Keeping a sound budget is advisable for anyone, but is particularly important for students and those that have recently graduated; with soaring tuition and student loan payments, reckless day-to-day expenses will only further dig yourself into a deeper hole. With that said, budgeting isn't as difficult as many perceive it to be. Here are five simple ways to keep your expenses in check and help you stick to a budget.
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Primarily use cash — or treat your credit card as a debit card.
When you use a credit card to purchase things, what you're actually doing is receiving goods in exchange for the trust that you'll eventually pay back whichever lender "fronted" the balance of your purchase.
However, using credit to purchase things can be a slippery slope as not needing to pay your lender back immediately can result in impulsive spending. Studies have shown people who use credit cards to make purchases are more likely to overspend than those who use cash.
With that said, carrying a little plastic card is obviously more convenient than carrying wads of cash. If you must use your credit card, make sure you first have the cash amount in your bank account to eventually pay your credit card bill.
Keep eating out and/or ordering food to a minimum.
As convenient as it may be, constantly eating out at restaurants and ordering from Seamless can really add up and drain your wallet due to added expenses like tax, tip and the extra round of drinks or two. Eating at home ensures that you're primarily paying for food, as opposed to paying for service.
Look for supermarket deals and/or buy food in bulk.
Speaking of food, cooking at home is cheaper, but shopping for groceries can be expensive if you're not careful or make too many impulse buys. Buying stuff you know you're going to eat in bulk can save you money in the long run — just don't go overboard to the point where you buy everything in bulk only for the majority of it go to waste.
Be frugal: Cut down on luxuries and erroneous expenses.
Do you really need to download that app? Do you really need Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime accounts while also subscribing to cable? Do you really need to upgrade your phone, when your current one works sufficiently? Do you really need to buy coffee every single day, instead of making it at home?
Save your receipts and keep track of your spending.
This seems self-evident, and yet many people don't practice it. Overspending often happens because people aren't cognizant of how much they've already spent. When you have a visual account, such as a spreadsheet documenting how much you've spent or an unruly pile of receipts, you're less likely to spend more money and more likely to stick to a reasonable budget. Additionally, gathering and compiling all your expenses into one place can even help you identify problematic spending habits in order to alleviate them.