Family, Kids & Relationships

Save money, starting now: A guide to improving your budget today

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Often, when people think about saving money, they think of long-term savings plans or investments. But for many of us, budgeting plans that only yield benefits in the distant future are simply not useful. Most families need access to budgeting plans that help them save money sooner rather than later. 

While long-term savings plans are still great options for those who are able to create them, the majority of parents in the US and around the world are looking for small, everyday changes they can make that will reduce current financial strain and allow for a better quality of life for their kids. 

Here are some simple, actionable, and accessible tips for saving money now that support both present and future financial sustainability. 

1. Regularly review your spending habits 

One of the first and most important steps you can take towards improving your household budget is to understand more about it. Knowledge is power, and finances are no exception to this rule.

Set aside some time every month to assess your financial situation and review spending habits over the past month. Be sure to include your partner or other adults in the house who might have influence over family spending. It’s a good time to notice habits, like a daily morning coffee, that are chipping away at your cash, or recognize charges that could be reduced — for example, you might decide to carpool twice a week to reduce the amount you spend on gas. This will help both of you form a better understanding of which outgoing expenses need to be adjusted, enabling you to make more informed financial decisions. 

2. Set a strong weekly grocery budget 

Grocery spending can quickly get out of hand when you aren’t paying attention. Whether it’s little hands grabbing their favorite treats or big hands reaching for luxuries, the shopping aisle can be a trap we all fall into. Plus, everyone has been feeling the pinch of higher food prices at the grocery. But with a strict weekly budget, that can change. 

There are lots of tips to make your grocery budget go farther — for example, did you know that stores intentionally play music with a tempo slower than the human heartbeat to get you to slow down and shop more? Experts say you can save 7 to 8 percent on your grocery bill just by wearing headphones and listening to more upbeat music.

Here’s another great one: Instead of giving yourself a monthly budget to stretch out over 30 days, divide it into weekly 7-day budgets that ensure you never go over. This is one of the best ways to avoid that uncomfortable end-of-month zone where you realize you’ve exhausted your monthly funds and your food cupboards are bare. 

3. Keep celebrations and holidays simple 

Great budgeting is closely connected to small lifestyle changes. Naturally, you want the best for your family. But often, the best doesn’t have to mean pouring all your savings into a single event. 

There are many beautiful, exciting, and fulfilling ways to celebrate special holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries without spending hundreds of dollars. Keep things simple and memorable by focusing more on the people you choose to share these celebrations with, and being more intentional about the gifts you exchange. 

4. Clean out your automatic subscriptions 

According to a 2022 survey, as much as 40 percent of Millennials are subscribed to services they don’t use (as well as 14 percent of Boomers and 34 percent of Gen Z). Alone, these seemingly harmless subscriptions might not seem like a lot, but combined, they can leach significant funds out of your account each month. 

Take a hard look at your automatic subscriptions and start the process of canceling out the ones you know you don’t need. The average consumer spends roughly $219 per month on subscriptions — that’s a sizable amount that could be used for other priorities in your life. 

5. Set up automatic savings 

If you are forgetful or the type of person who struggles to practice everyday financial discipline, you might need technology to step in. Setting up automatic savings on your bank account is a great way to make sure you put some cash away every month without even needing to think about it. 

Many banks offer this option. You can inquire with yours about what automatic savings options they have and pick one that works best for your budget preferences. 

Alternatively, you can look for rewards programs that give you cashback, rewards, or interest when you spend money on necessities in your budget. There are plenty of programs that offer this, and signing up with a few can help you to save while spending, even if it’s only in small amounts.

However, even saving $50 a month can make a difference. Remember, it’s also about developing habits. Focus more on the discipline side of saving to make it a natural action so that saving in general becomes easier over time. 

6. Try out a spending freeze 

If you’re really in a budgeting pinch, you could experiment with a spending freeze. It sounds a bit scary, but it can actually be an effective and even fun way to save money on a regular basis. 

A spending freeze involves setting yourselves a time limit (for instance, a week) where you spend money on nothing other than basic necessities. 

It’s a challenge for sure, but you’ll be surprised by how creative you become with your funds. Plus, it gives you and your family a chance to practice gratitude for what you already have. 

7. Give thrifting and DIY a chance 

Contrary to what much of the media wants us to believe, not everything in life needs to be brand new or produced by an A-list designer. In fact, not only are there many high-quality and affordable alternatives to look through, but many of them are better for the environment, too. 

Shopping for thrifted outfits is one simple and very creative way to lessen the strain on clothing budgets. And DIY for home décor or furniture is a fun way to connect with family and friends in a productive activity that feels very rewarding in the end. 

8. Use a personal budgeting tool 

Ultimately, the key to improving your budget is to master the art of financial discipline. But that kind of thing doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and can often seem like an inaccessible ideal. However, modern technology has changed that for good. 

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of high-functioning budgeting tools designed for people of all income levels and financial expertise to use as tools for generating savings and forming better budget habits. 

The future starts now

Being a parent is hard, especially during times of global change. It can be tough to remain focused on your goals when the economy takes such twists and turns, but that doesn’t mean you can’t counter them with some financial discipline. 

Learning how to tighten your family budget is something that will help you get through many ups and downs over the years. Not only will it give you more legroom for safe spending, but it will also give you the peace of mind that so many parents around the world desperately need. 

Use this budgeting guide as a template for developing better financial habits and practicing sustainable saving. Sometimes, it’s the small, everyday changes that can make the biggest difference.

Tracy Renning is a savvy writer who delves into finance, personal development, and lifestyle for various online platforms. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cuddling with her cat and watching Netflix.