- Account for every single penny you spend, no matter how minor the expense. Save all receipts, and use the budgeting method of your choice to keep track of how much you spend. If you don’t have time to do this, you don’t have time to shop. Period.
- Get out of debt and stay out of debt. Eliminating credit card debt should be a top priority.
- Every time you encounter a financial temptation, ask yourself if you really need it. Ask yourself if you will die without it. When you decide to purchase a non-necessity, consider postponing the purchase. Shop with your head, not your heart.
- Don’t buy anything just because it’s on sale. A "good deal", isn't necessarily a good deal for YOU!
- Make things last a little longer. For example, stretch your groceries a few more days before shopping for more. When you wait a little longer, you will use up things that are lingering in your pantry.
- Don’t go shopping without a list. Don’t be distracted from your mission when you shop. Stick to the list!
- Don’t feel pressured to spend money you don’t have. This can be particularly difficult for parents at Christmas time. One mother I knew told her kids they would only get three presents each, because Baby Jesus only got three gifts. When they are grown, your kids will remember the love you gave them, not the stuff you gave them.
- Get the clutter out of your house and out of your life. Maintaining things takes time and money, so get rid of the stuff you don’t need anymore. If it is broken, throw it away. Donate or sell usable items.
- Save money the old-fashioned way: DIY!
- Don’t go to such extremes with frugality that you end up feeling entirely deprived. The idea is to come up with a sustainable long term plan. Use your budget as a framework within which to improve and enhance your life. Read Being Sensible About Frugality, for an excellent take on this philosophy. The author of this blog has many other good articles on the subject.
It really isn’t necessary to buy budgeting software; there are many free tools available online. If you have Excel, you can easily set up your own spreadsheet for tracking your spending and tailor it to your specific needs. Here are links to some free online budget calculators:
The Motley Fool – This site has many helpful calculators relating to finances, but the budget one is at the top of the list.
BudgetTracker, Inc. – This site is a comprehensive money-tracking tool and is a member of the BBBOnLine Reliability Program.
The Cheapest Man in America – This guy is fanatically frugal. When neighbors threw rice at his wedding, he swept it up and cooked it for dinner.