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Easy Budget Tips
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Feeling like the bills never stop coming? Wish you could stay on a budget but don't know how to begin? It's simpler than you think. Just start with these top three budget tips and you'll soon find yourself with a little extra at the end of the month.

The #1 Budget Tip

Write down everything you spend. Yes, I really wrote that. Write down everything you spend. It doesn't matter how or where you write it but do it. It really works like magic to stop the spending. If you find yourself not wanting to look at records you have or start this process at all, it's because you are in Financial Denial.

The top three ways to track your spending are:

  1. An old-fashioned green ledger book. It worked for Grandma and Grandpa and can work for you, too. Treat it like a check register and be sure to include everything you spend. Everything means checks if you still write them, credit card slips and cash, even if it's just a newspaper or a coffee.
  2. An Excel spreadsheet. This is a little easier since it will do your sums for you. But the permanent record is there and this will help you control spending.
  3. Personal finance software, whether a purchased one like Quicken or a free online tool. This sounds complicated but can actually be much easier as for most bank, brokerage and credit card accounts you can download all your transactions. That only leaves cash for tracking and that is easily handled by creating an account called Cash that ATM withdrawals go into and tips and mad money go out of.

So why is writing down your spending the #1 budget tip? Is it a Jedi mind trick? Almost. Like anything in life, writing it down makes it real.

The budget record is the past, what you spent. Take a look and decide whether you needed to buy coffee or whether you could have made it at home. Or do you need to drink coffee at all? Could you drink tea or filtered or tap water? Both are cheaper and much healthier. You'll see for yourself where you can cut back and not miss it at all.

The #2 Budget Tip

Stay out of malls. I mean it. Most of the stuff you've bought and is still there because you haven't bought it yet you wouldn't think or know about if you weren't there. So what if it's on sale? Go to a thrift store instead and you can get a bagful for $10 to get your shopping fix.

The #3 Budget Tip

Don't watch TV or listen to radio. Yes, I mean this, too! Many studies have shown that TV-watchers spend much more money even if they TIVO-out the ads. Why is this?

Because of product placement, a subtle form of marketing. In TV-land, college kids, newlyweds and unemployed actors can afford lavish New York and Los Angeles apartments, the latest gadgets, high-maintenance hairstyles and other tokens of the Hollywood life. Viewers are very subtly tricked into thinking this lifestyle is affordable on ordinary incomes and go into debt for things none of their friends actually have, either.

So trick them back and don't pay money to watch ads! Almost anything is streaming on your computer or phone.

The #4 Budget Tip

It's okay to let loose and buy something unnecessary as long as you return it. Just think, you get the rush of shopping, bringing it home, spending some time with it and then hitting the mall again to get your money back. Returns are sky high for most retailers this year so don't feel guilty. They wouldn't offer such liberal return policies if it didn't improve their overall profits.

Try these tips for a month and I guarantee you will have more control over your spending as well as peace of mind. Write down what you spend, stay out of malls, away from ads and "rent" the things you must have by returning them before the credit card bill comes. And don't worry - it's only money.

Street Talk

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