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If you're not the spreadsheet-loving, track-your-spending type, don't fear! There are lots of other ways to budget your money.
For example, the classic envelope system. Grab some envelopes and write the name of each category in your spending plan on a separate envelope. Then, place the monthly amount of cash you plan to spend on that category inside. Forget your checks and plastic cards, use these envelopes instead. Once the cash in each envelope is gone, there's no more spending until next month! This tactic forces you spend only the amount you've allotted for groceries, gas, entertainment, clothes, etc. One word of caution-be careful if you implement this plan. If your cash gets lost or stolen, there's no replacing your money.
Money Magazine also highlighted the following twists to the classic spending plan. See if one of these fits your financial lifestyle
How it works: You'll need three bank accounts-two checking and one savings. First, decide how much of every paycheck you want to put toward savings and have that automatically sent to your savings account.
Via direct deposit, send the rest of your paycheck to checking account No. 1. From this account, you'll pay all monthly fixed expenses, like rent, car payments and utilities.
With the money left over after paying your fixed expenses, divide by four and set up a weekly automatic transfer of that amount to checking account No. 2. Use this account for all variable expenses like groceries, entertainment, clothes and eating out. Refrain from transferring more money over or using credit cards!
The perks: This process forces you to save first and live off limited funds for your variable expenses.
How it works: Grab your bank and credit card statements and make a list of recurring expenses and the amount spent. Instead of cutting your overall spending by, let's say 5%, locate one or two large expenses and cut those. Maybe it's cable television, the second car or your gym membership. Whatever it may be, cut it loose and add those extra funds toward your savings goals.
The perks: Cutting one bigger item versus making an across-the-board cut alleviates the need to re-evaluate your spending plan on a regular basis, which saves you time and effort.
How it works: Find someone you trust, like a friend, co-worker or family member, and ask them to hold you accountable to your financial goals (i.e. saving $100 per month, pay off a credit card in three months, etc.). Consider making a contract with this person on Stickk.com, a site that uses financial punishments to hold you accountable. Once you've created an account, getting started is simple. State the goal, make a schedule of checkups and choose a small fee you'll pay if you fail.
The perks: As with working out, accountability gets results.