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How to Live on a Budget

Updated on November 30, 2016

Budgeting Your Family's Money


How To Live On A Budget And Save Money

Every couple months, my husband and I ask ourselves, "Where is our money going?" and "Why are we still living paycheck to paycheck?".

My husband has a good job and makes enough money to pay the bills and then some.

So where is it all going?

I'm sure this is a familiar story.

So where is all of the extra money going?

And why don't we have anything in our savings accounts?

I have been interested in Finance since I was a child.

So interested, that I got my Degree in Finance.

I can share a few tips that help us to stay on budget even though we have are a one-income family.

To stay on a budget, you will need to be organized and have willpower to resist urges to buy things you do not need.

How To Make A Budget

To make a budget, you will need to find out how much money is coming in and how much money is going out.

I like to use an excel spreadsheet to keep track of my monthly bills.

Another great tool is an App called

It keeps track of all the money going in and out of your accounts in real-time.

Between these two, Excel and Mint, you can get make a budget that works for you.

To make a financial budget spreadsheet in Excel, first you will need to look at how often you are paid.

If you are paid twice a month, make two separate columns.

We'll call them "1s -15th" and "16th - End of Month".

List all the bills you pay under each of these columns depending on if they are paid at the beginning or end of the month.

Make sure they are in the order that they are paid.

If you could, also include the date they are paid beside their description.

Next you will need to add up all the bills that are paid during each paycheck. is a great way to look back at all the bills and when they came out.

Is the amount more or less than your paycheck?

If it is less, than you are doing OK.

If it is more, than we need to do some work. Either you will need to find out if you can switch the payment date to another paycheck period (and still make the payment on time) or you will have to consider ways to reduce your bills.

How To Save Money At The Supermarket

I always say "Sales and Coupons = Free or nearly Free".

Find the sales at the store.

Find coupons that match those sale items.

Get your groceries for free or nearly nothing!

I used this concept yesterday on my latest grocery shopping trip.

My bill came to $100.

After the sales and coupons were taken off, I only paid $39 with tax!

Not bad for a half an hours work!

To start, find a grocery store that doubles coupons and review their coupon policy.

You can find this information on the stores website or at their help desk.

Next, look through their weekly circular to find their sales.

Normally the front and back page show the biggest sales, so focus on those pages.

You could also use sites like Coupon Mom and Grocery Game to help you find weekly deals and the coupons that match them.

Then, you will need to look for the coupons to match them. Most of the coupons will come from your Sunday newspaper. You can also find coupons online. Just type in the name of the item you are looking for or and the word coupon. You could also go to coupon sites like, Smart Source or Red Plum to find coupons to print. Also, when you are in the store, look for blinkies in front of the items. Blinkies hold coupons for items that are located behind them.

When you are checking out at the grocery store, make sure you give them your store loyalty card and your coupons to get the most off your bill.

Check for Manager Specials.

Sometimes they may have produce that is a little ripe or food items that are getting close to expiration or they may have made too much bread in the bakery section and they need to move these items out.

Instead of throwing them out, they lower the price and put a Manager Special sticker on the item.

You can save tons of money on Managers Specials.

Just make sure you use the item before it expires!

Start A Meal Plan. Meal planning can save you time and money.

You will have less spoiled food that you have to throw out.

To start a meal plan, you can use any calendar or you could download a free meal plan chart online.

When you start, start small, maybe one week at a time.

Look over the sales at your store and think of some meals you can make with those sale items.

Go through your refrigerator and pantry to see what items you need to use quickly before they go bad.

Incorporate those items into your weekly meal plan.

Remember to look at your calendar too to make sure you don't have anything going on close to dinner time.

If you do, make a nice, easy dinner that day.

On days that you are completely free around dinner time, you can make more time-consuming dinners.

Write the meal (main dish and side dishes) that you want to make each day down on the chart.

Now you will not be stuck wondering what to make each day.

Moving On A Budget

You could either move yourself or you could hire a moving company to move everything for you.

If you are moving close by or have lots of friends who can help or don't have much stuff to move, then I recommend moving it yourself to save lots of money.

Save newspapers when you find out you will be moving.

You can use these as fillers to protect your household goods.

Go to stores and get free boxes to use for your move.

Ask the manager when the best day and time would be to stop in and get boxes.

Ask around to see if anyone else has just moved and needs to get rid of their boxes.

If you have tons of stuff or are moving far away, I recommend hiring a moving company.

First of all, if you are moving for work, see if your company will pay for the move.

If they will, then you could move for free!

If not, check Angie's list and other review sites to find a reputable mover.

Investigate, Investigate, Investigate!!!

