When you created a monthly budget, you probably factored in expenses like rent, electric bills, and groceries. But there may be loopholes in your monthly budget that you aren’t aware of—ways that you’re spending money without realizing it, or bills that you’re simply paying too much for.
Until you close the loopholes in your monthly budget, you may find yourself maxing out your budget well before the month is over. There are steps that you can take to identify these loopholes, keep your budget airtight, and spend less time worrying about money. Here’s a quick guide on how to find monthly budget loopholes, get rid of them, and a few extra tips on how to stay on track.
Identify Monthly Budget Loopholes
You can reduce the amount you spend each month by identifying and eliminating two kinds of budget loopholes:
- Monthly payments that you don’t need
- Monthly payments that you could be spending less on
First, identify any monthly subscription bills that you don’t really use. Take time to look into your credit card bills, identify what you’re making automatic payments on, and decide what to keep, or eliminate.
Still haven’t cut the cord even though you only watch Netflix? Paying for extra benefits at the gym when you’re not really using them? These are nonessential examples, but the same logic applies for more important expenses, like credit cards and insurance plans.
Add-on expenses and subscription fees can be surprisingly painful and add up to $500 a year for some consumers, says Kelli Grant at CNBC.
You might even find you’re making payments on something you don’t even remember signing up for.
Review Your Monthly Budget
Once you cleanse your budget of any additional expenses you spot, now you’re ready to review the essentials you need to keep.
It’s a financially smart exercise to price shop for your regular service-providers (insurance, cell-phone plans, some utilities) every few years.
While there’s no price tag on trust and reliability in a service-provider, you may find that you can find the service you’re getting elsewhere, and pay less for it. Even with a cancellation fee, you may save by switching in the long run.
Budget Tips for Staying on Track
Closing some loopholes will likely make your monthly budget a lot easier to stick to. Here are a few additional tips to help you stay on track.
- For impulse buyers, try building in a happiness budget that specifically includes money for sporadic expenses.
- Credit card bills too high? Try moving purchases from credit cards to bank cards. You’ll have a better idea of how much money you actually have to spend, instead of what you estimate.
- Research the best credit and bank card benefits. Most card providers offer special rewards, like cashback, gift cards, and air miles. Take some time to research how you could be spending money, and potentially earn even more rewards—especially if you factor those benefits in your monthly budget already.
- Think smarter, not harder. Whenever you’re adding a new expense, take yourself through the buying process, and just be sure you want to spend your hard-earned money on it.
There is some peace-of-mind when you have a tight monthly budget. While you may not be able to anticipate every expense (that’s what a savings is for!), there may be room to fill in some gaps. Budget loopholes happen because life happens. That doesn’t mean you should stop living your life.