5 Creative Tips for Juggling Your Monthly Expenses

Stretch your money between paychecks with ideas from the MySavingsJar™ community

Like it or not, those bills aren’t going to pay themselves. Unfortunately.

If you’re like most people, your expenses vary a bit every month, and it can be a challenge to make sure you have the money you need on hand to pay all of your bills on time.

Thankfully, with a few simple tricks, you can make this monthly juggling act much easier—and avoid getting caught short.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best tips for managing monthly expenses from members of the AARP Foundation’s MySavingsJar™ community.

Understand Your Wants vs. Needs

“The best tip I’ve heard for picking which expenses to pay is to separate out your wants and your needs. Then, pay your needs first and decide which of your “wants” you can live without.”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

We couldn’t have said this better ourselves. The first step to managing your expenses is to divide them into two categories: wants and needs. Needs are the things you pay each month like housing, food and utilities. Wants are the extras like a new outfit, eating out or taking a vacation. 

Another MySavingsJar member agrees: “I don’t buy things I don’t need! It’s usually the stuff you WANT that gets you in trouble with your spending habits.” – MySavingsJar Community Member 

“I don’t buy things I don’t need! It’s usually the stuff you WANT that gets you in trouble with your spending habits.”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

Tip: Ask yourself: Do I need this or do I just want it? Seeing the difference really helps you stick to your budget.

Take Advantage of Free Apps and Online Tools

Many MySavingsJar community members use spreadsheets to track their spending and know when bills are due, often saving every receipt to see exactly where their money is going. Today, there are free smartphone apps and online tools that take some of the drudgery out this important task.

First, check with your local bank or credit union to automatically schedule payments to avoid late fees and see reports that show exactly how you’re spending your money, like these MySavings Jar community members:

“To “juggle” expenses is an art which I have yet to master but, thanks to my bank, I have ‘bill-pay’ and all my bills are handled appropriately without having to go out to locate money orders or any other money ‘tool’. The bank has spoiled me and, after many years, they have never forgotten a bill!”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

“My credit union has an app that tracks your spending habits monthly by categories. It shows what came in and what is spent. I’m very visual about budgeting and this helps me stay on target towards my goals.”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

If you have a credit card or savings accounts not affiliated with your bank, consider signing up for the free Mint.com app that connects all of your financial accounts and sends automatic reminders when your bills are due. 

Tip: Save those receipts and use these free receipt scanning apps to earn cash back and free e-gift cards. 

Up Your Coupon Game

We love this tip about spending a bit to save even more from one MySavingsJar community member.

“I get the Sunday only paper delivery. Yes, it’s $11 a month but I make that up with the coupons and use of the grocery sales fliers. When family packs of chicken go on sale for .99¢ a pound, about 10 pieces are about $6 and make three to four meals. I usually save $15-17 in coupons each month, more than the cost of the paper.”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

Even better, most grocery stores offer members-only reward coupons you can clip in their store app before you shop. Use the coupons and other weekly specials to plan your meals for the week and you’ll save on your grocery budget, too. 

“Our store has coupons just for joining their free store program. They have new ones every Sunday so I check them before we shop. There is also a website called coupons.com. They have coupons you can print.”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

These days, coupons aren’t just for packaged foods and junk foods. If you’re looking to save on healthier foods and staples like lean meats, cheese and whole-grain bread, sign up for  AARP Foundation’s Healthy Savings and get coupons automatically loaded to your card each week. For $4.99 a year, you could save up to $200 a month on groceries at participating grocery stores.

Tip: Maximize your savings by spending a little time looking for coupons from a variety of sources: online, in apps and in the newspaper.

FInd What Works Best for YOU

One MySavingsJar community member saves by ordering groceries online for pickup to avoid going into the store and buying things they don’t need. Little tricks like these can help you keep your expenses in check during the month.

Still others find sticking to tracking their expenses easier when they keep it old school. So don’t feel bad if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the online and app options.

“I use a monthly calendar and write what the bill is and the amount that is due on that date. I track my income on a different color on the same calendar. I can take a look at my monthly income and expenses on one page. I check them off when paid, which is a great feeling.”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

The beauty of the calendar method is that you clearly see when all of your bills are due. If all your bills are due around the same time, you can ask your credit card company or local utility to change the due date and spread out payments over the month.

What’s more, keeping a detailed record yourself instead of relying on your bank can give you a sense of empowerment that snowballs into wanting to find more ways to save. 

“I have an excel spreadsheet that I use and it’s divided into three sections: necessities, discretionary spending and savings. I take my paycheck and allocate 50 percent to necessities, 30 percent to discretionary spending and 20 percent to savings. This has helped me take care of debt and save at the same time..”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

Tip: No matter what system you choose for expense tracking, the important thing is to do something so you know exactly where your money is going.  

Find Some Support Buddies

Let’s face it, we can all use some help when trying to change our ways, especially when it comes to managing our monthly expenses.

“I have a great support system when things get a little tight financially for me. Because I use a budget and am also trying to save, my family brings me little extras if I need them. Having a support system is very important. Support doesn’t always mean getting things given to you. It can mean just having someone to talk to about your situation. Someone listening is a good support.”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

MySavingsJar is also a great place to find support with free resources, educational articles and community message boards, where you’ll find money-saving tips from other members like these:

“Enjoy the local library! A rich resource for those on a budget.”

— MySavingsJar Community Member

Tip: Download the Libby library app on your phone or tablet, connect your library card and take out digital books from your local library.

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