Line by Line: Why exactly can’t we stick to budget?


How often do you hear someone clamor on about just how easy it is to stick to a budget?

In the simplest form, the budget is nothing more than tracking what you spend versus what you make, plain and simple. Budgeting really is not made to be complicated but truthfully taking your expenses and making sure that number is less than what you make, whether that means cutting your cable cord, saying so long to your data plan or eliminating that shopping spree you’ve allowed yourself to enjoy on a regular basis at your favorite department store isn’t quite as simple as some make it.

Yes, you can just go ahead and start hacking away, and that can get you so far, but what if there isn’t enough money coming in as far as income goes? Can you really begin to even contemplate saving money if you’re not making enough to pay even the essentials? At that point, the budget process is tossed aside quickly and with extreme prejudice and you instead decide to scrimp and save where you can and simply wait to pay bills when you have the money, which leads to lower than average credit scores and a reputation that lenders don’t exactly love to see.

Another budget breakdown that you often can’t account for are expenses that you really don’t take into consideration. That two a day coffee habit, stopping for lunch every day and spending money on something as simple as a newspaper or candy bar can lead to thousands of dollars spent per year and even as much as hundreds per month. Ask yourself, how often do you eat out at restaurants, is it breakfast, lunch and dinner some days, and if so, do you realize that accounts for nearly $500 per month in added expense?

When a particular bill or expense, like a gym membership or cable, goes up due to rate hike or added services, do you pay attention to that? Do you adjust your budget? Chances are, you don’t.

Not sticking to a budget is nothing new, but it also isn’t beyond the realm of expectation to not have one at all simply because you haven’t the slightest idea where to start. Sure, a budget can be set up rather easily but staying the course and examining it beyond the norm or not taking into consideration a lack of income or literally all the purchases and expenses you have daily is going to translate into a lot of effort and very little results or outcome as it relates to being able to save money or plan financially for any sort of future.

Asking To Double Stack

The coupons that have the most printed value are the ones that are worth the most to you, right?  Wrong!  Most retail grocery stores, including Kroger and Safeway brands, will typically double any $0.50 coupon you have to a full dollar and you don’t even have to ask.  Why would they do that?  The inventory records aren’t kept down to cents, just dollars so the rationale of making a coupon-using customer happy in exchange for “found cents” is always going to be worth it.

So where are the best places to score these fifty cent coupons?  In addition to the inserts in your local newspapers, these coupons can be found from sites like Redplum,, and RetailMeNot.  A good trick to using sites like Google or Yahoo is to run a query like inurl:fifty coupon storename so something like inurl:fifty coupon aldi and that will return pages that have to have the word fifty in the url so there will be a greater likelihood of finding these magic coupons.  The downside of this approach, though, is that a lot of coupons may be expired since Google and Yahoo don’t care about providing date-sensitive results.

Make a Plan: Start off Correctly for 2014

One of the things I like to do at the start of each year is to make a plan for myself and my family because I feel if I begin my year correctly, my budget goals for the year will be plain sailing.

Starting off the New Year 2014 with a budget in mind and a plan in place could be your start to a debt-free calendar year. What is most important is having your focus on finances, leaving distractions in the background and keeping your goal in mind. Turning off the television is where it all starts. Television instills ideas of grandeur in our heads, with guilt-inducing and money-motivating ads. Find another hobby that will motivate you better – try reading. Next, join every Free Rewards Card Program that you can. I know what you’re picturing – a huge key ring with hundreds of rewards cards dangling; you can avoid that chaos today with a digital version of almost every rewards card. Take this step to join and track your spending at your favorite shopping locales. To simplify this process, create an e-mail address specifically for your rewards cards and promotions. Only access this account when it is time for you to shop for an item or items you are looking for. As far as credit cards, I know you have those “emergency” credit cards available for use in your wallet. Hide them. Take a bit of cash instead, you will be far less motivated to swipe away in a dire situation. Don’t allow yourself to have a plastic safety net until you feel like you have the strength to not use it simply based on how easy it is to swipe.

Before you embark on that shopping trip, make a list before you leave. This will help to maximize efficiency and cut down on additional unnecessary spending. Don’t place anything in your cart that is not on your list, no matter how tough that may be and you will end up saving surprisingly more money than you envisaged. During this shopping trip, stock up on items you can use for multiple meals. Cut down on fast food and eating out, spend a weekend afternoon for a few hours and prepare meals for the week. This way you will save time and money, and you will also benefit by having healthy meals if you stick to it. Simple ingredients leave options for a lot of different meals to enjoy throughout the week and variety is key in sticking to this program. Spend time creating a casserole of sorts and make multiples. Freezing food is just as easy as purchasing a prepaid meal and it’s something you can eat healthily and cheaply. Instead of planning those meals around a cookbook you have, or a Pinterest recipe you found, base it on your local grocery stores flyer. Base it on the bigger items that are on sale and you will maximize the store savings discounts and you will get more bang for your buck. Don’t be afraid to do a comparison by taking a couple of extra minutes to compare the items on your list to those at another local store. Heck, the grocery stores do it all the time! Eventually you will come to find that one of the stores you choose will consistently have better deals and the more you frequent that location, the more you save.

All of these ideas are just the beginning of a new lifestyle for yourself in 2014, and when you make a plan, you prepare the ground going forward. Simple changes can really affect your pocket book in a positive light, and you may even find yourself having fun in the process.

Promo Codes Can Maximize Your Gift Card Dollars

Promo Codes and Gift CardsDid you get a bunch of gift cards for the holidays? If so, here’s the best way to extend that money so you can maximize your shopping spend.

Here are three insider tips:

1) Shop online and get a promo code

There are great sites around the internet that specialize in providing coupon codes and promo codes for many of the same places that you have a gift card for. Just surfing around, I found Lands End promo codes, JCPenney promo codes, and many others at My Coupons.. The site is simple to navigate and offers multiple codes for each store. That’s what I like – is the ability to utilize different codes depending on what I am buying. I’ve used them many times with great success – stretching my money!

2) Want cash for those gift cards instead? Sell them back.

Now for years people have sold gift cards for cash on places like Ebay. If you have a $100 gift card to JC Penney, for example, you can actually sell it on Ebay and probably fetch around 85-90% of it’s value. It’s good for you converting the gift card to cash, and good for the buyer who immediately saved 10-15% on his purchases.

There are also services online that do the same thing and I’ve found them to be even simpler. Here is one example on These guys have been around for many years and are trusted.

3) Sign up for a credit card in store

Now I am not someone that pushes folks to sign up for credit cards. In fact, this should be one of your last resorts, but if you want to save money, signing up for the in store credit card can knock an additional 15% off your purchases, taking that gift card money even further.

I hope these quick tips will help you spend that gift card money even better ! Happy New Year!