Let me tell you, it is hard to come up with a budget and stick to it. Now, I've never had any debt before in my life and I paid cash for everything - which was a good thing, but didn't help too much with building credit. I did get my first credit card at the beginning of this year, in order to help me build credit, and I paid it off in FULL every month. If I didn't have the cash to pay for something, I didn't purchase it on the card and I stuck to that faithfully this year.
Now that we have our first home (and a mortgage!), I really wanted to start watching our spending and making a budget. This has proved to be difficult in the past, since there are 2 of us. I see a withdrawal on the account and Barry can't remember what he spent the money on, or vice versa. We've been trying to use the bank card for every purchase - this helps in knowing where our money is going and there are no additional fees, so why not? As long as we have $20 or $40 cash on us as backup at all times, I really thought it would work and help us out.
Anyway, since we are home owners we now have a few additional bills that we didn't have before (water bill, home insurance, etc.) and as such I've broken down our monthly bills like this per month:
Mortgage - $504.00 (paid weekly @ $126.00)
Mortgage Life Insurance - $75
Home Insurance - $75
Car Insurance - $170
Heat - $100
Hydro - $150
Cable - $100
Phone + Internet - $80
Water - $80
Some can flucuate like our heat, hydro and water bills but the rest are the same amount every month. For the bills that flucuate I've calculated an average monthly cost for the year. We'll find out if I need to adjust those estimates after we've been here for a year.
So, the total monthly bills add up to $1334/month. Not too bad, and only about $100 more a month then we were paying for our bills while we were renting so we should be in pretty good shape - thanks to our low, low mortgage! Now, what I did is since me and my husband are paid every 2 weeks on an opposite rotation - one of us gets a pay check every week - so, I've calculated weekly costs of $333.50. This amount will be taken out of our main account each week on pay day and moved into our savings account and used for bills. That way, we will know that anything left in our main account is 'extra' or 'savings' cash, and that's it.
I have just started this plan so we will see how it works out!
Now, a few ways to save money:
1) Cellphones -- Barry and I both have cellphones that are prepaid and cost $20/month each for unlimited texting, since that's all we use our cellphones for, it works for us. Even if we didn't, we would definitely look around for something that is cheap. I had a cellphone when I was 17 that was in my mom's name -- that thing was under a 3 yr contract and ended up costing $85/month. There is no way that either of us would pay that kind of cash! No matter how much I want an iPhone, it is not going to happen.
2) Cable Providers -- In our apartment, we had only 1 option for television service and they were horrible. We were there for 2.5 years and I believe in that time our bill doubled without us ever having changing our programming. Their customer service was terrible, too. Luckily, where we are now we have a choice and we were able to shop around for the best price that worked for us. Our old company offered us their first born if we stuck with them, but it wasn't going to happen after our experiences. We are now saving approximately $30 on this bill by being able to go with another company, plus we get more channels and programming for our money. Win, win!
3) Online Shopping -- I LOVE to shop online and I despise shopping in stores. I've very much an emotional shopper when I'm in a store and that can be costly. But, when I'm shopping online I find myself very picky and indecisive about my purchases. I'll find something that I love, but then I think, 'what if it's on sale somewhere else?' and with that, I will go searching. Normally by the end of my search I've realized that what I've been looking at is not neccessarily a NEED and is more of a WANT, and I don't end up buying anything. This is just me - and I know it won't work for everyone, but it certainly does for me!
4) Grocery Shopping -- Ahh, grocery shopping, one of my biggest pet peeves. Fortunately, around here we have 4 big name grocery stores in our small city and they all like to compete with each other. Instead of having to go to all 4 for different sales - we can go to 1 and they will price match the other 3 stores. I hate to do this if the store is busy and there is a long line of people behind us while we are having the cashier price match but come on - we've saved up to $100 a trip by doing this.
5) Eating Out -- This one struggle we have. Or, I have. I love to eat out! Most girls will treat themselves to a new dress or new makeup product but I am ALL about treating myself by hitting up a drive-thru or going out for dinner. We did this way too much our first week here, but in the midst of moving, it can be understandable. Now, we are trying to limit ourselves to once a week as a treat. One pizza a week, or one dinner out a week. The rest of the time we stay in and cook, but that in itself can be tough when Barry works shiftwork, and I hate cooking a meal just for myself, but we are working on this one!
6) Coupons -- I'm not a big coupon person, as in the paper kind you take to the store. However, I have no shame hunting online for discount codes since that's how I do most of my shopping anyway. If I find something I am planning to purchase, I will search high and low for a coupon for that store. Even $5 sometimes makes it worth it, or free shipping coupons are always a bonus!
7) Work Lunches -- I was shocked once I sat down and figured out the number of coins I was putting into my work vending machine, and there was absolutely no need or reason for it, except for laziness and habit. The change definitely added up in my case. Barry has always been good for taking his own lunch everyday, of course I always end up making it -- so why don't I take 5 minutes out and make my own right along with his? I thought I was picky, or I would feel even worse if I wasted food. Now, I just pack a light lunch. A drink or two, and a few things to snack on during the day. This way, I'm not tempted by the vending machines and I don't feel bad for wasting a big lunch.
8) Entertainment -- Besides eating out, and the odd casino trip (which is a money sucker on all it's own, and we are NOT going anymore except on New Year's Eve) we don't really 'go out' and spend tons of money on events or evenings out. One thing we do enjoy, however, is our local Canadian hockey team games. We've been going to their games for years and over the years, have noticed that the ticket prices just keep going up and up and up. Every single year. Sometimes we just go on Saturday nights, but sometimes we always go one night through the week if it's supposed to be a really good game and it was costing a lot of money to keep up with this. As it turns out, my employer is now a major sponsor for this team and we are able to get tickets for UNDER half price! Huge savings and it makes the night out a little bit more enjoyable when you are spending so much less. This won't work for everyone, of course, but the point is -- There are always things you can do to cut things down, search around for deals, etc. It can happen!
9) Don't 'Deprive' Yourself, Treat Yourself -- This is more of changing your mindset. Instead of picking up a Tim Hortons coffee on the way to work out of habit, tell yourself that it's a treat if you stop and get one. Remember the dollar value that one cup coffee cost you, and enjoy it with that in mind! Everyone needs to treat themselves every once in a while, but it helps to start thinking of things this way so you aren't falling back into a money sucking trap (like Tim Hortons coffee several times a day!).
What are some of your best tips for saving money?