Three Seemingly Obvious but Often Forgotten Tips for Going Back to School

Penny Pinchers Unite!

Penny Pinchers UniteAfter working at CSU Online for just shy of 6 months, I’ve already earned the title of “Budget Queen.” I’m that girl in line at the store who doesn’t need my receipt because I’ve already written the total in my check register and balanced it. And no, I don’t write checks – I use my debit card, but I track everything.

My original intent for this blog was to offer a few common money saving tips that could help you cover the expenses that hit as the semester begins. I feel your pain. My husband is finishing his teaching degree, and with the end of summer came a shiny new charge to the credit card from the school’s bookstore.

I’ve structured my family’s monthly budget in a way that incorporates “saving” as a line item. So, I thought it might be more helpful to share that with you rather than give you a list of ways to save money. That way you can pick and choose pieces that might work into your lifestyle and circumstances, and you’ll be shocked at how quickly you can save money when you do so intentionally! Trust me, it comes in handy when those credit card charges from the bookstore come up – things you forgot to include in your regular budget!

Every year around October, I start to build my budget, and by December, I have the next year laid out in dollars. Here’s how I work through my process:

    1. Penny Pinchers UniteLay out a chart for each pay period that features columns and rows. Creating a chart for each pay period allows you to build your monthly budgets out from the money coming in.
    2. Go through each chart and fill in the numbers – all the bills you know about, and educated guesses on ones you don’t. Be honest and realistic about the ones you can make up, such as savings, allowances, and dining out.
      • This includes planning for activities that you and your family will be doing throughout the year. For example, budgeting money in March and April for a family trip to the zoo that you’d like to take in May. If you budget for things that are out of your normal routine before they actually happen, you’ll keep yourself from putting those incidentals on your credit card.
    3. Create a formula at the bottom of all your expenses that totals everything you’re planning to spend for the month. If this number is more than your income, readjust your numbers until you come under your income.
      • If you are used to eating out three times a week, estimate how much that would cost, then work backward if you want to skim a little from that budget area. If you do end up having to cut back to eating out once a week rather than three, stick to it.
      • This is where the intentional savings part comes in. When the numbers are black and white in front of you, you’ll start to naturally prioritize. More than likely, you can cut a few bucks from something like the personal allowance funds and put it into savings.
      • Penny Pinchers UniteAllocate your paycheck accordingly. Pay your fixed bills, flexible bills, and savings accounts first. What’s left should add up to your groceries, allowances and other line items, but if it doesn’t, adjust those remaining pieces to make what you have left work.

It will be tough to get used to if you’re not already doing it, but once you start to build your savings into your budget, it will become automatic and you’ll have money saved in no time! I’m sure readers would love to hear your budgeting and saving tips too, so please share them here!


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