You see an advertisement on television about that dream home or car you wish you had, or that getaway that would provide the relief you need. Then, suddenly, reality sets in before you’re overwhelmed by your daydreams. Your desires and your bank account are not a match made in heaven.
In fact, many people live meager paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by. Or maybe some have an abundant income but no idea how to manage it. If you are stuck on either side of the spectrum or smack dab in the middle, there are ways to make your money work for you.
Don’t know where to start? Keep the receipt for every expenditure you make for a month. At the end of the month, take a closer look at where your money went. What you find will more than likely surprise you.
Here are some budget busters to keep an eye out for:
Whether it’s a layoff, unexpected medical bill or mechanical failure of your vehicle, financial emergencies are no fun and can mean life or death for your budget. However, if you plan ahead and allocate a few funds for each category, your financial emergencies can become a thing of the past. (See: “9 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund When Money’s Tight.”
And then there are the so-called emergencies — sudden expenditures you can do without. Don’t confuse the two, and save your emergency funds for the real thing.
Are you a gadget junkie? Maybe you have to have the latest and greatest iPhone or tablet? If you haven’t planned for this expense, your budget will be sure to let you know. And if you must have a particular gadget, consider buying a refurbished version.
Do you shop using a meal planner and coupons, or do you just grab whatever you desire at that moment? It’s so simple to do: You head to the store with a few things in mind but end up spending $100 or more. That’s where discipline comes in.
Another word of advice: Never head to the store hungry, or you will be tempted to leave with every item that whets your mental appetite. (Take a look at “9 Tips to Cut Your Grocery Bill by Up to 50 Percent.”)
4. Dining out
This one is especially a problem if you spend tons of funds at the grocery store each month but end up dining out more than you actually cook. Another trap are office lunch dates, which have the potential to wreak havoc on your wallet if they become a part of your daily routine.
My advice: Put the tips from “15 Ways to Cut Your Fine Dining Bill in Half” to good use if you insist on dining out.
The guys or girls are heading out for a night of fun, and you are all for it. What a perfect opportunity, especially considering that you’ve had a long week at work and your kids are driving you nuts. But there’s only one problem: Your bank account is on the brink of going into the red. Be wise and say no.
Even if you have to make up a lame excuse to prevent being ridiculed by your friends, it’s worth salvaging your budget. (Check out “14 Ways to Have More Fun for Less Money.”)
6. Lavish travel
Heading out of town for the weekend or for an extended excursion? If you’re already struggling to make ends meet, now is not the time to splurge on five-star hotels and first-class flights.
Here are 10 ways to get free lodging.
Addicted to fashion? Well, those new heels you’ve been eagerly waiting to get your hands on have finally gone on clearance, and you just have to have them. But if your budget says no, it’s wise to leave them at the store.
8. Pampering sessions
While your body may need a little TLC each month, heading to the spa or hair salon once a week has the potential to be deadly from a financial perspective.
Instead of signing up for the most expensive plan, try basic cable. Or even better, cut cable altogether and go for much cheaper alternatives, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix. See how you can stop paying for cable right now.
10. Gym memberships
Being healthy and fit definitely have their perks, but spending way too much money to reach your fitness goals makes no sense.
Why not ditch the gym and search for inexpensive or free courses or exercise at your community recreation center instead? Or try the great outdoors; a little fresh air won’t hurt.
Take a look at “DIY Fitness: 10 Tips to Get In Shape Without the Gym.”
Did you drastically underestimate the costs associated with that new home or apartment? Are your housing costs much more than you can reasonably afford? Does the expression “house rich and cash poor” sound familiar?
The next go-round, be conservative and leave as much wiggle room in your budget as possible for unexpected monthly bills and maintenance and repair costs (if applicable). Before you apply for a mortgage or lease, use an affordability calculator to gauge what you can realistically contribute toward housing expenses each month.