A little while back, I tweeted a screenshot of my Level “spendables” page. Right away, I received replies asking me what app I was using and how it was working out. Although Level is the most functional and user-friendly app I’ve ever used to track my spending, it’s only a little part of how I keep from going over-budget. Some of my methods are a bit archaic and old-fashioned, while others are habits I’ve developed over the years.
Treat your savings account like a bill.
Every month, I “pay” $200-300 to my imaginary friend called “Moe Money” aka my savings account. This way, I can guarantee that I’ll always have money on the side to use for emergencies. It’s also a way for me to keep my checking account from being too big. Not “big” meaning I have money falling from the sky, but big in the sense that it makes me feel like I can spend money impulsively. I’ve learned that when I see a big enough amount in checking, I tend to buy on the whim, without thinking of the repercussions!
Split up your paycheck.
I like to split up my paycheck by 80% and 20%. The larger amount goes to savings, while the smaller amount lands in checking. That way, I sort of trick myself into thinking I earn less, which brings me to my next point.
You are actually broke.
Probably not, but it’s saved me thousands thinking this way. Usually around the time when everything is due, towards the end of the month or the first, I start to tell myself that I’ve only got $500 left. Not in checking, not in savings, but in total. This whole saving money thing actually deals a lot more with my mindset than it does the tangible habits like adding, subtracting, tracking, etc.
Write the numbers down!
Even though saving is a mental thing for me, I still need a way to make sure everything balances. I do like the apps that help me do this, but being the kind of person I am, I still like to write down my expenses or bills paid that day. I fill in my bills ahead of time. If a day is already filled in, I don’t spend money at all that day.
Eat at home, pack your lunch, make restaurants a luxury.
This, by far, was the most difficult habit for me to develop because anyone who knows me knows that I am a foodie. At the same time, I do love to cook and if it wasn’t for that I don’t think I would have been able to keep this up. Back then, I’d spend so much at restaurants and cafes near work. Now, if I am absolutely craving something from a restaurant, I go out and buy the ingredients to make it at home. I think of restaurants as a once in a blue moon kind of thing.
I used to have my debit card readily available, since it was my only payment option. I’ve learned that carrying cash makes your bank account last longer. I make sure I carry about $100 give or take. I treat that $100 like it’s the only money I have. So, for the most part, it stays in my wallet and is sort of like a physical reminder that, again, I’m “broke.”
Use a black wallet and a big bag; make your money hard to find.
This last “trick” is a weird personal quirk of mine. Again, I’m going with the mentality that I have no money. I carry a big bag and keep my wallet at the very bottom, or bundled up with other items. That way, if I was even wanting to spend money on something random, I’d have to think about the fact that I’d need to dig my wallet out. And, for me (and my OCD/personality), that is annoying and I’d rather not. It might seem odd, but I kid you not! This has worked for me and I mostly pull my wallet out if someone has to see my ID.
How do you keep track of your spending?
Note: The spending balance on this post is based on my personal monthly earnings. This post is not necessarily a guide to save $2,000 in one month.