balancing a budget

Part of balancing the Nine to Five includes being able to balance a checkbook. Whether it’s on paper, online, or in your head, a proper budget (or lack thereof) can make or break your life as a working professional.

A friend recently asked if I would share some of my favorite ways to save money. Admittedly, I wasn’t always so cautious with money, and that’s come to bite me in the butt. Nevertheless, I’m working toward a debt-free life, and here are the steps that help me save a bit each month:

1. Create a budget. It sounds simple, but it will be your guiding light. For example, I put away $xx for groceries and food each month. I don’t go over. If I only have $5 left at the end of the month, I eat a lot of beans and rice.

2. Create separate bank accounts so you can see where your money is going. For me, these include: bills, free spending, and a savings account. I also have a “short-term savings” for items like baby shower gifts or birthday gifts.

3. Buy produce and cook from scratch. People think that vegetables are more expensive than pre-packed meals. Untrue! If you cut out most processed food, you will save a lot of money.

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4. Use sites like Groupon or LivingSocial to find deals. If buying online, you can sometimes find promotional codes on sites like retailmenot.com

5. Only go on a trip or vacation when you’ve saved the money to do it. Don’t charge a vacation or plane flight. Also, the same applies to Christmas. Put away $20 from each paycheck. That’s nearly $500 for the year, if you’re paid twice a month.

5. Plant a garden. Free vegetables all summer.

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6. Make crockpot dishes or casseroles. Most ingredients are super cheap, and the food lasts a while. You can freeze it if you have too much.

7. Sell stuff or work a part-time job (but only one that you enjoy, or could do from home).

8. Eat out only 1x/month, or 1x/week, depending on your schedule. Or, order take-out.

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9. For gifts, send stories or home-crafted goods. People tend to like items that are personal anyway.

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10. Turn off lights/TV/etc. every time you leave a room. Most nights, I only have one light on in my entire house. The bill has gone from $70+ when my roommate lived here to $30.

11. Spend more time at home. And make it a pretty space for yourself so that you enjoy it.

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How do you balance a budget?

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