Do you frequently get cash from ATMs and then have no idea where it ends up? Do you end up paying late fees simply because you don’t have a good system in place for tracking and paying your bills? If you don’t have a good budget system in place, it is easy to lose track of your hard earned money. The tips below can help you to keep your finances under control.
- Keep your financial records organized and your filing up to date. Have a set of file folders for items such as receipts, bills, canceled checks, checking account statements, etc. Have a designated place where you keep or can easily assemble your master budget, your financial files, checkbook, etc. so it is all in one convenient location.
- Avoid spending cash, unless you are good at writing down cash expenses in a journal. It is all too easy to get $100 from the ATM and then have no idea where it all went at the end of the week. If you have trouble figuring out where your cash gets spent, keep a small amount of cash on hand for minor purchases. For everything else, try to pay by either a paper check, online checking or through credit cards so you have a record of your purchases. Credit cards are a good way to track purchases unless you have trouble controlling your spending. If this applies to you, then avoid credit card purchases and focus on keeping track of your expenses in a journal or by paying for items by check.
- Give your children a set allowance for things like movies, CDs, snacks and toys instead of just giving them money on as needed basis. Giving children an allowance teaches them to make wise spending choices at an early age. A twelve year old who spends all of his allowance right away on CDs and then doesn’t have enough money to go to the movies with his friends on the weekend has just learned a good lesson on the negative consequences of impulse spending.
- Have a system in place for handling the mail. If you are not in the habit of misplacing bills or checks, good for you. Keep on using whatever system you have in place now. However, if losing track of bills is an issue at your house, it may help to have a designated mail drop box inside the house. Each family member should be instructed that whoever brings in the mail that day should always put the mail in the designated mail box for later sorting. Then the family member who has responsibility for sorting the mail should do so near the financial folders. That way checks get put right away in the check folder, bills in the bill folder, etc.
- Avoid going to stores where you have had problems overspending in the past. Our neighbors stopped shopping at warehouse clubs and actually ended up saving money. They found they spent more money by not being able to resist all of the warehouse club bargains on products they really didn’t need than they would by just getting their food at the local grocery store.
- Have written, long term savings goals. Some sample goals might be getting out of debt, saving for a college, or building a retirement fund. It helps to avoid spending money on day to day purchases if you have financial goals in mind. Not having any compelling reasons to save makes it easier to fritter away money on small day to day purchases instead of saving for the long term.
- Have a set time each week to review and pay the bills. If you have the money to pay your bills, there is no point in getting unneeded late fees due to disorganization or lost bills. If you make $15 an hour after taxes, then to make up for just one $30 late fee you would have to work an extra two hours to cover the fee.
Getting organized is one of the first steps to gaining control of your budget. Avoiding unnecessary late fees, paying bills on time, and having a good system in place for filing and paying your bills can all help to keep your household budget on the right track.
©2006 Always Frugal
S. L. Simmons is the editor at Always Frugal and a thrifty mom of two. Visit her site at http://www.alwaysfrugal.com/budgeting.html for more tips on creating a budget, a free budget template, and more articles on frugal living.