Because I am a recent college graduate with student loans and a newcomer to the American work-force, I need to live on a budget. After I graduated college, I joined the AmeriCorps affiliated non-profit organization City Year Los Angeles. I volunteered more than 50 hours a week tutoring and mentoring at-risk students in the Boyle Heights neighborhoods of Los Angeles. This experience taught me more than the value of serving the community and giving selflessly to others. It taught me the ins and outs of budgeting.
I have worked these strategies into my daily life, so I can survive and thrive on my budget.
I Keep Track of My Expenses
When living on the City Year stipend, I quickly realized that if I didn't know where my money was going, it would just fly away. Since this was the first time in my life I had to balance rent and utility payments in addition to making sure I ate, I started recording my transactions in a notebook. I have been doing this now for over a year. This practice allows me to break down my spending after the end of the month and see where my money is going. It also helps me from spending impulsively because I know that I will have to write it down in the notebook.
I Only Use Cash
I have begun to allow myself a certain amount of cash for the week. I have to use this cash to pay for all my groceries, household items and any luxurious trips to the coffee shop. For me, seeing the total amount of money I have for the week in my wallet, really helps me from impulsively buying something I don't really need. But when the money is invisible on a debit or credit card, it is much easier to spend. Plus, I collect all my change and save that up to buy myself a treat later on. Of course I do make exceptions to this rule and use my checking account to purchase plane tickets and other such online purchases.
I Save Up to Buy a Wanted Item
Since, I use cash to pay my my way through the week, sometimes I have a little left over. I put this into a special drawer and save it for an item that might cost a little more than I have for my weekly budget. This practice teaches me to save for something I want but don't need. It feels good saving up money to get myself something cool. By putting away a little every week towards something I want, I don't have to dig into my savings account to buy it.
I Ride My Bike Everywhere
I do not own a car. This admittedly is sometimes very inconvenient like when it is raining or I need to do a big grocery shopping. However, I love using my bike as an alternative. Besides the environmental benefit, I make no car or insurance payments. There is also a program called Zip Car that's available in several cities that allows you to rent a car for a several hours at a time which can be a great alternative to owning a car.
I Cook My Own Homemade Meals
I save a lot of money because I make my own food. I buy my food in bulk which saves money as well as packaging and make myself delicious meals. I bake my own bread and make my own deserts. Not only do some of my meals run me less than $1, I also know that the ingredients are good for my health as well.
What do you do to save money and follow your budget? Leave comments or email me at ASmith@thesurvivorsclub.org