandemic altering everything from our work schedules to our circadian rhythms, finding time to look for recipes, put together a grocery list, and cook a full-on dinner every night just isn’t feasible. And, while yes, you could resort to eating the exact same thing everyday, it’s not exactly great for your body or your spirits to live solely off instant noodles and hard boiled eggs every day.

A better way to ensure that you’re actually spending the same on food every month without having to worry about all the planning involved is to use a meal delivery service like Freshly. Their app lets you order from a rotating menu of more than 30 different meal selections, including better-for-you versions of comfort foods like Chicken Parm, Zoodles and Meatballs, and Chicken Tikka Masala that can be heated and served in the microwave in under 3 minutes. Plus, having single-serve portions means you won’t tire of eating the same thing all the time — think more nutritionist-meets-personal chef, less TV dinner.

There’s no chopping, measuring, and best of all, no meal-planning or grocery shopping required. And with four different meal plans to choose from, you can enjoy a variety of healthy food at a flat rate every week without having to worry about breaking your budget. Click here to get started, and be sure to use our code LAUNCH15 to get $60 off your first four orders ($15 per order) of Freshly!

2. If you’re blowing through all your spending money in the first week, consider breaking down your budget into individual weeks.

When you’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty, attempting to forecast where your money is going to go even two weeks from now can feel overwhelming. On top of that, thinking about your budget in terms of larger figures can make you catch a case of what I like to call 1st-of-the-month syndrome, which is a propensity to blow through all of your spending money in that first week of the month because it’s when your checking account is inflated.

You can avoid this mishap by breaking down your budget into individual weekly allowances. After contributing to all your fixed expenses for the month like rent, emergency savings, and retirement, take whatever is leftover and divide it by four to get your spending allowance for each week. Alternatively, you can divide by two if you want to attempt a bi weekly budget. This will help make managing your money less stressful because you’ll only have to plan for one week at a time, rather than an entire month.

3. If you keep relying on credit cards, try to go cash only.

If you want to take a more straightforward approach to regulating your spending, consider adopting a cash-only rule for discretionary purposes. This works well for many people who struggle with staying on budget because once the cash is physically gone, the funds are gone, leaving them no ability to overspend. The best part is it requires much less thought or rigid planning than some of the electronic forms of budgeting. Simply withdraw a predetermined amount of cash and separate into envelopes to get your allowance. Some people might prefer to take it a step further and divide their envelopes into subcategories like food, fun, and coffee. If you’re not a fan of using cash, you still utilize this approach by pre-loading funds onto gift cards for the stores you shop at the most, or a prepaid debit card with a withdrawal limit.

In any case, it’s a pretty much fail-proof way to train yourself to be more disciplined, so long as you don’t let yourself head to the ATM for another withdrawal.

4. If you’re spending too much on retail, unsubscribe from marketing emails to get rid of the temptation to shop.

This should come as no surprise, but if you genuinely don’t want to go overboard with your shopping budget, then eliminating as much temptation as possible is crucial. You can do this by unsubscribing from all of those marketing emails — you know the ones I’m talking about; the ones that fill your inbox with subject lines that read, “Hey loves! Last Chance to get 50% on your faves for this fall!” or “BTW Double Star Day is on this Tuesday, and we are literally obsessed with this new drink” — as well as turning off push notifications for retail apps or better yet, uninstalling them all together. Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll immediately start spending less money on shopping, but by eliminating the constant barrage of advertisements from an app you check everyday, you won’t unexpectedly visit those online retail sites unless you were already planning to do so. In short, if it’s out of sight, then it’s out of mind.  And although it’s nearly impossible to avoid all forms of marketing (looking at you, targeted Instagram ads) minimizing your exposure to it will reduce the opportunities for you to tempt yourself into mindlessly visiting these sites and therefore, overspending.

5. If your spending patterns are erratic, give your budget some wiggle room.

It can be tricky to set a definitive budget for things we buy sometimes but not all the time. One month you may spend $40 on hair products and the next month you may spend only $6. Maybe one month you don’t buy any at all. Of course, if your budget for hair care is $45, then you’re doing just fine. But what if you have a couple months where you end up spending $60? Even if this one-time slip up doesn’t wreak immediate havoc on your finances, it’s still possible to feel discouraged for not sticking to your budget, especially when you know you’ve capable of spending less.One strategy that can help you become a little more consistent is to come up with a target range for your spending goals rather than a particular dollar amount you’re supposed to stay under every month.

For instance, instead of telling yourself, “Don’t spend more than $50 on hair care in a single month if you want to take a vacation this year,” you might say “I can spend anywhere between $40 and $60 on hair care each month if I want to stay on track for saving enough for my vacation.” When you think about your budget as a tool designed to help you reach your goals rather than something you’re supposed to do, it becomes much easier to actually stick to it. On top of that, giving yourself a little wiggle room will make staying on track more attainable, which in turn, will motivate you to keep going. It also makes it easier to trim down any excess spending without feeling as if the change is so drastic.

6. If you keep going over budget for irregular expenses, try using sinking funds.

Look, I’m usually first to say that the biggest reason I go over budget is often due to an “unforeseen” expense. However, as it turns out, many of the “unexpected” expenses that we think of aren’t exactly as unpredictable we think. Some of us are just things we failed to plan for.

This is why it’s a great idea to adopt a budget strategy called sinking funds. These are essentially a form of savings that’s totally separate from your emergency fund, where you stash away money for things that you only pay for sometimes, like gifts, medical expenses, travel, nights out with friends, car repairs. One way to calculate how much to save is to create a rough list of the things you pay for only a few times a year and estimate their cost. Next divide each figure by 12 to determine how much savings transfers to automate each month. For instance, if you usually spend $1200 on holiday gifts, you can set yourself up to save $100 each month for future gifts. This way, you’ll be better equipped to cover the cost without having to dip into your emergency fund or resort to a credit card, thus preventing you from busting your budget.

Thanks to Freshly for sponsoring this article. Check it out here, and don’t forget to use our code LAUNCH15 to get $60 off your first four orders ($15 per order) of Freshly!

Image via Unsplash

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