5 budgeting hacks we actually use in our real lives
Here's what: How Insider's personal finance team budgets to live well
Allow me to make a confession that may horrify you: I love
If you're the kind of person who'd rather do 4,000 hours of housework than deal with your finances, I hear you. I have been you. But I'm here to say it doesn't have to be this way - and budgeting is your best chance at slaying the beast that is your financial fear.
It won't surprise you to learn that Insider's personal finance team is made up of a bunch of people like me - people who love talking and thinking about money. And our brain trust is full of smart ways to manage your money to save thousands and live well. I'd like to use today's newsletter to share some of our best advice.
My best budgeting tip is a simple one: Use a spreadsheet to track your spending. Knowing where your money is going now is the first step to spending it with purpose.
I have a Google spreadsheet where I track every penny I spend. When I grocery shop on Saturdays, for instance, I get back in my car, whip out my phone, and add my Trader Joe's total to my "grocery" line item for the month. Each tab in my spreadsheet represents a new month, and I list out all of my monthly bills and have categories for variable spending with limits for each (like $200 a month for "personal care and household items"). I built my spreadsheet and set my category limits by looking back at a few previous months of credit card and bank statements, and figuring out where and how I was spending.
When I need more money in a certain category, or need a new category all together, I make adjustments. My budget is a living document that evolves right alongside me.
Personal Finance Insider's executive editor, Libby Kane, says being honest with yourself about your spending is critical to building a living, breathing budget that supports you (instead of suffocating you). "Fudging spending categories or amounts to be 'good' or 'better' will only work against you in the long term," she says, so set up your budget however it makes sense for you. "I used to have a spending category entirely for buying chocolate!"
Jasmin Baron, our associate credit cards editor, shares a good hack for spending less at your favorite shops: Always join (and use) the loyalty/rewards program of the stores and restaurants you frequent. "It's amazing how much free or discounted stuff these programs offer - from free fries and other goodies at McDonald's (we may take advantage of that a lot around here) to digital coupons at grocery stores and drug stores," she says. "No coupon clipping required."
Trying to save and invest your way to long-term wealth? Take a cue from Ellen Hoffman, editor-in-chief of Insider's Service Journalism team: "I have a few direct deposits set up that split up every paycheck I earn between my high-yield savings account, investing account, and checking account," she tells me. "This has been a game-changer - it helps me save and invest with minimal effort. My hope is to be able to increase the amount I'm able to save and invest every year."
Sophia Acevedo, a fellow on the personal finance team, says keeping her savings separate from her spending money ensures she meets her goals every time. "When it comes to
Cheers to budgeting and saving your way to a life you love.
- Stephanie Hallett, senior editor of Personal Finance Insider
Stories you might have missed
Want to read more about budgeting? Writer Jen Glantz shares how a conversation with a friend changed her spending and savings habits for the better.
Writer Michelle Chikaonda thought she wanted to buy a house this year, but after seeing way too many overpriced homes in a hot market, she decided to focus on paying off her five-figure credit card debt - and fast.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Use. Your. Rewards. You earned them, and they can save you money.
The way we think about and relate to money has a profound impact on how we spend, save, and hoard cash (and objects). Writer Laura McCamy confronted this truth head-on when she started decluttering her home.
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