These unconventional budgeting hacks will have you saving money year-round and beating your savings goals in no time
Show of hands, how many have been able to keep to their New Year’s budget?
A Gallup poll reports that just one-in-three American households keep a budget every month and few budgets make it more than a few months.
The problem, besides the fact that wages have barely budged in five years, is that all the budget advice out there is ineffective.
We’ve all heard the most common budgeting rules like cutting unnecessary expenses and living below your means. While these are good rules to live by, they don’t help change your budget mindset to creating a budget you can actually keep.
To do that, you need to go off the beaten path – looking for the budgeting hacks that can help rearrange your perspective and actions to save more money.
That’s why I put together six of my favorite budgeting hacks to change your money mindset and start saving money.
Think Like a Bank to Change Your Money Mindset
When you take a loan from a bank, they charge interest on the loan.
So why not do the same when you borrow from yourself? After all, if you knew that pulling money from your savings account every month (or failing to save in the first place) would result in an interest charge payable to your own savings account, you might think twice about the importance of those purchases you were making.
Budget Hack: Keep track of each and every time you have to pull money from your savings account in order to make a purchase or “re-fill” your checking account. Then calculate the interest on the money you’ve “loaned” to yourself.
On an ongoing basis, consider whether each purchase seems worth it considering the total cost (the original cost plus interest)?
Give Yourself a Budget Hack Buffer
If I’m craving something that I know I’ll seriously regret eating later, I’ll sometimes attempt to wait at least 15 minutes and check in on the craving again. If it’s still there, I’ll allow myself to give in to it – but that’s rare.
Usually, the craving loses its power after the 15-minute window. Most of the time it’s gone altogether, meaning I can avoid making an unfortunate food choice.
Budget Hack: Apply the same concept to making purchases. Whether you wait 15 minutes, a full day (better), or even a week (best), you’ll reduce your chances of engaging in unnecessary spending. That immediate urge to buy, and any emotions tied to purchasing the item, will likely be far less powerful once the “buffer” period has passed.
Need more motivation to save money? Use this savings account calculator to see how fast your savings will grow and how to get the most out of it.
Keep Fewer Financial Accounts
Unless you are fully in control of managing your money, having lots of accounts is more trouble than it’s worth.
For one thing, multiple accounts are hard to track and even harder to utilize in a way that will aid your money saving efforts. Different accounts have different balance requirements (and fees tied to them), so if you are already struggling to keep money locked in your accounts, multiple accounts aren’t going to help.
Dealing with them is overwhelming and distracting. Plus, progress toward your financial goals is easier to recognize if you can easily see it.
Budget Hack: Streamline your finances so you can quickly get an updated snapshot of where you stand. Avoid getting paralyzed by too much paper. Being able to see your progress at a glance will encourage you to strive for more of the same.
Pay Your Future Like a Bill
Once you’ve determined how much your bills total every month and how much is left over, consider that “leftover money” to be another bill – your savings and/or retirement fund bill.
Without a change in your psychology, it may be difficult to consistently save up for your future. But if you treat it like something that can’t be ignored, then you’ll be more likely to have success.
Budget Hack: Pay that bill first every month by depositing it into a savings account that isn’t readily accessible (i.e. directly attached to your checking account).
Better yet, if your employer offers direct deposit into multiple accounts, take them up on it – that way the employer will essentially be paying this particular “bill” before you can consider using that money elsewhere.
Hack Your Budget by Paying Your Bills All at Once
When it comes to paying bills, we’ll often trick ourselves into believing we have more money to spend on day-to-day life when we know that those funds are already earmarked for expenses due at the end of the month.
That’s why paying all bills at the same time (and same day) can help you get a better sense of how much money you have available. It can also help you avoid failing to make a credit card payment. You’ll get a firm grasp on where you stand at this current moment by paying all of your bills at once, while reducing the likelihood of late or missed payments.
Budget Hack: If necessary, rearrange your due dates to make it possible to pay all your bills on the same day. Ask your credit card company, utility company, etc. to change your billing date so that each of them occurs simultaneously.
Usually these service providers are willing to make such a change. This will quickly cut down on the “oops” moments that often come later in the month when that extra, easily forgotten bill comes due.
Try a One-Day Budgeting Hack Spending Fast
If you’re used to spending money on a daily basis, it can be incredibly hard to break the habit cold turkey (not to mention that it’s not a sustainable way of changing behavior). Instead, try committing to a spending fast for just one day a month (like the 1st or the 15th).
This will open your mind to new ideas and ways of getting what you need from places and things you hadn’t considered before.
Budget Hack: Decide on the one day per month when you will absolutely not spend any money. Then circle it on the calendar and stick to your promise. If that’s successful, add another day. And another. Challenge yourself to filling the month with as many spend-free days as possible.
Still have questions about budgeting? I interviewed some of the biggest names in personal finance to get their answers to your most common questions on budgeting and how to save money.
Budgeting hacks may be your best shot at changing your money mindset and taking action. I’m not saying a lot of the budgeting advice out there isn’t great but sometimes you need to get out from the norm and the same old advice to really change your perspective. That’s where these budget tricks come in to help you finally beat your savings goals.