Now that my kids are back to school, I have started going to a workout class. In addition to the exercises, the instructor stresses the importance of "eating clean". He defines "eating clean" as following basic nutritional wisdom: eat lots of veggies, drink lots of water, do not buy unhealthy snacks filled with sugar and/or bring known unhealthy foods home. To help with the eating part, I agreed to track my eating for a few weeks and then analyze the data.
I share that with you because the same is true for budgeting. Are you "spending clean"? "Spending clean" is spending within your means. If income is like the exercise side in the illustration above, than spending is the equivalent of eating. If you spend money on things you know you can't afford and if you stop communicating honestly about your spending and/or make excuses for getting into financial trouble, then you are not spending clean. These habits work against you no matter how much you want to live within your means.
Here are a few tips to help you start -- or get back to -- spending clean and achieving results:
1. Track your spending. This is as simple as jotting down the cost of everything you buy. This can be done in a small notebook -- or by using the CoupTracker which is part of my award-winning Couponizer system. You may not need to do this all the time, but when you find yourself unable to declare "I am spending clean" then it's time to gather some data. A month's worth of data revealing what you buy will be enough to uncover where you might be overspending. Once you know this, you are in a better position to make targeted changes.
2. Use Coupons. They are like vitamins: extra doses of savings. Yes, you can get by without them, but taking the time to organize and shop for extra savings has a way of motivating and encouraging clean spending.
3. Establish a routine. Stocking the household week after week with an established routine is like riding a bike. Once you learn what works, then the flow of keeping items stocked and the household running is set in motion within realistic financial limits. If you fall off your routine, it is easy to get back on, just like with a bike.
Results will follow when you implement these simple tips to spending clean. I have figured that I save an average of $30 to $50 a week by using coupons. Having the right tools for the job and a positive attitude will go a long way to changing habits. Here's to healthier spending habits (and healthier eating habits too, if you share that goal with me).
By Amy Bergin