Whether you’re a family of four saving up for a trip to Disney World or a business owner looking to improve your bottom line, sticking to a budget is a necessary first step to meeting your financial goals. However, the best budgeters know that, in order to control what you spend, you also have to look at how you spend it.
Fortunately, several tried-and-true strategies are out there to help you find the best payment method for your lifestyle.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of using cash for your purchases, it is a sound strategy for sticking to a budget. By limiting yourself to purchasing only in cash, you can eliminate spending more easily than you can when you have access to all the money in your account all the time. Just keep in mind that carrying cash in certain situations can be risky, like while you’re traveling.
For businesses, using a cash-only payment policy will allow you to stay on top of your cash flow and net profits. Though some aspects of a business aren’t usually paid for in cash, like software subscriptions, you should still ensure you have the raw funds on hand to keep from overextending yourself.
If you’re like most people, you prefer a checking account with a debit card. Like cash, debit cards use the money you actually have. Unlike the green stuff, most cards have robust security features to prevent fraud. They are also easily canceled in the event they are lost or stolen.
Contrary to popular belief, credit cards can also be used effectively to make payments. By paying for all of your purchases with one credit card, all of your expenses are in one spot. This helps provide a big-picture view of your total spending on a weekly or monthly basis.
To get the most out of paying with a credit card, pay off your card balance on time every month. Otherwise, you will lose money on interest and late fees. As a bonus, responsible credit card usage is one of the most reliable ways to build your credit. Plus, you can earn rewards, points, and cashback.
What if you can’t commit to just one payment method? Thanks to technology, there are awide range of financial apps and software that can easily consolidate all of your finances right at your fingertips – no matter how you pay.
Using apps and other software allows you to track your spending habits from multiple sources. Because many apps automatically separate your spending into categories, you can create and track separate budgets for every area of your life, from dining out and charitable giving to travel funds and business expenses.
The unexpected can happen at any time, so be sure to budget some money each month just for emergencies. Did you know that it costs up to $1,800 to replace a window in your house? Even with prudent planning and a steady job, many of us are just a few paychecks away from the life-altering world of poverty.
To keep these funds separate, consider choosing a different payment method for emergencies only. For example, you could store your emergency fund in a different account with a separate debit card. This way, you’re not tempted to use it for something less urgent.
Budgeting can be tricky. By looking at how you spend, rather than just how much, you can increase your chances of financial success.