Tips for staying on budget when the urge gets to be too much

Shiny penny

One saved is one earned. Image: stevendepolo/Flickr/CC BY

The economic crisis affects most of us every day as we tighten our belts and keep our wallets in check. But like a dieter craving sweets, temptation is always there to consume beyond our means. Thankfully, there are simple things you can do when the cravings get to be too much.

Think ahead

Thinking long term can help. Instead of seeing savings and frugality as a chore, think big picture. You and your family will be happier if you aren’t overextending to pay off last month’s splurge.

Realistic frugality begins with a realistic plan. If a budget is too restrictive, it adds stress to your life. That constant pressure may lead to abandoning the budget altogether. Make your plan realistic, but not a “starvation diet.”

Include some fun

While a budget must begin with month-to-month obligations and essentials — mortgage, groceries, car insurance, utilities —  it should also include some “fun money.” If you enjoy sports, make sure to include some greens fees or club dues. If concerts or theater are your thing, figure in a ticket every couple of months.

Another way to achieve this is to keep a “fun fund,” which is reserved only for a specific goal. Instead of giving in to every impulse, focus on the really satisfying ones and put a little away toward it out of every paycheck. Maybe there is a trip you want to take, or one luxury item that you truly want. With a little patience and persistence, it can be yours.

Ways to cut corners

For the day-to-day items, there are many things you can do to cut corners. Here are just a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Most beauty schools and community colleges offer cut-rate haircuts and beauty services, as students need opportunities to practice their craft. While that may sound risky, rest assured most places only let advanced students touch the paying customers.

Second-hand and thrift stores are a wonderful resource for items we use every day. Flea markets, garage sales and Craigslist are good, too. Somebody once said one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Go explore. You never know what you might find for a song.

Fuel expenses are one of the worst drains on our resources these days. Try public transportation, carpooling and consolidating trips. Remember, the less you are behind the wheel, the less you are spending.

Tell yourself ‘Wait’

The best thing you can do to stay frugal and on budget is tell yourself to wait. We see something on television, online or in a store and think we just have to have it. Tell yourself, “Wait.” How many times have we given in to that urge, only to see the item gather dust or wind up in the next garage sale? Chances are it is a whim brought on by budget fatigue, and the burning desire will go away. If the feeling persists, then maybe it is something worth saving for in your “fun fund.”


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