Tips to Stick to Your Monthly Budget

monthly budget

Especially when you first move out, learning to live within a strict monthly budget can be very difficult. We hear you – the struggle is real! To help guide you on your budget-balancing journey, CLV Group has designed the apartment budget template to help you manage your mandatory expenses, and still have some left over for the fun stuff!

To give you some more tips on budgeting, we’ve consulted the experts. Consider implementing some of the strategies below as you get on your way to a healthy financial state – and stay that way!

Use Financial Planning Apps and Tools to Track Spending

I recommend my clients use apps on their phones to help them stick to their budget. Mint and Level Money are the ones that I think are the best for providing the motivation to stay in alignment with their financial goals. Mint has e-mails that they send you when you are close to exceeding your budget, and Level Money has a great interface for seeing how much you can spend for the rest of the day, week, or month.

Seek Out Coupons and Deals Using Your Smartphone

Your smartphone can help you find the best price and redeem coupons on necessary purchases. According to user data collected by cash-back app Ibotta, shoppers can save up to $240 per year using money-saving apps. For coupons to retailers, restaurants and local service providers, download Coupon Sherpa for deals like 20% off your retail purchase or $5 off an oil change. The ShopSavvy app helps you find the best price on a product you want to buy. Walmart’s shoppers should use the store’s app for the Savings Catcher tool, which provides cash-back in the form of a store gift card when something you buy is better priced elsewhere.

Allocate Money for Savings on Pay Day

Pay yourself FIRST! Decide how much you’re going to put into savings each month and then move that money as soon as you get paid. We suggest starting with as little as 2% of your net paycheck, with a goal of saving up to 20% of each check as you become more comfortable with your budget. Saving is like working a muscle, and when you’re first starting out, it’s not the amount your saving as much as the habit of saving that you’re trying to build. Plus, if you only ever save “what’s left” once you’ve built your budget, that’s all you’ll ever save…and we all know there’s never enough left. Pay yourself first and build an emergency fund for a rainy day…because we all know it WILL rain eventually, so it’s best to be prepared!

 Bring a Calculator on Shopping Trips

One tip we’ve used when were on a tight budget that goes beyond crafting a grocery list is to add up the products with a calculator. Even if you have a set list of items in mind, you can still go over your allotted grocery amount if you’re not well-prepared, and it’s so much harder to put back items once you are in line with people watching you. So be a nerd – add it all up or have your kids or spouse do the math at the store while you do the shopping, so that there won’t be any surprises once you get to the cashier desk.

Avoid Impulse Purchases: Sleep on it, Then Revisit

I often used to buy things on impulse, but I found a prevention strategy that works for me. Before buying anything beyond my basic, everyday necessities (especially if an item is “pricey”), I put off the purchase decision and “sleep on it”. The following day, I make a quick mental list of the pros and cons related to that purchase. If the purchase still makes sense, I shop around (either online or at competing brick and mortar outlets close to home) to find the best possible deal that’s available. If no discounts can be found, I ask myself if there’s a less expensive substitute that would be just as suitable. Discovering an acceptable substitute may take a little creative thinking, but it’s often well worth the effort. Interestingly, time and again, I find that I’ll end up with something that’s suitable (but less expensive); or the “cons” of the purchase outweigh the “pros” and I decide that the purchase doesn’t make sense at that point. Things that I want, but don’t actually need, can always be bought at a later date if “extra” funds (e.g., an unexpectedly large income tax refund) became available!

Use Cash for Shopping Instead of Debit/Credit Cards

You need to save from each pay check for the weekly, monthly and even annual bills. I suggest using a simple envelope system to store the money for each payment with it’s use written on the envelope. Eliminate the use of debit or credit cards and take your envelope to the store with you for shopping. If you have $40 for food this week, then the $40 is with you and that is all you are spending. If you have $50 for clothing this month, then that is all you are spending. This way, you can’t go over your budget!

Separate Your Wants from Your Needs

Keeping a budget can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Look at a list of all your bills for the last month. Write down what you need to buy in a simple Word doc or spreadsheet and what were the “wants” in a separate group. These needs are an estimate of your monthly living costs. When you are about to buy something, check if it’s in the wants or needs category. If it’s a want, you can still buy it sometimes as long as it’s below your set budget for the month. I like to give myself $300 “want” money per month.

Another, more inward-thinking, trick for budgeting is what I like to call “bottom up.” I sit out in nature and tell myself that I can be happy and joyful with nothing but the clothes on my back and the air in front of me. Because you can! It doesn’t cost anything – or very little – to enjoy nature. I ask myself what else I might need to keep living a happy life. Usually, it’s food and rent. By setting this minimum, everything else becomes a luxury and this shift in mindset really helps me live off less when I’m on a tight budget.

Set Realistic Financial Goals – and Follow Them!

Make sure you have a reasonable budget. The way to do that is to start by setting goals – and if you’re in a relationship and/or have a family, to do so with your spouse and family members. Whether your goal is to save on weekly grocery bills, save for retirement, or take a vacation to Europe, write down the goals and build your budget with the goals in mind. For some, it may mean modifying that European vacation to, say, Boston’s North End for a taste of Italy – but whatever happens, you’ll find that you will be spending smartly and getting where you want to go. After all, whether it’s driving or budgeting, it’s hard to get somewhere without knowing where it is you want to be.

Are you saving for a new apartment? Check out CLV Group’s selection of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments for rent in Burlington, Hamilton, Ottawa, and more! We have a huge selection of beautiful, modern apartments for you to call home. Browse CLV Group apartments today!

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