Monday, November 12, 2012

Holiday Helper Headquarters #1

Budget is not a bad word.  Budgets are realistic for everyone.  I used to be HORRIBLE with money.  I thought as long as I have it - I have to spend it.  Well that was all fine and good but one day I thought where does all my money go?  So I printed out those dreaded bank statements and prepared myself for the shocking truth.  Truth was - I wasted a lot of money.  I spent $100 at Target - what did I buy?  Hmmm can't remember so obviously it wasn't anything I needed.  The realization of how much money I was spending eating out and at Starbucks was like hello toilet - flush hard earned paycheck.  So I decided I needed a {gulp} budget.  I didn't start off thinking I was going to spend ZERO, I just came up with feasible amounts to spend with room to shrink.  

Monthly Income - Bills - Gas - Groceries = Leftover $$

So with that Leftover $$ - I decided that I would spend X on Starbucks, X on eating out and X on frivolous shopping.  How did I figure out X?  Well I looked at those horrible bank statements ... highlighted Starbucks in one color ... added them up ... passed out ... came to ... figured out a more reasonable amount.  Repeated process for each one.  The trick is ... you don't have to go without your favorite things you just need to pull back a little.  

Also, I kept track.  Each category had an amount I could spend and I wrote down every thing that went into each category and kept a HOW MUCH LEFT amount to know when I was approaching my limit.  As annoying as it sounds - it truly helps.  Hate writing stuff down?  Then try Mint.com or Mint App - click here for info!  What I love about mint is that you can set up all your budget categories and it will automatically put your purchases into those categories and email you when you are getting close to reaching your limit.  So no writing it down and no math!  YAY!  Super easy.  Occasionally I would find that it would put something in a weird category but it's super easy to switch it to the correct one and it tends to remember the next time it see something like it or the same thing.

After I kept track for awhile, I also noticed that I was making better choices when shopping.  Do I really need this often came to mind or do I really need to go to Target.  Seriously if I don't have at least 10 things that I NEED from Target - I don't go.  I just know if I don't go in that place with a plan - money will magically fly out of my wallet and into their cash register.  Since I was becoming a smarter spender, I was also able to slim down some of the X categories and put even more into my savings.  

Same thing can apply for holiday spending.  Make a budget.  Figure out who you need/or want to buy gifts for and set an amount kinda like you are doing secret Santa at work - there's always a limit.  Give yourself a limit.  Don't go to the store unprepared.  Figure out what you plan on buying everyone on your list.  Get your budget rolling now and check back for more holiday spending tips, including Black Friday and other ways to save.

What budget tips do you have?


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