Budgeting Tips From Our Favorite Writers
Ever wonder what spending strategies the pros use to stick to a budget? We decided to ask a few of our favorite personal finance writers for the budgeting tips they rely on in their own day-to-day lives. The answers range from general tips on the importance of prioritizing one’s spending to knowing when to avoid hanging out with your friends and family.
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Background: Richards is a certified financial planner who uses napkin sketches of Venn diagrams, bar graphs and other charts to explain otherwise complicated fiscal decisions. He writes for the The New York Times’ Bucks blog as well as his own personal finance site, Behaviorgap.com. His first book, The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things, was released this month. You can follow him on Twitter @behaviorgap.
Why We Like Him: Because he somehow always manages to make difficult financial principles seem easier and more enjoyable to understand.
Tip: Hold a spending fast. “Pick one day a month and decide to spend no money. Nothing. Try it for two days, maybe even a week,” Richards says. “An interesting thing happens. We find other things to do. Turns out that spending is often just a habit. Taking a break from that habit might just help you clarify what is actually important to you.”
Background: Lin is the editor in chief of LearnVest, a Web site that focuses on helping women take control of their financial futures. You can follow her on Twitter @marialinnyc.
Why We Like Her: Because her common-sense money and lifestyle advice is invaluable to all readers, not just women.
Tip: Time really is money. “When I'm trying to save money, whether it's taking the subway instead of a cab, haggling with customer service over a fee or hunting around for a coupon, I always calculate how much time it's costing me,” Lin says. “My time is much more valuable than my money because I can never get it back, or get more of it. If it's taking too much time, sometimes it's not worth the dollar or two I've saved.”
J. MoneyBackground: J. Money is the pseudonym for the writer behind BudgetsAreSexy, a blog that proves money management doesn’t have to be a bland topic. The site features everything from traditional tips for frugal living to first-person stories of people’s “side hustles” to make a little extra cash. You can follow him on Twitter @budgetsaresexy.
Why We Like Him: Because personal finance should have an edge to it sometimes.
Tip: When in doubt, chart it out. “Chart your progress (or lack thereof) once a month. Looking at a graph will help put things in better perspective!” J. Money says. “I’m an old-fashioned Excel guy. I like to do it manually because it forces me to pay attention.”
Photo Credit: Budgetsaresexy.com
Background: Villarreal is associate editor at The Consumerist, a popular site that serves as a megaphone for frustrated shoppers. His most recent book is Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel. You can follow him on Twitter @philvillarreal.
Why We Like Him: Because he knows how to deliver actionable tips for a wide range of financial decisions with a mix of humor and insight.
Tip: Always negotiate your medical bills. “Pretty much every medical provider will be willing to cut your balance by 25% or more if you offer to pay upfront,” Villarreal says. “They're afraid you'll skip out on the bill entirely or declare bankruptcy, so they'll take a chunk in the pocket over the hope of collecting it all eventually.”
Background: Miller runs 20SomethingFinance.com, a personal finance blog for recent grads and workers who haven’t yet gotten their first gray hairs. The site features investment tips, credit card picks and a long list of all the products he uses to save money. You can follow him on Twitter @ge_miller.
Why We Like Him: Because he shows the importance of taking control of your finances at the very beginning of your career.
Tip: Be honest about buying more than you need. "Add up the monthly cost to satisfy your needs – the bare minimum essentials – and then calculate how much additional you are spending on wants,” Miller says. “This is a very eye-opening exercise that can help you prioritize your expenses and realize where you may be able to cut back."
Photo Credit: 20somethingfinance.com
Background: Krasny edits the Your Money section of Business Insider, which mixes traditional finance news with real stories of trying to get by on the money you have. You can follow her on Twitter @jillkrasny.
Why We Like Her: Because she frequently brings out the personal in personal finance by sharing her own fiscal adventures as a 20-something living in New York City. Also, she used to work as a writer and editor at MainStreet, so we go way back.
Tip: Bring your own lunch to work. “I cannot stress this enough. My wallet got a whole lot fatter once I started planning out my meals, and even snacks, for the week,” Krasny says. “Considering I spent $10 a meal at my last job, if not more, this saved me hundreds each month. And once I got in the habit of doing it, splurging $12 on an overpriced falafel plate at Maoz seemed like a waste of good Ben Franklins when I could be putting that money toward something more rewarding – like, say, a tube of mascara, or my fricking cat's vet bill.”
Background: Wang founded the Bargaineering blog five years ago after graduating from college and has since built up an incredible database of stories answering any possible personal finance question one might have. You can follow him on Twitter @bargainr.
Why We Like Him: Because he knows that money is important to your well-being, but that it’s not the only thing that matters.
Tip: Don’t be too hard on yourself. “Give yourself some leeway so you can sustain it for the long time. It's like someone trying to lose weight or quit smoking: It's much harder to quit if you do it suddenly than if you wean yourself off,” Wang says. “If you want to stop buying coffee every morning, why not try brewing it yourself on Mondays? Then add in Tuesday. Before long, you'll have the coffeemaker programmed and you won't stop by Starbucks at all.”
Photo Credit: Bargaineering.com
Background: Hamm runs The Simple Dollar, a blog for people “who need both cents and sense,” and he is the author of a book by the same name. You can follow him on Twitter @trenttsd.
Why We Like Him: Because he offers the kind of straight talk people need when they feel stuck in a financial rut.
Tip: Don’t shop with other people. “Social pressure is powerful and often convinces people to buy things that they don't really need,” Hamm says. “It's far easier to simply say ‘no’ to something you don't really need when you're shopping alone.”
Photo Credit: TheSimpleDollar.com
Background: Landes (who goes by the nickname Flexo) runs the personal finance blog Consumerism Commentary and was one of the first to open up about his own finances online to educate readers. You can follow him on Twitter @flexo.
Why We Like Him: Because he offers all the hard news and actionable tips readers need to make informed decisions about their money.
Tip: Know how to prioritize your needs. “Think of a budget as a pyramid rather than a list. The base of the pyramid includes your physiological needs, so the first items in your budget should be your housing, food and clothing. Then move up the pyramid to your safety needs, like electricity and transportation,” Landes says, noting that this “ensures you're devoting your income to the most important aspects of your life.”
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Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.
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