12 ideas to help you stick to your budget

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Simple Strategies to Boost Your Budget

​When cravings for pricey dinners out or new outfits hit, it can be hard to stick with your budgeting plans. Whether you're trying to cut back on spending or set aside major dough for a life goal like homeownership, it might be time to adopt some new money-savvy habits. These dozen ideas can help you become more disciplined about your spending.

1. Articulate your goals.

For some people, there's nothing more appealing than saving for a three-bedroom house with a white-picket fence. Others dream of taking a trip around the world or a sabbatical from work. Choosing your personal money goals makes it easier to work toward them. If you have a partner, then set aside some time to talk about your individual and joint goals to make sure you're on the same page.

2. Create a spending plan.

Most people spend about two-thirds of their income on three essentials: food, housing and transportation. Then there are debt payments, savings, household costs and optional items like entertainment to consider. Create an annual budget by allocating spending goals for each category.

3. Resist retailer advertisements.

Stores are in the business of getting us to spend money, but if we know their tricks, we can better resist the temptation. Rewards cards, enticing smells (like cinnamon around the holidays) and short-term flash sales are a few techniques retailers use; being aware of them can make it easier to just say "no."

4. Track your spending. ​

Keeping track of every expenditure over a two-week period can offer insight into unnecessary wastes, from restaurant meals to cab rides. You can use a pen and pencil or take advantage of free apps and online tools like Mint.com.

5. Negotiate prices.

Prices are often a lot more negotiable than we think, even in big-box department stores. If you've seen a lower price listed elsewhere, don't hesitate to ask the store clerk if he can match it. The worst case scenario is getting a "no."

6. Research big-ticket items online before visiting the store.

Product review sites, coupon code sites and online discount warehouses often provide information and insight into how (and where) to find the best deals. With the proliferation of free shipping codes, the lowest price is often online.

7. Don't shy away from all debt.

While debt has earned a bad reputation in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, managing credit and even taking on some debt can be useful. Mortgages allow people to buy homes and student loans enable people to go to school. Evaluate your debt decisions by considering the pros and cons carefully.

8. Pay off high-interest rate debt quickly.

Credit card loans are among the highest interest rate debts around, averaging roughly 17 percent. Paying off credit cards as soon as possible can help reduce fees and interest rate charges that balloon over time.

9. Build a solid credit history.

Lenders base their decisions on whether or not to loan consumers money, and at what rate, partially on their credit histories. That means consumers with a limited credit history (because they have few or no financial accounts) can have trouble taking on a mortgage. Pay bills on time, and be sure to have some accounts in your name.

10. Check your credit report.

Everyone is entitled to a free credit report once a year; you can get yours at annualcreditreport.com. Reviewing it gives you the chance to fix any mistakes that could be hurting your credit score.

11. Review account statements.

An unfamiliar charge on a credit card is often the first sign of identity theft. Review all mail from financial institutions carefully to make sure your accounts aren't being misused. If you see an erroneous charge, contact your financial institution immediately.

12. Choose the best credit card for you.

Credit card benefits vary widely. If you tend to carry a balance, it pays to find the card with the lowest interest rate possible. If you're a frequent traveler, you might want an airline card or a card that comes with travel insurance. Comparison websites such as NerdWallet.com or CreditCards.com can help you find the best card for you.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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