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Swiping your card may seem like an easy decision at the time, but looking at your bank account after the transaction may not be. With the skyrocketing prices, therapeutic trips to the mall, and Buy-With-One-Quick button Amazon so graciously provides, saving money may seem like an impossible task. However, with the following helpful budgeting tips, you can transform your financial distress into a financial success! Believe it or not, it only takes five simple steps to learn how to save, spend, and enjoy your money.

Setting Goals

This may seem like a basic and obvious first step, but it sets the foundation for how you spend and save your money. Prioritizing your essential needs, such as mortgage, rent, and car payments helps you spend less money on non-essential items. In addition, categorizing your expenses based on their importance can ensure your money is divided consistently and equally. It’s also important to set aside money for emergency purposes in case your tire happens to get a flat or a faucet starts leaking. A good rule of thumb is to triple your usual housing, utility, and auto expenses and set them aside in case an emergency decides to cross your life unexpectedly. If there’s still some leftover money at the end of the year, feel free to splurge the extra cost or save it for your upcoming budget plan the following year!

Couponing

This is an essential part of your financial makeover. Couponing may seem outdated and useless, but you’d be surprised at how much money you could save just by collecting your coupons. Not only can they save you money on the products you frequently shop for, but they can also stretch your budget further. They reduce the cost of essential items, and can even give you the opportunity to explore new things you’ve never used before. Now the question remains: Where can you find them? There are plenty of both online and paper options available at your disposal. A good place to start would be Groupon, a website that provides a plethora of deals on your favorite products. If you’re looking to go the paper route or do both, the best spots to find coupons would be in your local newspaper, grocery store magazines, or the back of your receipts.

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Meal Planning

Prepping your meals a week in advance can save you plenty of money ahead of time. Besides helping you organize your meals more efficiently, it also refrains you from eating out or grabbing takeout on the way home. Buying items in bulk is a cheaper method in the long run as compared to going grocery shopping every week, and also less time-consuming when you can just pop your dinner in the oven without going through an elaborate process of preparing dinner. The first step to meal planning is writing out what meals you want throughout the week in a planner so you can keep track of your grocery expenses and food intake. The most convenient breakfast option I’ve seen is Overnight Oats, which requires oats, milk, sweetener (such as honey or maple syrup), yogurt, and toppings of your choice. There are many different flavor routes you can take, in addition to preparing it ahead of time so you can grab and go in the morning. For lunches, salads are always a great choice when you want to keep it healthy but also budget-friendly. You’re free to add whatever topping you want, such as grilled chicken, vegetables, croutons, or nuts and berries, to dress up your salad. When preparing it at the beginning of the week, make sure to keep the dressing in a different container than the lettuce so that it doesn’t become soggy. If you don’t know where to start for dinners, chicken and rice are always a great option. Not only is it the most cost and time-effective dinner, but you can always swap out the chicken for salmon or rice for couscous if that meal isn’t up to your taste. However, these are just my recommendations, so feel free to stray from any of these options to what you’re most comfortable with or find the easiest to do!

Where to Allocate Your Money

When deciding where to put your money when budgeting, it’s important to handle the most essential costs first. A large portion of your income should fall in fixed expenses, such as car payments, mortgages, or utilities. These expenses are your top priority, as they set the foundation for the rest of your budget. The next chunk of your money should be set aside in savings, whether you’re saving it for your emergency fund, personal spending expenses, or retirement, it can be helpful to have extra cash on hand. The next portions of your income should be split between transportation, insurance, and personal essentials. It’s up to you what limits you want to set for either option, but remember to constantly review your budget and expenses to make sure they’re suited for you.

The Cash Envelope Method

This is a budgeting technique that works the same as allocating your expenses. It’s meant to control your spending habits, set your budgeting limits, and track your spending through cash instead of online. The first step to achieving this part of your financial makeover is identifying the categories you want to save money.​​ That can be anywhere from food and gas to fun and beauty, its up to you to decide. Then, set budgeting limits based on how much cash you want to allocate to each envelope, and only spend what is inside. You can set this up for the week, a month, or even a year, depending on what suits your budgeting technique better. This method is optional in your financial makeover, of course, and depends on your income, agenda, and goals, so if it doesn’t work out for you, no worries! It’s not the technique for everybody.

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