There’re a few things in life worthwhile to do like our life depends on it.

Keeping fit is one of them. Our longevity literally depends on it.

But since we can’t live a long and healthy life without being fed properly, being financially fit is just as important.

Not only that, we human beings are so complicated that a full stomach and a warm bed aren’t just enough.

We want something more and deeper: a sense of security, control, and freedom of choice, all of which we lose when our health falters.

We lose those things all the same when our finances collapse.

So, we have every reason to keep financially fit, just as we do with our bodies.

And budgeting is essential to being financially fit and achieving financial freedom.

If you haven’t started budgeting yet, read this beginners’ budgeting guide, choose one (I recommend the first one) and, stick to it.

And come back to this post.

The Cardinal Rule of Money

If you master this one cardinal rule of money, you’re going to live a financially independent life sooner than later.

The rest of the post will assist you in getting there successfully.

And here’s the cardinal rule of money:

Live below your means.

Don’t spend more money than you have.

It means no more of ‘I’m going to buy this now with my credit card because I can pay it off next month when I get paid.’

No. No. No.

Instead, wait until you actually get paid and have money in the bank.

This waiting accomplishes two things.

First, we build the right money habit: we don’t spend money we don’t have.

Second, the chances are we’ll change our mind about the things we wanted to buy. After giving ourselves time, we may realise that they aren’t as important as we thought they were.

Play waiting games long and often because most things aren’t so important.

Now that we know the cardinal rule of money, the following are little things we can do to ensure we stick to our budget.

25 Essential Budgeting Tips

1. Avoid a Spartan Budget

A spartan budget can be helpful if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Or, you have trouble controlling your spending. Or maybe you hate budgeting.

Otherwise, taking a spartan approach from the get-go usually backfires and causes you to go over your budget.

Give yourself permission to be flexible; allow a little extra in your budget, and make sure you stay within that boundary.

It’s easier to stick to the budget when you allow flexibility.

2. Pay Extra Attention to Your Vices

When we’re hungry or stressed, it’s easy to succumb to our vices: the comfort of food, drinks, or mindless shopping.

For example, I used to buy food I wouldn’t normally eat during my grocery shopping when I was hungry. This would cause me to go over my grocery budget.

So I now make sure I never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach and stick to my grocery lists (no random picking!) and budget.

3. Keep Receipts for Everything

When we collect receipts for everything, we see the visible evidence of our spending habits right in front of us.

We buy small things here and there throughout the day, or every time we pass by a shop. We end up with 30+ receipts at the end of the month.

Seeing a pile of physical evidence can force us to change the way we shop to, say, once a week, which results in 4 receipts a month.

Mounting receipts can change the way we spend money and motivate us to stick to the budget.

4. Tally Up All Your Spending

Have a quick overview of your budget by tallying up your receipts at the end of the month.

Compare them to your budget and analyse where you overspend or underspend.

If necessary, adjust your existing budget to, for example, increase savings or reduce food expenses.

This little exercise once a month ensures you stick to the budget.

5. Cook Once for Two Meals

When you cook dinner, cook for two meals. One for dinner and the other for lunch the next day.

You cook what you like with ingredients you can name. It’s cheaper and healthier, and it ensures you stick to the budget.

6. Avoid Starbucks or Costa

I wrote a whole blog post about my little habit of picking up a latte on the way to work.

Treating yourself with fancy coffee is absolutely fine.

Better still, include it in your budget. That’s you not being so spartan with your budget; you deserve a treat now and then.

Be aware, though: a treat should be treated as, eh, a treat.

Otherwise, its effect diminishes. It soon becomes a bad money habit that strays us from our budget.

7. Water Over Soda

Can you imagine swallowing ten spoonfuls of sugar at once?

Maybe not.

But that’s what we do all the time.

That nice lunch we chase down with a can of Coke?

The coke alone—not counting sugar from food throughout the day—contains 9.75 teaspoons of sugar.

On a side note, the daily recommended sugar intake for men is 9 teaspoons and for women, 6 teaspoons.

Every time you’re about to touch a fizzy drink, think of it as actual sugar you’re swallowing.

That should scare the living daylights out of you!

8. Make a Bet

Can’t stop thinking about a new pair of shoes or purse, even though you have plenty of them?

Make a bet with your mum, sister, or BFF: tell them you’re going to give them, say, $100 if you buy another in the next 6 months.

Six months should be enough to break the lifelong habit of buying into the latest fashion you can live without!

9. Know What You Pay For (and Scale Down)

From shampoo to a luxury wedding ring, what we really pay for is brand.

Most competing items are manufactured in the same factory with a different label attached to them.

Financially savvy people like us know a cheaper store-brand item does what it says on the tin, just as any other premium brand does.

Re-examine everything you buy and have fun finding a cheaper version of a premium brand.

Vanity, pride, showing off, or trying to fit in are useless and bad for our bank balance and our soul.

10. Be Grateful for Living in the Best Time to Be Alive

No matter how miserable we may feel, it’s worthwhile to remind us that we’re living in a far better world than our ancestors did.

They had lived with far less and suffered a great deal of hardship.

We too can live with far less than we’re used to by adopting a simpler life.

And there’s a bonus in doing so.

We become fearless while living well below our means.

11. Remember Your Financial Goals

Remind yourself of your goals: where you are now and where you want to be in one year, five years, or ten years.

