6 Ways to Clean Up Your Budget

I was recently going over my family’s finances and was shocked at how much I didn’t really know we were spending on frivolous things. But let me back up a bit… Actually, the idea of downsizing and cleaning up came to me while watching a show on TV last night about tiny houses. (Have you heard about these? I’m fascinated!) Anyway, I got to thinking about how much stuff our family has accumulated over the last four years, living in our 3-bedroom ranch. Keep in mind that our house isn’t a very large house at all compared to the average size. (2679 square feet!) Yet we still have managed to fill it with things and stuff over the last few years… and it’s getting to be a little, uh, cramped. I also want to point out that our house is PLENTY big enough for all of us and we don’t need a bigger home. But we DO need to go through each room and methodically clean up and clean out. Which brings me to our finances; How did we come to purchase all of this STUFF anyway?!

Quite honestly, I’ve been scratching my head for some time now wondering where our money goes… here and there and everywhere it seems. And when we really need something, often we are finding that our hands are tied and we need to use the credit card. My husband and I bring in enough money monthly that we should be able to save, theoretically. Unfortunately, we don’t have much savings at this point and it is time to get a serious handle on our financial past and present so we can secure a better financial future. So here are six very doable ways that I’ve come up with–OK, so these aren’t NEW ideas at all here. I’ve just done the reading and research. Let it be known that I’m definitely not a professional or a financial expert. Please keep that in mind as you read on.

Clean up and clean out our house this fall and have a yard//garage sale. This is going to be a LOT of work, but in the end, we will have extra space AND some extra cash to put toward bills or savings.

Pay bills second, pay ourselves first. This means taking the 30 seconds to log in to the bank account and throw in some extra cash into the savings account. This is like, rule #1 of saving. Rule #2 is “Don’t touch your savings unless it’s an emergency, and even then, reconsider it!” Haha. Okay maybe not, but clearly for us financial discipline is lacking.

Create a daily spending limit and stick to it. That’s right. Daily. Because sometimes, those of us who aren’t so good with budgeting, need serious boundaries. This way, we can really look at “What am I spending my money on? Is this a necessity, a treat, or should I//do I need to save my daily allowance for something in a few days?”

Commit to paying down debt. There are a few ways to do this effectively, but, as I’ve been reading, the simplest is to take it in small chunks and pay off the smallest one first. Then tackle the next smallest, and so on. This is a great way to see progress! (And I like to see progress sooner than later!) There is a school of thought–and a wise one at that–that says pay off the debt with the highest interest rate. This is a really good idea too.

Focus on needs instead of wants… for now. I think we have to look closely what we want to spend our money on… for me, I like getting my nails done. I also like buying clothes for myself and my family. But right now these things need to be put on hold. We have more than enough, and frankly–even though I loathe it–I can do my own nails for a little while. I don’t want to deprive anyone, but I think it is a valid exercise to simplify life a bit; get creative with what we have, use what we have, and then, after a period of two or three months, see where our financial priorities are.

Choose DIY over convenience. This sort of goes hand-in-hand with #5, but I think it’s worth mentioning on its own. It takes five more minutes each morning to make your own cup of coffee rather than shelling out $2.00 for it everyday. ($2.00 x 7 = $14.00 a week! That’s $56 a month!) It takes 10 minutes to pack a lunch at home. See where I’m going here? Time and money are definitely precious commodities, but again, if you’re on a budget, it’s time (no pun intended) to consider what is worth our time versus what is worth our hard-earned money. 10 minutes for a healthier lunch packed at home means more to me than ordering a quick lunch in the cafeteria and not really knowing where the food actually came from.

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