Some people say I am super woman; as if I can somehow know it all, do it all and have it all. I wish. The reality of it is that I put my pants on just like you do: one leg at a time. And when it comes to budgeting, it was a chore that I used to abhor just as much as you do, until I found out how to shift my mindset to budgetary bliss. The trick isn’t even really a trick at all, it’s all about learning how to customize your budget to fit you just as perfectly as your favorite pair of jeans.
Step One: Have a Starting Off Point
Me? Well, I’m a planner, and an Excel junkie. Instead of investing a ton of money in personal finance software, I started with an Excel spreadsheet. I tracked my income, my expenses and then I made like a fiscal machete and slashed whatever I could to get my expenses well beneath my income.
What this does: Saves me from living above my means.
Step Two: I Found an App for That
Throughout my internet wanderings, I stumbled upon Mint.com and have been using it religiously. It’s a free online budgeting tool that sends me text alerts if I go over budget in a single area, it synchs up with my bank to track my spending and sends me a weekly financial summary. Naturally, there is also an app for that.
What this does: Holds me accountable.
Step 3: I Prioritized My Savings
I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t prioritize my savings, I won’t save enough – if at all. I set up bi-weekly allotments to my Smarty Pig savings account. I save 10 percent of my earnings in my “Emergency Fund” goal, another 10 percent in my “Holiday and Gifts” goal and a final 10 percent in my “Unexpected Expenses” goal.
What this does: Keeps me saving, and saves me from blowing my budget on major holidays or minor emergencies. (Note to self: New shoes are not an emergency.)
Step 4: I Leveraged My Earnings
I used to be just like you. I would make excuses for myself as to why I couldn’t earn more cash or why I couldn’t save 30 percent of my income. And I am going to come clean with you right now, I was full of it. So are you. With just a little elbow grease and planning, you can blog, fulfil orders on Fiverr, get virtual assisting gigs on Odesk or even start a dog walking service and pocket at least $1,000 extra dollars per month. I did. And now, my blogging nets me over $2,000 per week in extra, supplemental income – and 30 percent of that goes to savings too.
What this does: Keeps me financially ahead of the game at all times.
Step 5: I Got Really Smart With My Cash Back
I buy just about everything online (as long as I get free shipping) through my E-bates account. This pays me a percentage of cash back everywhere I shop. I pay for my orders using in store loyalty programs, coupons or cash back offers, and wrap it all up with a payment from my cash back debit card. I earn about a six percent savings on everything I buy, whenever I buy it. Then, all of the cash back I earn goes straight into my savings account, while every dime I spend is accounted for in my automated budget.
What this does: Keeps me constantly ahead of the savings game.
Let’s be honest, if your bank account is depressing and you are living paycheck to paycheck, you are probably stressed out and pushed to your own financial limit. The reality of the situation is that you are also going to stay there, unless you take proactive steps to fix it, and it all starts with finding budgetary bliss. After all, you will never know how to win with money, if you don’t know how much money you have to work with to begin with, and I wouldn’t have either. Now, where did I put my super woman cape again?
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