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Re-evaluate your budget

By on February 12, 2010

yarn stash
photo by Briebeest

We all have budget busters. Maybe your budget is nickeled-and-dimed away by daily coffee, lunches with co-workers or movie rentals, to name a few. But sometimes you relax with your finances, and it’s bigger things that you haven’t kept track of in your budget. So if you haven’t taken a good look lately, now is a good time to start tracking your spending.

What types of things are your budget busters? How do you rein in spending?

Here are a few areas you want to watch.

GROCERY SHOPPING: It’s easy to fall into the habit of making frequent trips to the store to pick up foods and treats you want or think you need. Your monthly bill can increase significantly if you aren’t disciplined. Set an amount to spend on groceries, and aim to keep it within that amount.

BIRTHDAYS: Try to plan ahead for the upcoming year. Otherwise, you’re stuck with last-minute shopping, which leads to overspending. Shop sales and holiday clearance and secondhand sources to stock your gift closet, or regift when possible to keep costs down. In a nutshell, don’t buy lavish gifts you can’t afford.

CLOTHING: Even if you shop sales or buy secondhand clothes, it’s easy to overspend on clothing and accessories. Aim for home-washable garments that are solid-colored and classic clothing with clean lines, such as crews, turtlenecks, V-necks, tailored jackets and cardigans. You can pare down to 10 to 20 articles of clothing that are easy to layer and mix and match. Don’t overlook talking to friends and family members and putting out the word that you would love to take their castoffs, or have them keep an eye out for sales you might miss.

SCHOOL: It’s great to support the local school. But be mindful of how much you’re spending each month. Instead of buying at every fundraiser, why not volunteer some time? Find out what you already have at home for school supplies, too. If used items at home are still in good condition, your child doesn’t need brand-new replacements. If you do need to replace, invest in quality items that will last longer.

BAD HABITS: Don’t just look at what you’ve spent. Think about why you spent it, and try to break any bad habits, such as disorganization, boredom, junk food, smoking, drinking, gambling, etc. Work on eliminating these unhealthy habits.

CRAFT SUPPLIES: They can be hard to resist. If you have unfinished projects, work on those before buying more supplies for new projects.

TWO-INCOME TRAP: All is fine until one income is lowered or lost. Prepare for the worst. Make every effort not to rely on both incomes entirely.

SERVICES: Re-evaluate all the services you have, such as cable, phone, insurance, Internet, subscriptions, etc. Can you pare these down? Consider bundled service, canceling subscriptions, or comparing companies.

SINKING FUND: Do you have a sinking fund (savings account) for short-term planned expenses? If not, create one. This can include categories such as car repairs, medical bills, home repairs, vacations, etc. If you already have one, evaluate whether or not you need to increase savings in any categories.

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About Sara Noel

Sara Noel owns Castalia Coffee Roasting Company, Follow me on Twitter

8 Comments

  1. Kim_Office_Team

    2/12/2010 at 5:14 pm

    If you’re interested in tracking your budget, here are some helpful Excel templates for you to choose from: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/results.aspx?qu=budget&av=TPL000

    They incorporate many of the items you talk about, like monitoring food expenses, clothing supplies, and savings.

    Cheers,
    KIM
    MSFT Office Outreach Team

  2. Forest

    2/13/2010 at 6:35 am

    About sinking funds, Jeff from Deliver Away Debt write an awesome post on them the other day, well worth checking out: http://deliverawaydebt.com/budgeting/how-to-create-sinking-funds/

    Cheers,

    Forest.
    http://frugalzeitgeist.com
    .-= Forest´s last blog ..The Original Frugal Zeitgeist =-.

  3. Tom

    2/13/2010 at 8:44 pm

    I find it hard to resist local students going door to door for fund-raising because I remember how hard it was growing up. I would suggest figuring out why they’re doing it. If it’s for “prizes” (which I hate) I will buy something small. However, if it’s for an organization (music, sports, drama, trips, etc) I make a point of writing a check to the group for half the amount I would spend in the fund-raiser as that’s the amount of money the kids would have gotten regardless.

  4. Sara Noel

    2/13/2010 at 9:17 pm

    That’s a great idea.

    The kids here often collect cans as a fundraiser. I really like that idea, too. Our local school does “penny” drives where students are encouraged to bring in loose change. I far prefer that than the catalogs. I’m always generous when I give to the school, but I don’t give for every single fundraiser.

  5. Carmen

    2/15/2010 at 2:43 pm

    My budget buster would have to be what you show in the picture! I spent lots of money on yarn last year. This year I’m on a yarn diet … or other people call it “shop from the stash”.

  6. Xpat

    2/16/2010 at 12:45 am

    I really enjoy dining out but it slashes a big porportion of my monthly income.. For the past months, I limit it to once a month only..
    .-= Xpat´s last blog ..Mina Port Fish Market in Abu Dhabi =-.

  7. Shauna

    3/3/2010 at 7:38 pm

    I have been making an effort to make as much as I can from scratch, I can make a loaf of bread for a forth of what even a cheap loaf of bread costs at the store.

  8. Diana

    2/6/2013 at 5:22 pm

    We have stopped doing the majority of our grocery shopping in the big department store. I could never go in & buy JUST groceries. So now we do the majority of our grocery shopping at a regular grocery store.

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