Budgets are the best deal; here's how to start


Forget the coupon clipping. A straightforward, realistic budget is the best deal you'll ever find.

Why is a budget the best deal? Because, just like your childhood puppy your budget will always be there for you, no expiration dates, no fine print to yank away the savings after you've already been whipped into a furry of consumerism. If you care for your budget it will take care of you so that "saving" isn't just not unnecessarily spending an extra $5 at the grocery store this week; but actually saving money in a high yield savings account. Another great thing about a budget is that, again like your puppy, it will take you back even if you screw up.

Think outside the sale. For years I chased after deals and discounts like they were the oxygen keeping me alive. It didn't matter if I needed an item or not -- if there was a sticker advertising 60, 70, 80 or 90% off a gadget, I wanted to buy it. How could I pass up the savings?

It wasn't until recently that I realized a budget is the best deal you can find. After taking a few minutes to look at how to put together a budget I realized that it takes less time to set up and follow a budget than it does to look for deals every day of the week.

Thanks to great free personal finance management (PFM) tools from sites such as like Mint.com, Rudder and others you can easily create a budget and track how well you are following it each day. These tools will even send you a notification when you go outside of your budget so you aren't shocked at the end of the month. If you don't already have a successful budget don't start creating one yet. First go read these tips for setting realistic budget.

Advice on Budgeting

  • Reverse Budget - A savings first solution from FiveCentNickel

  • Budgeting basics - a Budget primer from Consumerism Commentary including suggestions on how to get started.

My personal favorite and current method of budgeting isn't so much a budget as it is smart spending. Ramit Sethi explains the model in his book I Will Teach You to Be Rich, calling it, "Conscious Spending." Instead of focusing on the minutia Sethi concedes that it is in fact OK to, "Spend extravagantly on the things you love, and cut costs mercilessly on the things you don't."

A budget may be the best deal, but that doesn't mean you need to give up on coupon clipping and bargain hunting; just make these tools that support your plan instead of the main focus. If you plan for your purchases, by saving up at SmartyPig or setting a goal in Rudder, you can still go looking for a deal on your next purchase and pay in cash. Trust me, there's something really incredible about paying in cash for the new camera that you've researched and found the best deal on.