I know I’m not the only one who has struggled to get a handle on my finances, so I wanted to share how I did it and how I still keep a handle on things now.
When I was 22 I decided it was time to take control of my spending. For a recent grad, I was making a decent salary so there was no reason that I shouldn’t have been able to pay my bills each month. I had had enough of living paycheck to paycheck. To reign myself in, I went to the extreme. I opened a separate checking account to pay rent and utilities from, saved for things like getting my hair done by putting cash in an envelope, in a cash box, under my bed and gave myself a monthly allowance of $600 for everything besides rent and utilities (including groceries, transportation, clothes and going out), and paid for everything in cash. The latter made the biggest difference. I became mindful of what I was spending money on because I could watch my allowance disappearing each month. In the beginning it was tough, but I was strict with myself. If that $600 ran out in the middle of the month, then I couldn’t (and didn’t) do anything that required money for the rest of the month. I was so strict about it that I would grocery shop with my list in one hand and my calculator in the other. After a month or two it became part of my lifestyle and was how I lived until I got married, 6.5 years later.
My days of extreme financing are mostly behind me, but it doesn’t mean that I have gotten completely relaxed. I still have my same monthly allowance, and my awareness of my spending habits has grown to include how we spend as a family. To help us keep track of how much we are spending and saving I started a spreadsheet shortly after we got married. I simply wanted to see a running total of everything we were spending money on so I could make sure we were staying under our monthly maximum budget and a running total of how much we were saving so I could plan for the near future (and the not so near future). I have made many tweaks in the last two years, but I finally feel like I have a great budgeting tool. I’ve made our spreadsheet into a template (you must be logged into Gmail/Google Drive for the link to work) so anyone who who feels like they need to get a handle on their spending can view it, save it and start inputting their own expenses into it. You will be surprised how easy it can be to save, by simply making yourself aware of what you are spending on. I am no expert, my only knowledge comes from my own experience, but if you have any questions about the spreadsheet or money saving tips, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to help!
What are your money saving tricks?