Living within a budget isn’t all doom and gloom! In fact, it can be quite freeing. Maybe you’re looking to increase investments or save for a much-deserved vacation; either way, having an eye on your finances will help make those dreams come true! However, when prices start rising, we must find ways to reduce expenses and get creative – that’s where the real fun begins.

If you turn it into a game, you’ll have a lot more fun finding similar if not better for less.

What Are You Spending?

If you don’t know, you can’t make adjustments.

Tracking your spending is key to staying within budget and keeping your finances in check. Start by gathering all your financial records so you can get a complete view of all your spending and income.

There are numerous tools available that can help you better understand where your money is going, from spreadsheets to online budgeting apps.

It’s also important to set up a system for tracking expenses – this could involve recording each purchase manually or setting up direct deposits into a savings account.

Evaluate Your Fixed Expenses

Once you’ve gotten your accounts set up, you can see where the money goes. You’ll want to note your fixed expenses like rent or mortgage, insurance, and your auto expenses.

Then it’s time to decide if the total cost is worth what you’re paying. Often a home will allow you to build up equity. A rental won’t, but it could provide you with other benefits such as not having to pay for repairs or property taxes.

If you’re spending more than you think is best, you may want to rethink your home. For example, if you had a larger home with a family and now you’re empty nesters, maybe it would make sense for you to rent an apartment and then rent out the house to a growing family.

Next, it’s time to evaluate your car. A vehicle is more than just a monthly payment. It’s also regular maintenance, repairs, insurance, and either gas or electricity to keep it running. What do you use your car for primarily? If it’s just sitting in the garage since you can telecommute, and you get your groceries delivered, maybe it’s time to sell it and save on the extra costs.

Also, we do have great public transport including our light rail. If you’re not ready to sell your car yet, try out public transportation and save on gas costs.

The important thing for fixed expenses is to re-evaluate when you have life changes.

Food, Glorious Food!

The most expensive food that you buy is the food you don’t use. It either gets thrown out or composted. But you still spent money on something that you didn’t get any value.

So two of the best ways to save money on food are meal planning and having a shopping list. Another key is learning how to cook only enough, or having a plan for leftovers. When you plan, you can also better utilize coupons to save further.

If you don’t know how to cook, some libraries have cooking demonstrations online for free. You can also make some popcorn and curl up with YouTube to learn to cook just about anything.

Libraries also have cookbooks that you can explore.

Spend some time thinking about what you like to eat, and how you like to eat. Then you can learn how to nurture your needs and that of anyone living with you.

Find Free Entertainment

Make your own entertainment and explore our city’s parks and hiking trails. There are also free movies in the park, concerts, and festivals to explore. And many museums either have a free day or two a month, or free admission for local residents.

If you’re looking for some company, look online and find people who also enjoy these activities. Meetup and NextDoor are two such sites. There are always people looking for others to go hiking with.

You can also look for community groups or club to meet people who share your interests and make new friends. It’s great to get out and socialize to boost your spirits without needing to spend money.

Mindset Change

Often we run out and buy something on credit and then think about how we’ll pay for it. A better mindset is to save up the money while looking for sales. If you know what you want, create a spreadsheet to track prices and dates. Then you know when you’re getting the best deal.

You can set up your checking account to automatically transfer a small amount of money to a special savings account for large expenses. If you don’t have an emergency fund, you can take out money into a different savings account for that. If the money gets taken out, then you don’t see it and won’t spend it.

Start small at first. If you don’t notice $25, then you can increase it if you wish. Plus, it’s amazing how fast it adds up.

Another mindset change is that you need to spend money to have fun. Or that if you want to have fun with friends, it has to be eating out or hanging out at a bar or pub.

Get Some Assistance

If you shop online, there are a few extensions that can find you better prices or coupons like Honey.

See if your favorite market has a loyalty rewards program. Often they provide special coupons or discounts to members. And, you can look for cash-back apps like ibotta where you scan in a receipt and earn money back on your purchases.

Finally, if you buy in bulk, find a friend to split the goods with you.

We hope this article inspired you to take a look at what you spend and how and that it inspires you to try something new.