Okay, let me put a disclaimer here first and foremost. I am not a Financial Adviser, not even close. I would even say that I would be the last person you would talk to if you need advise on how to budget and save. As what my Mom calls me, I am an impulsive spender. My youngest brother calls me his “big spender sister”. (#truestory) But over the years, I have picked up budgeting tips from my Mom, my siblings, my friends, online articles and what-nots.
Before I became a Mom, I always had a loose budget plan that could get me until the next payday. The budget plan was never really followed. I got by, but there were times when I needed SOS from friends. Then came a point when I was getting stable financially and living comfortably. I was not even minding how much I have in the bank. All I was doing was making sure I set aside money for a big purchase I was planning. My investments was running smoothly, I even had money to spare come the next payroll. Life was good, financially.
When I became a Mom, I didn’t expect or even anticipated all those medical expenses my son would incur. My savings got depleted and I had a hard time recouping my financial status. I am still in the red, financially speaking. Or, if I include all assets, I guess I am just about break-even. Not good at all. At my age, I should already be well off financially.
Realizing this, I need to make big changes to how I spend. So let me share to you some of the things I have been doing to somehow stretch that peso.
Keep a grocery list and stick to it
Grocery shopping is very therapeutic, don’t you agree? I really enjoy going to the grocery alone. I go through all the aisles, looking for something that will catch my eye. Once I get to the counter to pay, my baskets are overflowing and my bill is way beyond my set budget. Well, with a tight budget, that can no longer happen. Before going to the grocery, list down what is needed. Check your kitchen cabinets, pantries, laundry shelves, medicine cabinets, etc to make sure you got everything covered. Once you get to the grocery, pick out what’s on your list then make your way to the counters immediately to pay. Don’t go roaming around anymore, especially if you don’t have the discipline to stop yourself from picking out that nice looking floor mat that would look good for your bathroom when you still have a stash of unused floor mats in your bathroom cabinet. You get what I mean?
Also, supermarkets nowadays have bundled packs or other promos. You might want to consider getting those especially if you can save a few bucks from it. But again, be mindful of those. Make sure that those bundled packs are really in your list. Well, if you have the extra budget for it, go on and add it to your cart. But if the item is not in your list and you don’t have the budget for it, leave that item on the shelf.
Watch out for promos and sale
A lot of financial advisers would say that not because an item is on sale and you bought it means that you have already saved. I agree. Buying that cute shoes because it is 50% off doesn’t mean that you saved 50% if the purchase was an impulsive one. But if you were saving up to buy that brand new TV, waited for a big sale and got it at 30% off, then you have saved 30% from the purchase. See the difference?
I am always on the look out for sale and promos. Whenever I go to the mall, I always try to ask the sales clerk when the next big sale will be and if an item that I wanted to buy will be included in the sale. Then I prepare for it. Here’s an example. I buy my son’s diapers online. I get them from Lazada. But I don’t always buy. I wait for the diaper to go on sale (usually between 5-15% discount) and I also check for vouchers that I can use on top of the discount. It’s such a big bonus if my purchase reaches a certain amount that will also waive the delivery fee. So, comparing it to buying nappies from grocery price, I saved quite a lot.
This is applicable for transportation expense as well. If you use Grab or Uber, watch out for promo codes. Every now and then, there are promo codes going around and that can save you a lot. But if you can take the bus or MRT for that matter, go for it. It will make a big difference in your transportation expenses.
I have to curb my impulse to buy other things that goes on sale just because it is on sale. Sure, I still splurge every now and then but I am now more conscious of what I buy just because I want it and what I buy because it is needed.
Build your stock pile
Do you know the reality TV show “Extreme Couponing”? I wish we have that here in this country. Wouldn’t it be so great to have several carts of your purchase and you only paid a few bucks for it or even nothing?
I used to have a stock pile of consumable items: toothpaste, canned goods, bathroom tissue, etc. One example that I do for this – Nivea Sale. This happens yearly (I just learned about this last year). This year, I waited for the big sale (everything was 50% off) and bought few quantities of baby shampoo, baby lotion, baby powder and body wash for my son. The stock pile I have would last between 6-10 months. Imagine if I buy those items every time he runs out in the next succeeding months. If you can buy an two items for the price of one, go for it.
I am still in the works of building my stock pile again. It’s still a hit or miss for me but I think I am getting there.
Write down and categorize all expenses
I just started doing this religiously a couple of months ago but when I started working here in the big metro, I’ve done this, too, but I didn’t have the discipline to continue it. Anyway, I use Excel for this (I just love working with Excel, seriously). I write down what I buy, what I pay for daily. May it be payment for utilities, grocery purchase, or even that single candy bar I bought just because I was craving for something sweet. I list it all down and include the date as well as the store (this will help you determine which store sells an item at a lesser price. A 50-centavo makes a big difference in the long run). Even for grocery items, I list them one by one and include the quantity, unit price and total price.
Categorize the items listed. I also have a sub-category for my list. For example: I paid my electricity. I categorize that as Monthly Payable and the sub-category would be Utilities. By doing so, at the end of the month, I will be able to see how much was spent for groceries, monthly payables, transportation expenses, and so on. I could also see where I overspend within the month. With this, I could already make adjustments for the next month.
So there. The key thing here is discipline. We all have that urge to just spend but at the end of the day, we need to save up for the rainy days. I am still a work-in-progress when it comes to budgeting and I know that there are still a lot of things that I could do to stretch every peso (like coming up with a weekly meal plan – I have no idea how to go about this). But I am up for the challenge. It is hard at first but once it becomes a part of your routine, it becomes easier until you don’t have to be conscious about it because it becomes innate.
These are just basics for others but I hope this could help others who are like me – impulsive, big spenders. Next time, I hope I have more to share in terms of budgeting and financial management.
What budgeting techniques do you do to stretch your peso?