1. Escrow for odd bills. If you have bills that come at odd intervals, you may want to do a little math, just like your mortgage company does when it comes to taxes and insurance, and set aside money each month for those odd bills. We sat down and figured out how much per month we'd need to set aside to pay our car insurance (due every 6 months), insurances (due every 3 months), our water bill (due every 3 months), car tax, etc. Everything that isn't a true monthly bill. Next, we added a little cushion and came up with a firm figure to save every pay period. That money goes into a designated savings account and when that huge car insurance bill is due, we transfer money over to our checking. Keeping track of those odd bills and planning for them every pay period means there's no, "Oh no, I don't have enough money to pay that bill." for us.
2. Use OPM - other people's money. Entering contests means that if I win, that's something I don't have to pay for myself. I generally enter contests for food, gift cards, cash, or products that I or my family personally use or would use. Sure, you have to pay taxes on these wins at the end of the year, but last year I won a large gift card that I used when my budget was super tight. Contests aren't the only way to use OPM - you can do rebates, use coupons, and participate in store promotions (such as CVS' $10 gas card promo that starts 5/22) to help your budget feel less restrictive. Swag Bucks and other rewards sites offer gift cards. I've cashed out for countless Amazon gift cards from various places, all of which help me to buy gifts, books, and other things I needed or wanted.
3. Try hard to pay cash. It can be a challenge, but when you pay cash, you're more aware of what you have to spend. Buying groceries with a debit or credit card means that I'm more likely to exceed my budget. Take cash into the grocery store, use a calculator (or your smart phone's calculator) to keep track of about how much it will be, pad for tax, and stick to your list. I've even gone so far as to leave my credit card at home because I knew I'd be tempted! Issue a challenge to your friends to pay cash for everything they buy for a month and see how well you all do.
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