Budgeting is an essential tool for keeping your finances in order.

It helps you plan where you spend your money and assists in the financial goals that you've planned.

Unfortunately, most budgets can be rigid, and because of this, people tend to avoid budgets. However, there is a way to budget if you hate a traditional budget. It's not a "no budget" option but more flexible and less restrictive.

The key to this type of budgeting is to have two checking accounts - one for your monthly bills and one for everything else.



Budgeting for Non-Budgeters 

There is no such thing as having no budget.

You either have a budget, or you are not tracking your finances.

If you are doing the latter, you may not be happy with your current finances because you aren't aware of your spending. You need some sort of way to know how much you bring in and how much you spend every month.

A budget is really that simple. It does not need to be something you calculate every month and figure out how much you can spend on specific categories each month.  

The way to budget without really budgeting is to give yourself the freedom to spend a set amount of money each month without tracking your expenses. Then, you will know you are sticking within your "budget" without being restricted on your purchases. 


Have Two Checking Accounts

To do this, you will need two checking accounts. One account will be for fixed expenses and the other for discretionary expenses. In the fixed expenses account, you will pay your monthly bills like rent, mortgage, utilities, and any other essential cost of living needs.

In the discretionary expenses account, you will decide on a set amount for the rest of your monthly spending. This budgeting method is meant to be simple and something that everyone can do. 

To succeed with a two checking account budgeting method, you need to know your exact fixed expenses.

You will want to make sure you have enough money in that account for your automatic payments. You do not want to go over in this account and have fees. You may need to track your expenses for a month or two to know this exact number. After that, all of your bills should be pulled from this account. 

The second thing to be successful is you need to decide how much discretionary spending you will give yourself.

You can determine the amount each month. That is the only thing you need to do. When you buy your groceries, coffee, dinners, and clothes, you'll be able to spend up to that amount. Once you go over this amount, you cannot spend any more money because you've hit your monthly limit.

To find out how much you want in this account, you may need to track some of your discretionary spending to get a general idea of how much you spend. It might take you a month or two to figure out how much to put into this account for a month. 



Why This Works For Non-Budgeters

The two checking account method is excellent for someone who doesn't want to budget but who wants to manage their spending.

It simultaneously provides structure and flexibility, which most people need from a simple budget. However, not everyone responds to detailed budgeting outlining every dollar. Personal finance is personal and should fit your needs and lifestyle. 

The flexibility of this method allows you to adjust your spending. Certain months you may spend more in a category because of birthdays or holidays. In other months you may spend more on groceries because you stay home more than eat out. You can decide precisely what you spend your money on without writing it out. You may find that you have a typical spending habit because you aren't restricting yourself to a certain amount of coffee or clothes a month. 

You have the structure of a budget without the strict guidelines of a budget. You know your monthly bills and expenses will be covered in one checking account while everything else will come out of a second checking account. You are giving yourself a set amount to spend every month, knowing that once you go over, you cannot get any more money until the next month. You'll be able to adjust your spending to your specific needs. 



Final Thoughts 

Budgeting shouldn't make you feel worse about yourself; it should leave you empowered over your finances! If you struggle with sticking to a strict budget, consider the two saving account method, where you can loosely define your spending without every dollar going into a category. You can still have the benefits of a budget without the significant limitations of a budget. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Groceries are one of the most expensive monthly expenses in American households, after housing and transportation.

And rightfully so! Food is, of course, a requirement for survival. However, even after brief periods of severe inflation, the average cost of most grocery goods has fallen over time when compared to average household income.

Even yet, the amount we spend on groceries at the local supermarket is difficult to take. 

The average American only goes to the grocery store once or twice a week. However, in this critical time characterized by high food prices, it is crucial to optimize your budget. Here are some grocery shopping suggestions to help you save money.

Related: Shrinkflation: What is It, 3 Reasons it Happens & 4 Ways to Beat it



9 Ways to Help You Keep Your Grocery Budget Low

1. Use a list.

If you have a shopping list with you, you will save a lot of money on your grocery budget.

It is critical to keep to the list and ensure that you have purchased everything on it. This will keep you from making impulse purchases and will save you from having to return to the store because you forgot something.

A trip to the store to get something you forgot generally results in the purchase of other products you don't require. 

