Question: I’m having such a hard time keeping to my budget, even though I know that’s the key to staying out of debt. Do you have any tips?
Answer: The key to good budgeting is plugging the leaks that drain your resources—and even small leaks will drain you over time. If you’re not already doing the following things, you might want to consider them.
Live within your means. If you use credit cards, pay your monthly balances in full to avoid charges.
Eat most of your meals at home. Take a packed lunch or snack when possible. Reserve eating out for special occasions. Snacks bought on the run are typical “little” expenses that collectively cost a lot more than you realize at the time.
Shop for deals, especially on larger items, locally or online.
Consider buying secondhand before new. Secondhand stores and private sellers are often good sources for gently used or refurbished furniture, appliances, clothes, and other items.
Making and sticking to a shopping list helps avoid impulse buying, which is a budget’s worst enemy. Making a list also helps consolidate shopping trips, which saves time and transport costs.
Avoid middle-man markups by buying wholesale or directly from the producer or manufacturer, when possible.
Lower your utility bill by selecting energy-efficient appliances, turning off unneeded lights, and conserving water when showering, shaving, washing dishes, etc.
Choose cheaper generic items over more expensive brand-name ones when the trade-off in quality is acceptable.
Resist the temptation to constantly upgrade electronics and other items. Upgrade only when it’s truly needed or more cost-effective.
If you share a budget with a spouse or roommate, set parameters ahead of time, such as how much each may spend on a single item without consulting the other.
Keep things in perspective. A budget can help you better manage your money so you can live more comfortably and have more materially, but no amount of things will make you happy forever. Money can’t buy love, a close relationship with God, or fulfillment in life—the things that really matter.