Budgeting is an important skill for money management. If you ever hope to become financially independent, then you will need to learn how to make a budget and live below your means. However, many people struggle with this and continually overspend month after month. Unfortunately, it has become even easier to blow your budget when you rely on digital payment methods. Those who have trouble tracking their finances or remain unaware of their spending habits will find it especially difficult. In addition to learning the budgeting basics, you will also need to choose payment methods that will keep you on track. So, what is the best payment type when you’re trying to stick to a budget?
The Best Payment Type When You’re Trying to Stick to a Budget
For those who are having trouble reigning in their spending habits, it’s time to get to work. When people ask me for help, I turn to the old-fashioned method. So, gather up your bills, get your notepad, and get ready to put your finances under the microscope. Once you have done the math, you may discover some hard truths about your financial situation. If you don’t like what the numbers reveal, then it’s time to make some changes.
One of the best places to re-establish control is by choosing the best payment type when you’re trying to stick to a budget. But, how do you choose?
The Danger of Credit Cards
Although they have their uses, most people will agree that credit cards are dangerous for your budget. The convenience and accessibility are too much temptation for some. Furthermore, the high-interest rates can tank your long-term goals. And if you only manage to make the minimum payment every month, you will never get out of debt. It’s best to look at credit cards as a temporary loan and a last resort option for emergency use only.
Turning to Cash-Based Payment Types
When weighing the options, cash-based alternatives are the best payment type when you’re trying to stick to a budget. For me, this usually means that I only use my debit card or cash when things are tight. This way, I can only spend money that I actually have. Since you have to pay for things up front, it trained me to understand that if I didn’t have the funds to pay for something outright, then I shouldn’t buy it.
The all-cash system was best when I was living on a bare-bones budget because it put a hard stop to overspending. I paid my bills first and set aside small amounts to get me through the rest of the month. Once the money was gone, there was nothing more to spend until the next payday.
Debit cards can function in the same way, but they come with other risks. Since they are linked to your checking account, you only have access to limited funds. But, you must be careful not to overdraw the account. Otherwise, you could incur additional fees.
Using Technology to Help You Stick to a Budget
If you want to learn how to budget successfully, then you have to know where your money is going. It can be a painful exercise, but you have to know the reality of your situation before you can make a plan and take action. Once you know how you spend your money, it will be easier to identify where you can cut back or reallocate funds.
Online banking has made budgeting infinitely easier to stay connected to your finances. You can log in from any computer or mobile device to check account balances, transfer money, and pay bills. You can also set alerts when they reach a certain level or you have insufficient funds. I also set credit card alerts for large purchases and reminders when payments are due to help me avoid late fees.
Automating Your Finances
Another trick to help you stick to your budget is by automating your finances. Many employers offer direct deposit so your paycheck will go directly into your account. This removed the temptation to spend when I had cash in hand. Once it reached the dedicated accounts, it took longer to access my money which made me reconsider my spending.
Automating recurring payments is another method to ensure your bills get paid before you can spend your entire paycheck. Now, my utilities and other monthly bills are paid on time every month which is helpful for people like me who sometimes miss payments and incur late fees. However, I always make sure I have enough in my accounts to cover the payments and never use it for membership fees.
There are also a plethora of digital tools and budgeting apps that can help. Mint is a great option to track your spending and savings. Meanwhile, Acorns can help you save more every month by rounding up each transaction and setting it aside for when you need it.
Tracking Finances the Old-Fashioned Way
Growing up in a lower-middle-class family, we were always painfully aware of our monthly spending. Spontaneous shopping trips and unnecessary splurging meant that we would have to forego other things we would look forward to, like pizza and movie nights or other pricey outings.
However, we made it work. Thanks to my dad’s exemplary budgeting skills and meticulous recordkeeping, we always had what we needed. Part of this included my siblings and me participating in the weekly accounting exercises. While it wasn’t the most exciting way to spend family time, I learned some valuable habits that have served me well in my adult life.
Thanks to my dad’s attention to detail, I learned how to monitor my finances and always know exactly where I stand. I check every account throughout the month, remain vigilant of my spending limits, and know how to balance the budget. He also taught me how to use credit to my advantage and avoid long-term debt.
Strangely enough, it seems many adults never gained this type of financial literacy. It shocks me how many people remain blissfully unaware of the bad financial habits that are putting them deeper into debt. But if you ever hope to regain control, then you will have to learn some self-discipline. And with the access to free online resources that we have today, you can start teaching yourself better habits to help you reach your financial goals.
- How to Strengthen Your Four Walls of Budgeting
- An Uncomplicated Guide to the 50-30-20 Budgeting Method
- 5 Apps to Supercharge Your Personal Finance Habits
Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.