The idea of setting a budget for yourself and sticking to it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re anti-spreadsheet and finances are not your thing. But not all forms of budgeting need to involve fancy spreadsheets or cutting back on everything that brings you joy in life. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you need to stay home every night and pass up every social opportunity that comes your way.
If you want to save money, but not feel like you’re missing out on life, then listen up. Here are a few ways to budget that are so simple and seamless, you won’t even realize you’re budgeting.
Don’t Focus on Spending Less, Focus on Saving More
Step one is really a mental shift more than anything else. Yes, the goal is to cut back on your spending so that you can save more money. Instead of focusing on the former part of that sentence, though, focus on the latter portion. What are your goals? What are you working toward? What are you saving for? Maybe it’s a fancy European vacation or a down payment on a house, or maybe you’re simply trying to build up your emergency savings fund.
Whatever it is that you’re saving for, make that the thing that’s on your mind more than anything else. Think about how much fun you’ll have in Europe, how excited you are to own your first home, or how secure you’ll feel knowing you have a savings cushion in case of an emergency. Shift your focus to future happiness rather than dwelling on how you might have to skip a few fancy dinners over the next few months. Your future self will thank you for it, I promise.
Make It Mindless
If you don’t want to think about budgeting and saving money, then one of the best things you can do to make your life easier is “set it and forget it.” Set up your bank account to automatically transfer into your savings account monthly or every time you get paid – whichever works best for your situation. By automating your finances, you can do less thinking and more saving.
This is a great psychological trick as well because if you never see the money in your checking account, you’re far less likely to think about spending it. The best part? Before you know it, you’ll have a good chunk of change in your savings account without even realizing it!
Make Your Money Work Harder
Since we’re on the topic of savings accounts, when was the last time you checked the interest rate on yours? If you have a standard savings account (likely with the same bank as your checking account), then your interest rate is probably very low, which means your money is not doing any work for you.
If you want your money to work harder for you, then look into a high-yield savings account where the interest rate is typically 10 to 12 times higher than a standard savings account. That’s free money that could be yours with a small amount of work upfront! The stipulations of accounts vary (some require you to have a minimum balance, but some don’t), so do your research and find out which one works best for you.
Prioritize What’s Important To You
Since this is an article about budgeting, you’re probably waiting for the line about how cutting out your daily latte will save you $25 per week, which is $100 per month, which is blah blah blah. Sometimes that is great advice, but not in every scenario. If that daily latte is really important to you and something you look forward to every morning, then don’t cut it out of your life because you’re budgeting.
Cutting out the things you enjoy most is what makes you truly feel like you’re on a budget because it sucks away life’s little joys. Of course, if you’re in an extreme financial situation, you might have no other choice. But if you’re simply trying to save a little money, there are alternatives to skipping your daily Starbucks.
Budgeting is about prioritizing. Prioritize the things that are most important to you while cutting out the things you don’t value as much. Maybe coffee is important, but you rarely watch TV. If that’s the case, then keep on stopping at Starbucks but delete your Netflix or Hulu account. Everyone’s financial priorities are going to be a little different, but prioritizing the things that bring you joy while cutting the dead weight is one of the best ways to budget without depriving yourself.
See the Value of Experiences Over Material Goods
One of the worst parts about budgeting is feeling like you can’t go out and have fun with your friends and loved ones. Sure, it’s nice to go out to eat with your boyfriend, but you don’t actually need to do that in order to have a good time. Instead of thinking about budgeting as missing out on fun excursions with your friends, think about it as a way to see the value in experiences rather than material goods.
Yes, I’m well aware that some experiences cost money (that ski trip to Aspen ain’t cheap!), but there are a lot of things you can do with your friends, family, or boyfriend that don’t cost a dime. Think of it as a challenge to find things you can do in your city or town that don’t require you to spend money. Here are a few ideas:
Spend an afternoon at a museum (some have free admission!)
Go for a hike or walk
Pack some sandwiches for a picnic in the park
Take a bike ride and explore a new area of your city
Borrow a movie you’ve never seen from the library
Placing a priority on experiences over material things will do wonders for more than just your bank account. Your relationships will flourish as well!
If you hate budgeting, then the best way to go about it is by breaking the process up into smaller, more actionable items so it doesn’t feel like you’re budgeting at all. Yes, you want to save money, but you want to enjoy your life as well! Thankfully, with a little planning, it’s possible to do both at the same time.
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