A list can save you a lot of money and time. You can use paper and pen, or checklist apps like Trello, that are expressly designed for grocery shopping lists. Regardless, have your list ready and handy when you need it.


2. Plan your menus.

You may take advantage of promotions and bulk buying opportunities if you plan your dinners a week or a month in advance.

It will also keep you from going out to eat. You might find that you can prepare food and freeze the rest for later. On days when you don't feel like cooking, this will come in handy.

You can also organize your menus around your store's weekly circular, which will allow you to maximize the sale pricing. You can buy menu plans online if you don't want to plan your menu. Many of the programs are only $5.00 per month, but they will save you a lot of money at the grocery store.


3. Use coupons.

Coupons can help you save a significant amount of money on your grocery budget.

The simplest method to do this is to match the coupons to the things that are on sale. If you're diligent and only buy what you'll need and use, you can save a lot of money at the grocery store.


4. Switch brands.

Switching to store-brand items or purchasing the brand that is on sale might save you a lot of money.

You could be shocked by the quality of store-brand merchandise. Many of the items are manufactured and packaged in the same facilities and plants as major brands. Because the stores do not have huge advertising costs, they can pass the savings on to you.


5. Do bulk purchases.

Stores would be delighted to offer a discount to anyone purchasing in bulk.

It makes sense to buy in bulk if the savings are true as you utilize the product in your home, storing it so it doesn't go bad.

Otherwise, stay away from bulk purchases made solely for the sake of getting a good bargain. If you do not consume a lot of cereal, bulk purchasing will result in you spending money on something that will likely remain on your shelf until it goes bad or expires.

Most packaged and bagged things should be stored in cold, dark settings at home to extend the product's life. Freeze items like brown bananas (For baking), bread, butter, cookies, flour, grapes (They make a great snack), herbs, spices, nuts, and onions.


6. Pay with cash.

Carrying a certain amount of cash and just using it to buy groceries is the greatest approach to limit your spending.

You will not be able to spend more than your budget in this manner.

Many people are surprised to learn that whether they use a credit card, debit card, or prepaid card, they will overspend equally. When you buy something using plastic, you usually wind up overspending by 10% to 50%.

When you pay with cash, you must prioritize the foods you require rather than impulsively purchasing sweets, snacks, and other non-essential items.

This way, you come home with the stuff you intended to buy rather than the items you couldn't resist, which are normally available at the checkout counter or the snack counter. 


7. Avoid pre-prepped fruits and vegetables.

Stores would love to do all the hard work for you like cleaning up the salad leaves, chopping the veggies, peeling the fruits, and prepping it up for you.

Be aware, though, that there is a considerable cost behind it. The preparation of meals in delis, bakeries, and meat departments is where most grocery shops make their money.

Buying whole fruits and vegetables and preparing them at home when you need them may take a little longer, but it can help you save a lot of money on your monthly grocery bill. Skip the grocery store's pre-prepared areas.


8. Keep track of not only your expenses but also your time.

When you go grocery shopping, you are depleting a valuable and finite resource.

Aside from money, you must correctly arrange your time. Make a plan to spend a certain amount of time in the store and figure out how much you'll be charged for the items in your cart.

Unsurprisingly, the longer you stay at the grocery store, the more money you'll spend at the register. While you don't have to sprint through the aisles, don't expect to stroll or, worse, aimlessly across the aisles.

You might even set an alarm on your phone or watch to remind you to stay on track. You will become more sensitive to your spending and time management if you keep track of your expenses and time.


9. Keep the kids at home if you can.

When you take your kids to the grocery store, you'll immediately notice that your cart or basket is filled with items that they picked up in the aisles.

While you may want to be a good parent and get your children everything they desire, this will rapidly exceed your budget (and likely spoil your children).

Think about hiring a babysitter for an hour or two. The money you save on groceries usually more than covers the expense of the babysitter, plus you enjoy some peace while browsing the aisles.



Keeping Your Grocery Budget Low

Even these tiny grocery budget saving techniques can add up to significant savings in the long term.

Your savings may not seem significant, but when taken together, they can make a significant difference in your budget. Make it a habit to organize your grocery shopping, your budget, and your time. It will assist you in being a more conscious shopper the next time you go shopping.

Photo by Ivan Samkov