Once you have found a few reputable moving companies, get a quote from each of them.

See which one charges the least and choose that moving company.

You want to make sure you find a reputable moving company.

This is very important.

A company that hasn't been given good reviews could end up costing you more money in the end.

How To Live On A Budget With Kids

Visit your local library! Not only does your library have tons of books that you can borrow for free, but they also have movies and CD's. If it is a newer book, DVD or CD, you can put it on hold online through your libraries website. When it comes in, they will notify you and you can pick it up. The library also has activites for young children. Most libraries will have Mom and Me classes that your younger children can go to where they listen to a story and do a craft. During the summer, most libraries have reading contests. You have to sign up for them and mark which books your children have read. When they read a certain amount of books, they can come in and claim a prize. The prizes are usually books, certificates for local restaurants or little trinkets.

Playgrounds: My children and I go playground hopping when the weather is nice. Sometimes we get bored of going to the same old playground, so we switch it up and go to a different playground every week or so. It is a great place to have a play date and make new friends. As an added bonus: The kids aren't pinging off the walls in your house and they get their much needed exercise and fresh air.

Museums: Look at the kid-friendly museums in your area. At most museums, you can sign up for a year-long membership. If you go often enough, you will save money with a year-long family membership. I paid $40 for a year-long membership to an interactive museum down the street from me. If I didn't get the membership, it would have cost me $20 for my kids and I for each visit. Since we went every week, the membership paid for itself within three weeks!

Mom's Clubs: Mom's clubs usually run around $20-$40 per year to join. You meet tons of other moms and go on lots of playdates. Some Mom's clubs have clothing or toy swaps which save tons of money!

Clothes and Toys: Garage sales and resale stores are great places to find bargains on clothes and toys. A couple times a year, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) has a huge sale on kids items. All the Mom's get together at one locations, usually a church, and sell all of their kids old toys, clothes and other items that their kids no longer use. You can save tons of money at these sales and at garage sales. I find that it is easier as a parent to walk into a MOPS sale and find great prices on tons of stuff than to go from garage sale to garage sale only to find a few things. A great resale store to check out is Once Upon A Child. You can buy or sell used baby and kids items there. They do not pay much for items that you are selling to them. They only take items that are in great condition, so when you go shopping there, you will find quality kids stuff at a fraction of the price you would have paid if they were brand new.

How To Live On A Budget In College

You can save money in college!

First of all, you will need to make sure you spend as little out of your pocket as possible on your education.

Signing up for financial aid can really bring the cost of your college education down.

First, you will need to go to your college's financial aid department to give your information in.

Then, you will need to fill out a FAFSA online.

This will show all the grants, scholarships and loans that you qualify for.

Take advantage of these, but do not take more than you need from the loans.

You will end up paying it back for years!

Find a safe, inexpensive place to live that is close to your college.

Would you mind having a roommate?

If not, you can share the cost of the apartment, utilities and food.

You could even carpool to school if one of you has a car.

If you do not have a car, ride the bus or get a used bike and a good lock.

You can get a bus pass, instead of paying for each bus trip.

This will save you lots of money and you will be able to do most of your homework on the bus.

If you do have a car, park at the commuter lot.

They are usually free.

You will need to walk a little further though.

Save money on food: Most college students live off of Ramen Noodles, which are very inexpensive.

To add some nutrients to Ramen Noodles, add a few chopped vegetables and a little meat, like cut up turkey or chicken.

If you have time and a crockpot, you can make tons of different recipes at a low price.

Tougher, cheaper meats can be thrown in the crockpot in the morning and become delicious tender dinners.

Homemade soup is another inexpensive meal.

Just add diced, cooked chicken, chicken broth and chopped vegetables to the crockpot in the morning.

Around dinnertime, boil some egg noodles and throw them in the pot.

You have homemade soup! Make sure you get the nutrients you need each day.

It will save you money in Dr's bills down the road.

Need Money Fast? Where To Find It

Find Cash Online: If you need money right away, sign up with reputable survey sites . You can make anywhere from 10 cents to $50 per survey. Most pay on the lower end of the scale, but if you have free time, you can make some money from the comfort of your home.

Write Articles Or Blog Online: Hubpages is a great place to write articles or hubs and make money online. You could also start your own blog. Blogger is a great platform for starting a blog.

Whether you write Hubs on Hubpages or you start your own blog, most of the money will come from advertisements. It does take some time to build up traffic to your sites and you do have to write quality work regularly to make any money at all.

Sell Your Stuff: Find things around the house that you don't have a use for anymore. You could sell them through Craigslist or have a garage sale to get cash. As an added bonus, you will have less clutter in your house!

Does your family have a monthly budget?

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