Track Your Spending
You can't trim the fat from your budget, if you don't have a budget; so set aside some time to create or update your family budget. Be sure to include any spending on incidentals like coffee, vending machine snacks and meals on the go. You want a complete picture of your current spending habits, even if it isn't pretty.
Not sure where your money goes from day-to-day? Then, track your spending for a month, and find out.
Find Your Budget Fat
Now that your budget has been dusted off and brought up to date, it's time to find your budget fat. Go line by line, and ask yourself the following questions about each item in your budget:
- Is this item essential?
- Does it make me happy?
- Would something cheaper make me just as happy?
- Is this the best use of my money?
- Does this expense bring me closer to my financial goals?
- Does this expense keep me from achieving any of my financial goals?
If you answer these questions honestly, your fat should be fairly easy to spot.
Trim Your Budget Fat
Once you've identified your budget fat – those items that hurt you more than help you – it's time to trim them from your budget and your life. In some cases, this will mean deleting items from your budget entirely. In other cases, it will mean replacing expensive habits (buying coffee from a shop) with less expensive habits (bringing coffee from home). Just remember: the goal is to trim your budget, not to trim out all the fun.
Redirect Your Money
And now . . . on to the best part: Total up how much money you've added back to your budget, and decide how you'd like to spend it. You could use it to pay down debt, to build up your savings or to pursue a dream. There are lots of possibilities, but there's only one goal: to spend your money on the things that are important to you. Live frugally, and live life the way you want to live it.
- Use the Financial Goals Worksheet to help you identify what's important to you
- Review your budget regularly, and trim as needed