Does it seem that whenever you are trying to save money, a big, unexpected expense pops up?

Many people feel the same way. One way to prevent this feeling is through creating a budget, looking carefully at your current expenditures and itemizing your expenses to help you focus on how to get the most out of your paychecks.

The following tips are gleaned from the magazine Money and various personal finance websites to help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

1. Budget
Write down all of your fixed and semi-fixed expenses: rent, house payments, car payments, streaming services, phone bill, utilities, etc. Then try to gather your weekly shopping receipts to get a handle on how much you spend on groceries. Write down additional expenses for eating out, entertainment, and clothing, as well as money for emergencies, such as car repairs.

After that, add up your income from all sources and subtract all of your listed expenditures. Now, you should have a clear idea of where you can start cutting back on expenses, and you’ll know where your money is going. Using this information, you can set a monthly budget so you don’t overspend, and you can set aside money in your savings.

2. Shop around
When it’s time to make a bigger purchase, use price-comparison websites for car and home insurance, phones, broadband, TV, and even vacations. Even in shopping for clothes and children’s toys, the difference in price from one retailer to another can be significant.

3. Collect loyalty cards
These are handy if you have room in your wallet or put a card-consolidation app on your phone. Typically, you can get a free lunch, coffee, or other reward after purchasing a certain quantity of items. The savings may not seem like much in the beginning, but they add up over time.

4. Brownbag it
This goes beyond money. We all lead such busy lives nowadays that it can be difficult to eat healthy and at the right times. Taking prepared snacks and lunch to work is a great way to save money, eat healthier, and eat out less.

5. Pay with cash
Here’s an exercise to try: Once you’ve budgeted, divide your paycheck by category: entertainment, gasoline, and food, for example. Decide how much money you’re willing and able to spend for each category. Put that amount of cash in the correspondingly addressed envelope.

Once you’ve exhausted your fund for each, you’ll have to find other things to do that don’t cost money. If you’ve nearly spent the cash in your gas folder, you will have to plan and avoid taking that last-minute excursion out of town.

This method helps cut your monthly expenses by erasing the illusion created by having a credit or debit card that there’s always a little more that can be spent. An envelope doesn’t have an expanding and tempting credit limit. When it’s empty, it’s empty.

Also, people who pay with cash say there’s a psychological incentive to spend less. Handing over the actual money you earned is tougher than swiping a debit or credit card. In fact, some say it hurts to take that money out of a purse or wallet and say goodbye to it. Paying with cash, you’re more likely to make a smaller purchase or skip it altogether.

6. Order wisely at restaurants
Most restaurants portion sizes include more food than anyone could or should eat. Consider ordering a la carte. For instance, rather than getting the jumbo burrito with a side of beans, order a taco and eat the free chips that come with it. You could save as much as 50% on your main course.

Also, avoid ordering items that really increase the final tab, such as appetizers, desserts, and alcoholic drinks. Those are big profit centers for restaurants. Drinks of any kind will add a couple of dollars to your bill. If you stick with water, you’ll not only save money but also opt for the healthiest choice.

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