Money Mistakes Run Rampant when you don’t Budget

The term “budget” is overused considerably by the masses who act as though they have their money allotted in all the right places when in actuality they’re making one financial mistake after another.

Case in point, ask yourself not so much if you have a budget but if you actually track your spending and stick to what you have on paper. Remember, your budget is only as good as your tracking method and often certain line items get left off your list because they’re not main points of payment like your car and house.

That daily cup of coffee or the movies you rent on cable through your DVR box once a week for Saturday date night don’t fall under an entertainment or food piece of budgeting that goes unnoticed, when in actuality they add up considerably.

Your spending also tends to become more difficult when you ironically can’t spend at all. A budget needs to be looked at as though you actually have the ability to spend money, and if that means cutting back on other expenses, then so be it.

If you need to build in a budget item that allows you to buy shirt once per month or a DVD, that shouldn’t be off the table. You have to be able to enjoy your income and so if cutting cable television or lowering your phone payment is the alternative to being able to take a vacation or go to the movies, that’s the give and take that budgeting has to take.

Budgeting also means you have to have your savings account in mind or putting aside that nest egg that we all need when we move toward retirement. Again, it goes back to looking at the entire scope of your income versus your expenses, and getting rid of the latter in spots where you can turn spending into saving.

And far too many people look at budgeting as something they have to do, not a beneficial tool to save money the way it is intended to take place. Budgeting needs to take on the perspective of a means to secure your financial future, to still enjoy life and live comfortably within your means, rather than depravation and deciding between what you can and can’t have.

Budgeting is about what you need to survive and what is expendable, and not so much living in the moment but realizing one day after the next is a balance between how to save money and spend the right way.

Line by Line: Why exactly can’t we stick to budget?

How often do you hear someone clamor on about just how easy it is to stick to a budget?

In the simplest form, the budget is nothing more than tracking what you spend versus what you make, plain and simple. Budgeting really is not made to be complicated but truthfully taking your expenses and making sure that number is less than what you make, whether that means cutting your cable cord, saying so long to your data plan or eliminating that shopping spree you’ve allowed yourself to enjoy on a regular basis at your favorite department store isn’t quite as simple as some make it.

Yes, you can just go ahead and start hacking away, and that can get you so far, but what if there isn’t enough money coming in as far as income goes? Can you really begin to even contemplate saving money if you’re not making enough to pay even the essentials? At that point, the budget process is tossed aside quickly and with extreme prejudice and you instead decide to scrimp and save where you can and simply wait to pay bills when you have the money, which leads to lower than average credit scores and a reputation that lenders don’t exactly love to see.

Another budget breakdown that you often can’t account for are expenses that you really don’t take into consideration. That two a day coffee habit, stopping for lunch every day and spending money on something as simple as a newspaper or candy bar can lead to thousands of dollars spent per year and even as much as hundreds per month. Ask yourself, how often do you eat out at restaurants, is it breakfast, lunch and dinner some days, and if so, do you realize that accounts for nearly $500 per month in added expense?

When a particular bill or expense, like a gym membership or cable, goes up due to rate hike or added services, do you pay attention to that? Do you adjust your budget? Chances are, you don’t.

Not sticking to a budget is nothing new, but it also isn’t beyond the realm of expectation to not have one at all simply because you haven’t the slightest idea where to start. Sure, a budget can be set up rather easily but staying the course and examining it beyond the norm or not taking into consideration a lack of income or literally all the purchases and expenses you have daily is going to translate into a lot of effort and very little results or outcome as it relates to being able to save money or plan financially for any sort of future.

Saving Money and Killing Debt Starts at Home

Far too often, debt is linked to a lack of income. That is hardly the case in most instances.

If you take a long look at your budget and what your expenses are, you’ll see that a lot of it is tied to day to day living, something as mundane and inconsequentially supposedly as a cup of coffee to examining your mortgage and how much you’re paying on a monthly basis.

The mortgage often is the biggest culprit, and it starts during the prequalifying offer you’ll get in the form of a max amount you can borrow.

Why exactly would you want to max out your borrowing capacity when it comes to buying a home?

