How to Stick to a Budget

How to Stick to a Budget

For the past year, sticking to a budget has been one of my biggest concerns. I recently came out from four years of graduate school with a several loans, and now Dillon and I are saving for a wedding near the end of this year. I was living with my parents for what felt like the longest time because I was still in school and did not have a job to afford my own place. Don't get me wrong. I am very thankful to have been able to stay with my parents and save some money. However, seeing my friends grow and enjoy their lives independently only made me feel so far behind from everyone. However, every individual is destined for a different path so just because some else looks more successful than you does not mean you can not be just as successful or even more. Everyone moves at their own rate and what matter more is how determined and motivated you are. Now that I am finally out of the nest and no longer need to depend on my parents financially, I have learned several things about staying on a budget.

1. Document your expenditures. I found it helpful to make an Excel sheet and list every single thing I spent my money on (date, item purchased, cost). It may sound like a daunting task but it definitely helped me understand where all of my money was going and how much I spent every month. You can download Excel on your laptop or phone. Since I always have my phone with me, it gives me easier and quicker access to the app so I can document my expenditures right away. You can even organize your list by month or year, and categorize how much you spend on groceries, alcohol, entertainment, etc.

2. Create a savings account. If you have not done so already, make a savings account! It is the best way to separate the money you spend versus the money you would like to set aside. You can even open up more than one savings account by creating an account at another bank. I find this useful because I like to separate my accounts to save for different things (wedding, rainy day fund, etc).

3. Set a goal of how much you can save or want to save every month. If you are working, you can determine how much you make after every paycheck. After you have subtracted your monthly expenses, you can see what is the maximum amount of money you can save. Make sure to set a realistic goal for yourself. You can start off by saving even just $50 a month, and increase it over time but avoid going below the amount you set for yourself. You could also set a goal of how much you would like to save by the end of the year or by five years.

4. Set a goal for what you want to save for. Having an end game gives you motivation to save, whether it be a new car, wedding, house, student loans, etc. Focus on one or two goals to prioritize at a time because otherwise it will be difficult to save for everything at once since you only have a limited amount of money to save. My top priorities right now are saving money for the wedding and student loans.

5. Send that bonus or incentive straight to your savings account. Consider your bonus or incentive as unexpected surprises and immediately send it straight to your savings account. It can be very tempting to spend it, especially when it is given to you during the holidays or the end up the year but do not give in. Put it away and forget it. These surprises can be motivating as it instantly raises your savings when you see the digits rise higher than you expected.

6. Go out less. This is the least fun of the tips I suggest but honestly, it is the one that helps you save the most. Every time you go out with your friends, go shopping, travel somewhere, it all involves spending money. Staying home keeps you away from all the temptations and reach your goal faster. Find a hobby that does not involve money. Mine includes working out at home instead of the gym and working on my blog.

7. Pay off your debts and credit cards. Keep up with paying off your debts or pay it off entirely as soon as possible. Train yourself to pay the entire balance of your card cards rather than paying the minimum. Doing all this helps maintain or increase your credit score and reduces the amount you have to spend on interest. Completing this task also give you one less matter you are required to pay for, thus more money to save.

8. Eat in rather than eat out. On average, you will most likely spend three times more on one meal if you eat out rather than making a home-cooked meal. Save your days eating out for special occasions. The convenience of eating out is definitely tempting because you do do not have to worry about cooking and cleaning but think about how much you are spending versus the amount of work hours it took to make that money.

9. Make a list of items to buy at the grocery and take note of which store sell the items cheaper. Doing this helps you focus on purchasing only the items you need. When you do not have a list, you are more inclined to browse through all the aisles and put more items in your cart that are not necessary. It is also important to note which store you can find a particular item being sold at a cheaper price. Wholesale stores like Costco are a much better place to buy meat if you eat it every day. However, purchasing a jar of jam is cheaper at ShopRite. Another example was over the past weekend; Dillon and I bought most of our produce from a farmer's market which is cheaper for some vegetables/fruits but found baby bokchoi and asian pears were cheaper at H-Mart than the farmer's market.

10. Purchase versatile clothing. If you are like me, I constantly tell myself I have so many clothes but nothing to wear. This is because the clothes we purchase often end up being spontaneous buys rather than what we really need. Focus on purchasing items that can be combined with multiple pieces of clothing in your wardrobe. Use your creativity instead of constantly buying something new. You also do not need expensive designer clothing to look good. A quality purchase is better than quantity. Furthermore, I limit the amount of money and times I spend buying clothes even though I love having the latest trends and am a fashion blogger. However, if you have expenses that need to be prioritized, you have to make sacrifices.

11. Save money on purchases with E-Bates. E-Bates is a free app and online browser extension I honestly like to use when I make purchases because I can get money back. You can earn up to 1%-15% cash back depending on the store (e.g. 6% cash back from Macy's). It is very simple and easy to use. All you have to do is sign up and whenever you make a purchase online via laptop/computer the E-Bates extension will pop up if you want to activate it while you are on the product website or you can search for the store on E-Bates to see if they offer any percentage of money back on your purchase. When using the app on your phone, just go on the E-Bates app and search for the store you would like to make a purchase on, which will direct you to the store's website and then you make your purchase. You will be credited however much money back to your E-Bates account and it is deposited as a check to your home or directly to your Paypal account every couple of months. What makes E-Bates even better is that you can link your credit card to the app so not only do you get money back from using E-Bates, but you also get money back if your credit card offers you rewards. It is a win-win. If you are interested in using E-Bates, please use my referral link here.

12. Keep cash in your wallet instead of a credit card. All of my expenses usually end up on a credit card unless a store/restaurant says it takes cash only. Even though the credit card is convenient and can give me cash back rewards, sometimes it is better to stick with cash instead. Cash allows you to physically and mentally understand how much money you are spending better than the swipe of a card. The time you actually see how much you spend on a credit card is when you have to pay the bill off and by then, it has already accumulated so much. Cash forces you to have to go to the bank and take out money. It also forces you to spend a limited amount because once you have no more cash in your wallet, you can not spend anymore money.

I hope you liked these suggestions! If you have more tips, please feel free to share them in the comments below.


  1. I actually use Mint to track all of my expenses. I can put in my bank accounts and credit cards, and then I can set up budgets, monitor my transactions, and track my savings. It's been awesome, especially once I started working, so I could figure out how much I needed to set aside for bills and stuff!

    1. Hi Anna,

      That's awesome and such a great tip! Someone else just mentioned it to me too and I think I will update the post after I try it out. You mind if I mention you for sharing? Thanks for stopping by!


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