Saving money and living on a budget can be tough, but you don't have to drive yourself crazy or beat yourself up to put a few extra dollars in your pocket. If you have access to an Excel spreadsheet, or a pen and paper, you can hold yourself accountable, reduce your spending and optimize your budget for maximum savings.
This one simple trick can do wonders for your personal bottom line, and getting started couldn't be easier. Just collect the receipts from your daily purchases and keep them in a safe place. At the end of the day, record everything you bought, from that fast food burger at lunchtime to that morning cup of coffee, in your spreadsheet or tablet.
The whole process should take no more than five minutes a day, but you'll gain valuable insight into how much you are spending, what you are spending it on and how you might be able to cut back. You may not have realized that daily lunches were costing you a hundred dollars a week, or that your morning latte habit was sucking $50 a week from your wallet. Armed with that information, you can make a few simple changes, like packing your leftovers for lunch or drinking the free coffee at work.
In the blink of an eye, you'll have saved $100 or more a month, money you can put toward your credit card debt, add to your emergency savings or use to treat yourself to something nice. This simple exercise is one of the easiest, yet one of the most effective, ways to trim your budget and get a handle on your spending.
Saving your receipts and recording your daily purchases can have other benefits as well. Many retailers, including big box giants like WalMart, let shoppers enter their receipts, automatically scanning for lower prices and rebating the difference. Other apps let shoppers take pictures of their receipts, giving cash back for purchases and squeezing even more value out of every dollar.
If you have your own business or buy things for your job, you may be able to write off those purchases when tax time rolls around. Having the receipts in hand, and recorded in spreadsheet form, can make filing your taxes easier, and lower your risk of an audit.
If you're not yet tracking your daily purchases, now is the time to get started. For less than five dollars a day, you could trim your budget and save hundreds of dollars a month. It's hard to get a better return than that!