The idea behind a mortgage as it relates to saving money is to have a monthly payment that doesn’t leave you nearly broke. Some say your mortgage payment shouldn’t be any larger than half of your gross income in two weeks of work. Others have tried to keep their housing payment as low as possible by simply going more economical when they buy. No matter which way you sway, staying well under that borrowing dollar figure that you’re pre qualified for is a smart financial decision. Once the newness of the house wears off and that large payment settles in, you’ll regret it immediately as you write that mortgage check every month.

In addition, you an always work diligently to cut down on your expenses at home, starting with the most obvious and least needed culprit: cable television. Not far behind, however, is your cell phone bill and that data plan.

Cable costs the average consumer nearly $2,000 per year. That money can be offset by simply signing up for Netflix or Hulu or taking advantage of new channels such as CBS and Showtime that want to give you access to their programming, a la carte style, for a monthly feel so you can pick and choose what you want to watch.

Seems like the days of paying for cable television on that level are coming to an end, but the issue is the lack of willingness of customers to change; they simply accept the fact that cable is a necessary expense. It isn’t.

Finally, convenience often is king, and that pertains to eating out for dinner, even if it is fast food, rather than cooking at home. Continually break in that kitchen on a regular basis, and you’ll save nearly $1,000 per year on food cost, enough to put in your savings account and build that nest egg you’ll eventually need.

The whole idea behind saving is to avoid borrowing, and that can be accomplished within the confines of the four walls you call home.

Make a Plan: Start off Correctly for 2014

One of the things I like to do at the start of each year is to make a plan for myself and my family because I feel if I begin my year correctly, my budget goals for the year will be plain sailing.

Starting off the New Year 2014 with a budget in mind and a plan in place could be your start to a debt-free calendar year. What is most important is having your focus on finances, leaving distractions in the background and keeping your goal in mind. Turning off the television is where it all starts. Television instills ideas of grandeur in our heads, with guilt-inducing and money-motivating ads. Find another hobby that will motivate you better – try reading. Next, join every Free Rewards Card Program that you can. I know what you’re picturing – a huge key ring with hundreds of rewards cards dangling; you can avoid that chaos today with a digital version of almost every rewards card. Take this step to join and track your spending at your favorite shopping locales. To simplify this process, create an e-mail address specifically for your rewards cards and promotions. Only access this account when it is time for you to shop for an item or items you are looking for. As far as credit cards, I know you have those “emergency” credit cards available for use in your wallet. Hide them. Take a bit of cash instead, you will be far less motivated to swipe away in a dire situation. Don’t allow yourself to have a plastic safety net until you feel like you have the strength to not use it simply based on how easy it is to swip

Before you embark on that shopping trip, make a list before you leave. This will help to maximize efficiency and cut down on additional unnecessary spending. Don’t place anything in your cart that is not on your list, no matter how tough that may be and you will end up saving surprisingly more money than you envisaged. During this shopping trip, stock up on items you can use for multiple meals. Cut down on fast food and eating out, spend a weekend afternoon for a few hours and prepare meals for the week. This way you will save time and money, and you will also benefit by having healthy meals if you stick to it. Simple ingredients leave options for a lot of different meals to enjoy throughout the week and variety is key in sticking to this program. Spend time creating a casserole of sorts and make multiples. Freezing food is just as easy as purchasing a prepaid meal and it’s something you can eat healthily and cheaply. Instead of planning those meals around a cookbook you have, or a Pinterest recipe you found, base it on your local grocery stores flyer. Base it on the bigger items that are on sale and you will maximize the store savings discounts and you will get more bang for your buck. Don’t be afraid to do a comparison by taking a couple of extra minutes to compare the items on your list to those at another local store. Heck, the grocery stores do it all the time! Eventually you will come to find that one of the stores you choose will consistently have better deals and the more you frequent that location, the more you save.

All of these ideas are just the beginning of a new lifestyle for yourself in 2014, and when you make a plan, you prepare the ground going forward. Simple changes can really affect your pocket book in a positive light, and you may even find yourself having fun in the process.