A plan to improve your budget can seem overwhelming.
I mean, sometimes just having a budget feels difficult. So, how do you maintain and improve your budget without wasting hours of time?
If you’re new to budgeting, here’s something you should know. Your budget is a living, breathing document. And it should be flexible enough for you to easily make adjustments to conform to your lifestyle, no one else’s.
When I learned how to adjust my budget and make improvements, I found that my budget just worked better overall.
My spending was more realistic and I didn’t feel deprived or restricted.
So, improving your budget regularly is what makes you successful.
If you don’t currently have a budget and want to get started, you can grab the free budget guide to get started the right way.
If you’ve been budgeting for a while and feel stuck, you’re probably not adjusting or improving your budget enough.
Convinced? Great! But what if you’re not sure how to get it to a place that is really workable for your lifestyle?
That’s where this post will help you.
I’ve been budgeting for more than a decade. My budget is what helped us pay off more than $105,000 of consumer debt in less than 5 years on average accountant salaries.
If you’re trying to fix your finances and feel like your budget needs improvement, that’s a great sign that you are mindful and on the right track.
Here are 5 easy ways that helped me vastly improve our budget over time.
These action steps are simple, but they make a big difference immediately.
I should note that simple does not mean easy. Simple just means that the steps are straightforward, but to find success, you have to put in the effort.
If you’re willing to work to improve your budget, you’ll find that these steps can save you a lot of money.
1. Improve Your Budget by Scaling Back
It’s important to look at all of your expenses and cut back on the things that aren’t enhancing your life.
Nine years ago, we decided to cut the cable completely, and got a high quality antenna to watch network TV along with getting a Netflix subscription.
This one small Change saved us $110 per month!
And you know what? We don’t miss it at all. With that extra $110, we’ve been able to pay off debt, save for vacations, eat out more, and pay for things that matter.
Since we work full time and are out of the house most hours of the day, we only really watch TV for 2-3 hours per day, and with Netflix, this helps us watch what we want, when we want.
Even the kids don’t miss it.
There are other non-essential items you can look to reduce or eliminate. Think about your premium cell phone plan, is there are more affordable option?
What about your takeout lunches? Can you bring lunch from home instead?
Personal care was a huge one for me. I started DIYing everything, from dying and cutting my own hair, to doing my manicures and pedicures.
And none of my appearance looks like I DIYed it, people ask all the time where I got those services done. It always makes me smile knowing I got the same result at home for a fraction of the cost.
Cutting back on services you can DIY will greatly improve your budget and will save a lot of money you can use for more important things.
2. Reduce Your Utility Bills
People often overlook this expense category because it seems like a fixed expense. It doesn’t help that you can’t shop around for other companies with better rates.
But, you can search online for ways to reduce your energy costs, like turning on appliances during downtime (usually at night) or programs that help you pay less for energy.
Changing your habits even a little will make a difference in next month’s bill.
We started wearing more sweaters and layers during winter to reduce the times we had to turn on the heater.
It saved us on average $30-$50 per month. That seems like a small amount, but that’s $360-$600 per year. Wouldn’t that be better saved for a nice family vacation or to bump up your emergency fund?
This can be done with any utility bill.
Your habit changes can help you reduce your expenses and improve your budget so you have money for more enjoyable things.
3. Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half
The average American spends about 33% of their income on groceries. For a person making $40,000 per year, that’s a whopping $13,200 annually.
Your groceries should typically be about 10%-15% of your total income. And this is totally doable. You can read more posts about ways to save on your groceries below.
If this is a hard one for you, try reducing your food budget by $20 a month at first. You’ll find that, with time, you’ll be able to continue reducing your grocery bill and improve your budget.
I get it- we all have items that we justify putting in our shopping carts that probably shouldn’t be there.
For me, it’s usually chips and chocolate (my 2 obsessions). If a bag of chips is on sale for $2 and I skip it, will it kill me? No.
Groceries are an easy place to cut expenses
The one trick that reduced my grocery bill significantly was buying all raw ingredients and cooking at home. I buy fresh veggies and fruits and fresh meat and poultry.
The more natural the state of your food is, the cheaper it is. Prepackaged, precooked, and prepared-for-you meals are all costing you a premium and will never taste as amazing as a homemade version.
Trust me, I used to be a pre-made food junkie when I didn’t know how to cook. I taught myself how to cook little by little and now my kids prefer my food to eating out.
Learning how to navigate my kitchen has greatly improved my budget because I can save a lot of money eating in.
4. think about your car
Financing your car should not be the norm. It’s better to save the money and buy the car, a couple of years old, outright.
You’ll save on interest, but you’ll also save on the depreciation that all cars have during the first few years.
I’ve had my car since 2008 and I’m not planning on buying another car until this one no longer works.
We’ve saved at least $500 per month for the last 10 years by not buying another car .
If you’re currently financing your car, perhaps think about paying it off early. Add $50 a month to your payment to accelerate the payoff.
This small change can help you improve your budget and get you out of debt much faster.
5. Reduce Your Commute Cost
Obviously, if you have a car, you’re going to be using it to commute to work, right?
I did something crazy about 7 years ago that drastically improved my budget.
It’s crazy to me because it’s something I never saw myself doing, since I had a decent new car.
I started taking a commuter bus to work everyday. I wrote an entire post about the benefits of taking the bus here.
My commute is about 45 minutes one way. I’ve been able to save 70% of my fuel cost, I save a lot wear and tear on my car, and I’ve saved $82 a month in parking expenses alone.
This one change made such a big difference in my budget.
I also get the added benefit of working on the blog, catching up on social media, and taking naps during my commute. It’s such an awesome thing that I never thought I’d enjoy so much.
If you live near a bus or train station, I recommend at least trying it out for a week. Your experience may just change your perspective.
I was always of the mindset that bus takers were people who don’t have a car of their own.
Boy, was I wrong! All the people that take the bus with me are parking their nice cars and taking the bus.
They know wassup! The only regret I have is that I wish I made the choice sooner. I’d never go back to driving to work again.
Improving Your Budget just got Easier
It’s one thing to create a budget, but the most important step is tweaking your budget to make it work for your lifestyle.
Your budget should reflect your lifestyle, it shouldn’t be a cookie cutter budget.
These 5 changes made a huge difference in improving my budget.
I’ve been able to save hundreds of dollars each month, which I’m using to tackle my mortgage debt and save for family vacations.
The debt-free life you want is completely reachable if you use your budget as a primary tool to manage your money.
Making regular improvements to your budget will save you money and help you afford the life you want.