As we anticipate our economy opening up further in 2021, this is an ideal time to get a handle on your spending and go forward with increased confidence in managing your household budget. We’ve got the top three tips to staying in control of your household budget.

Without travel, daily commuting expenses, and weekend social activities, those people fortunate enough to maintain an income during the pandemic experienced a surplus of cash after paying the bills. A report by cnbc.com, based on a Bank of America survey, confirms this, stating that about two-thirds of Americans changed their spending habits during the pandemic.

Where the money is going now

The spending categories with the highest year-over-year change were investments, pets, education, and home. It seems many people wisely saved their excess funds, or invested it in their education or home, while others spoiled their fur babies.

Not surprisingly, the categories where spending decreased most significantly include business services, entertainment, automobiles, and travel.

Before your spending habits change again, check out our tips:

Perform an annual audit of your spending.

Take a day, or a weekend, and send yourself on a “money retreat.” Arrange some time where you can spend uninterrupted hours combing through your bank accounts, credit card statements, subscriptions, and any payment apps you are using.

Categorizing expenses will allow you to track spending by budget items and will save you a lot of time on your future audits. Most banks and credit cards allow you to categorize expenses, and once you have tagged an expense, they usually recognize the payee and categorize future expenses for you, so every month this will become less time-consuming. Many online banking platforms allow you to create a budget for each category so you can easily see if you have gone over budget each month, and you’ll know where to readjust.

Review your subscriptions

It’s easy for in-app purchases or entertainment subscriptions to get out of hand. As you go through your accounts, make a list of every monthly subscription you are paying for and reevaluate your need for each. Cancel services you aren’t using or can’t afford to continue using.

This is a good time to call your cell phone carrier, auto insurance agent, or internet service provider and ask if there are ways to reduce your bill. Hint: if you threaten to cancel your service, they may suddenly find options that will save you money!

Use a system to track discretionary cash spending.

There is a system many people use where they continue to swipe their debit card until it’s declined, and then they rush to pull up their online account in a panic. This is not a great system and may result in excess spending on overdraft or insufficient fund fees.

Instead, try using one of the many money management apps available. These apps safely link to your bank and credit card accounts so that you can see all of your accounts in one place. They often include notification features that will alert you if your account falls below a certain threshold. Your bank or credit card company may also offer this feature. Some of these apps allow you to add to your savings account or an investment account by rounding up purchases to a set increment and depositing the excess for you.

The old-fashioned way

If you prefer to use cash for incidentals like restaurants, shopping, personal care, and entertainment, try the envelope system. Withdraw a set amount of cash each week to cover what you budget for your needs. Divide the money into envelopes labeled groceries, dry cleaning, hair salon, household items, gasoline, or whatever spending you anticipate that week. Limit your spending to the amount in each envelope. 

If you have any money left over at the end of the week, you can use it towards the next week’s budget, deposit it into your savings account, or reward yourself with a treat.

Managing your household budget should be a family affair. When everyone is on board you can help each other make good decisions and avoid a lot of stress that comes from overspending.

About Deb Ingram

Deb is a health coach and award-winning health and wellness writer covering plant-based nutrition, fitness, sustainable living, mental health and relationships. Deb also writes for the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and manages YouOnPlants.com, helping people eat more veggies. She lives near her daughter in St. Petersburg, Florida, and travels often to Southern California to visit her son. Deb enjoys nature parks, restaurants with vegan options, movies, and the end of hurricane season.

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