The top 5 budget busters and how to fix them

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Even if you're not going on outlandish or lavish shopping sprees, your life is probably already very expensive. It's amazing how even the most basic and important necessities like heat and running water can add up so quickly! In the interest of trying to live a more frugal lifestyle, we went hunting through our homes to identify the biggest "budget busters" and the best ways to fix them. Here is what we found.

Utilities

Yeah, yeah, you've already stopped using lightbulbs altogether and you built a fire pit in your yard so you'll never have to use the oven. We've been there. But guess what? There are ways to still love and use modern conveniences without having to fork over a sizable chunk of your paycheck every month. Here is one of them:

Switch providers – if you're lucky enough to live in a state that has deregulated its energy market, switch to a provider that offers you better rates. For example, Green Mountain in Corpus Christi, TX offers a green energy plan that starts at less than 9 cents per kilowatt hour. Do you know what your rates are? You should make sure you aren't being overcharged and, if you are, make the switch.

Phone Service

In today's landscape, it is the landline not the smartphone that is considered "optional." So don't listen to anybody telling you to give up your mobile device to save money. In fact, there are many ways that having a smartphone can help you save money, but that is a post for another time. If you really want to save money on your phone service, bundle it with your internet services. Many companies offer lower rates for people willing to bundle their services into a single package. Another option if you must have a landline is to bundle that with your mobile service.

Another option–and this is a good idea for people who work from home–is to get a free phone number from Google Voice. You can forward the number to your mobile device, or call people over the web. It saves you the cost of multiple phone numbers and multiple devices while giving you a secondary number and all for free!

Ditch The Cable

Yes, do this even if you are someone who loves to watch programs live. When you ditch your cable subscription you don't have to pay for a set top box, DVR, etc and their associated fees. If you hate the idea of missing your favorite network shows as they air, you can get the digital antenna to get the network channels for free (well, the box comes with a one-time fee).

The simple fact is that there are enough streaming media services out there now that you can watch pretty much anything you want whenever you want to watch it. And even if your network doesn't send recent releases to Hulu or Netflix, you can usually watch the latest episodes on the network's website.

One thing we are going to caution against, however, is the purchasing of a season of currently airing television. Most seasons will go on sale once they've wrapped up their episodes. Currently airing season passes cost much more than you would pay if you waited to buy them until the next round of shows are released.

Insurance

Homeowner's insurance and car insurance can be very expensive if you purchase them separately. It is better to bundle them together through a single provider. Check out this article where I cover my top tips for saving on insurance. Why do you save when you bundle your insurance? Because most insurance providers offer special discounts and deals to customers who are willing to bundle their insurance services into a single policy. Shop around for the best deal.

Food

Don't worry, we aren't going to advocate that you adopt a ramen-based diet. Far from it! The higher the quality of your food, the healthier you will be and the better you will feel. And eating good quality and nutritious food isn't as difficult as you might think. Pick up a copy of Good and Cheap, a book that was written to help families on food assistance programs create awesome meals on four dollars (or less) per day. The other great thing is that when you pick up a copy of the book one gets sent to your local food pantry!!

Final Thoughts

There are so many ways to save money on your basic necessities. It can be hard to find them, though, especially if you already feel like you're living on a bare bones budget. Use the tips we've shared here to help you save even more money and maybe even create some wiggle room for fun in your budget!

The post Top 5 Budget Busters and How to Fix Them appeared first on MoneyAhoy.

RELATED: 11 budgeting skills everyone should master

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11 budgeting skills everyone should master
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11 budgeting skills everyone should master

1. See Money as a Tool

We tend to think of money in a lot of different ways. Money can be freedom, it can be despair, it can mean power or significance, or any one of a number of things. The point is, to be good at budgeting, develop the mindset that money is a tool. It helps you do the things that you want and need to do. No matter how much or how little you have, your money can help you achieve your goals.

Photo credit: Getty

2. Record Your Transactions

On a practical level, you will need a record of your transactions to start a budget, and you will need to keep recording them to continue budgeting. You can do this by hand, via an app, or once a week on a spreadsheet. Do it however works for you, but learn to record your transactions and you will be well on your way to budgeting.

Photo credit: Valueline

3. Assess Your Spending

Recording your transactions won't help if you never think about them. Learn to categorize your transactions in whatever way is meaningful for you, so you can see how much you're spending in different areas. This can help you decide where to spend more, where to spend less, and what cutting back might look like in your everyday life.

Photo credit: Getty

4. Make a Budget

This might be the most obvious skill in this list, but it's also one of the most important. There are spreadsheets you can download, programs like YNAB and Mint that help you see your spending in different ways, and more. Some things to think about before you choose a method involve deciding whether you want to go old school or online, and whether you want to store it on your personal computer or in the cloud.

Photo credit: Getty

5. Write It Out

Throughout the budgeting and recording process, it will help if you actually write things out. This can be on a computer, though there is something about the act of writing something and then seeing it there in your own handwriting that helps you remember. Whatever you do, don't keep your budget in your head. It's easy for numbers to become fuzzy and for you to forget about your budget entirely. Instead, put your budget where you can see it often, so that it feels real and you remember your goals.

Photo credit: Getty

6. Plan Ahead

When you make your budget, don't just think about what you need right now, or even your monthly expenses. Think, too, about expenses that only come around every so often. Car insurance, life insurance, and property taxes are a few line items that can fall into these categories. Then, save a little bit of money every month toward these items, so you can pay them without worry when that bill shows up.

Photo credit: Getty

7. Include Spending Money

If you don't have spending money, you will feel like your budget is a cage you need to break out of, rather than a structure supporting you and your goals. Even if all you can afford is $5, give yourself something. This can go against the grain, especially if you have a lot of debt or very little income. However, you are important. And you will be happier keeping your budget if you know you have a little money you can spend however you want.

Photo credit: Getty

8. Make a System That Works for You

It's easy to get sucked into a system that doesn't work for you. For instance, you may not be able to track your spending every day. If that's you, then don't buy into a budgeting system that requires this. There are plenty of systems where you can record once a week, or so. If the system doesn't work for you, you won't do it, and there won't be any value to budgeting. Keep trying things until you find something you like.

Photo credit: Getty

9. Live With Discipline

This is a huge skill and one that won't happen overnight. Living a disciplined life, though, will go far toward helping you make and keep your budget. Pay attention to your budget. Update it. And when you don't have any money left for something, stop spending! It can help to breathe through your desires, to remind yourself of your bigger goals, and to give yourself a waiting period before you buy things.

Photo credit: Getty

10. Know When to Splurge

This is a tricky skill, especially in light of the one above. However, there are times in every life when it's right to splurge. This doesn't have to be a huge spending binge — it can be something as small as a coffee with a friend. A lot of times, this comes into play when you choose to buy something of a higher quality even though it costs more. It's up to you to decide when to splurge, but make sure there's some room for it in your financial life.

Photo credit: Getty

11. Ask Yourself Hard Questions

When you're budgeting alone or you are the one in charge of the budget, it can be easy to let things slide. Get into the habit of asking yourself hard questions, like, "Why do I always spend too much on entertainment?" and "Am I realistically able to take that vacation this year?" You may not like the answers you find, but being honest with yourself will ultimately help you become more aware of who you are and how things work inside of you — which will help you meet your goals, financial and otherwise.

Photo credit: Getty

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