Focusing on your goals curbs your desire to spend, especially if your financial goal includes becoming debt-free.

12. Do Money Challenges Frequently

Whether it’s a no-spending challenge or a spending-cash-only challenge, every time we take money challenges, we become more aware of and intentional with our money.

Money challenges are a great way to reset our financial habits.

13. Waste Nothing

It wasn’t that long ago that our ancestors had to crawl through long dark tunnels just to get to work.

They suffered from lifelong hard labour and poor health afterwards.

I gave up reading George Orwell’s “The Road to Wigan Pier” because I found the hard life of the working class depicted to be too depressing.

Even today, despite living in the best time to be alive in history, there are people who live on less than $2 a day.

Take nothing for granted. Waste nothing.

Use up everything in your pantry. Don’t leave food wasted in the refrigerator. Switch off the lights when you leave the room. Turn off the TV. Don’t leave the taps running. Eat everything you cook. Or cook only as much as you want to eat.

14. Things are Just Things

As Ricky Gervais eloquently put:

We’re all gonna die soon. And there’s no sequel!

We’re way too hung up on things, and we let them define who we really are.

15. Learn to Love and Respect Money

I wrote a whole blog post about loving and respecting money.

When we love and respect money (not worship it!), money rewards us just as much, so we must learn to protect it and not squander it.

When we misuse money, the money will misuse us. 

16. Stop Making Excuses to Spend Money

There was a time I told myself I’d run more if I had a treadmill. Or I’d exercise more if I could join the gym.

Now I know they were excuses.

We can exercise without expensive pieces of equipment or personal trainers.

Review your spending and see if you can justify it.

17. Read All Reviews Before Buying

One study shows when you buy cheap items from the supermarket, you are less likely to regret buying them than expensive items you spent ages thinking through.

So, why don’t we spend more time researching and finding out everything we need to know before buying?

Who knows?

After extensive research, you might find reasons not to buy.

Or you might end up making the most economical choice, thereby not going over your budget.

18. If It Ain’t Broke…

All my gadgets are, by today’s standards, ancient.

Since I started my debt-free journey, I’m as happy as Larry, as long as they work.

If you can take a call from your mobile phone, read a book on your Kindle, or work on your laptop, you don’t need the latest model everyone raves about.

Let them.

And you do you, stick to the budget.

19. Always Look For Ways to Increase Savings

Whether it’s by reducing expenses or increasing income from a promotion or side hustle, looking for ways to increase saving changes our money attitude.

By actively looking for ways to increase saving, our mindset shifts from spending to saving.

We become naturals at sticking to the budget.

20. Learn to Pay Yourself First

If you’re serious about being financially independent, I highly recommend you read this book.

It’s short and engaging.

Most of all, the advice is so simple that anyone can start budgeting and saving immediately.

Read my book review here and learn to pay yourself first before you pay for anything else: food, bills, or debt.

Look after you and your future, first and foremost.

21. Buy Frozen Vegetables

Vegetables are packed and frozen when they are fresh.

Frozen vegetables are cheap and healthy, and save you time cooking and preparing food (no more washing and chopping!), and, most importantly, last a long time.

There’s no need to worry about fresh vegetables going bad, which means you can stretch your budget.

22. How Much Sweat for One Purchase?

Work out your hourly rate from your salary.

Every time you want to buy something, think about how many hours you’ll have to work to earn that money.

Spending is so easy and quick.

But when we think about the sweat and effort we put in to earn money and make that one purchase, it makes us think twice about spending money, thereby making us more conscious about sticking to the budget.

23. Do Digital Clean UP

Based on our browser history and past purchases, companies send out tempting offers all the time.

They know how to entice us.

These alluring emails are a minefield for our wallet.

Clean up: Unsubscribe from the newsletter and remove credit card details from online shops.

Create a budget-friendly environment for you and your wallet.

24. Avoid Shopping in the Evening

Various surveys have shown most consumers spend time shopping online in the evening.

People on diets know eating in the evening ruins their chances of losing weight, so they stop eating after a certain time.

If you are like most people who shop in the evening, distract yourself and stop shopping in the evening.

Evening meals wreak havoc on the diet, as does evening shopping in your wallet.

25. Borrow Books

I used to read eBooks exclusively and extensively through Kindle Unlimited.

If you read more than two books a month, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited is a must-have.

You’ll save tons of money. 

Sign up here for Kindle Unlimited 30-DAY FREE trial.

If you haven’t warmed up to eBooks, you’re missing out. Read my posts about the advantages of eBooks.

It’ll convert you into an eBook lover.

Nowadays, I borrow most books from the library. There’s an excellent app called Libby. It’s free, and you can borrow many eBooks.

Or if you’re short on time and don’t want to miss out on nuggets of wisdom, sign up for Blinkist’s 7-Day Free Trial.

7 million people are enjoying a book summary.

You have nothing to lose by trying out these two excellent resources: the Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial and Blinkist’s 7-Day Free Trial.

Final Thoughts

Use the budgeting tips outlined in this post to cross-check the healthy money habits you’re building.

Each budgeting tip will help you live below your means and stick to your budget.

Begin with one or two bad money habits you want to fix. The effect will spill over to other areas in a positive way.

Do it like your life depends on it with intensity and purpose.

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself well on your way to a financially independent life.

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