Archive for the 'Money' Category

staying within your budget | the gift card solution

I’m the checkbook balancer in our family and even though month after month we swear we’ll stay within our budget, the red bars on Mint.com say otherwise. But I think we’ve finally owned up to the fact that we’re hopelessly undisciplined by nature and in order to stick to our 2012 joint resolution, we need to put more drastic measures in place to be more aware and intentional about our spending.

So for any areas of budget weaknesses, we’ve decided to get gift cards and reload them (or get new ones) once a month with the designated amount. Once they’re used up for that month, they’re done. And on the flip side, it will give us a more tangible way to save individually for things we want to purchase (like that Burberry trench). This is also great for getting your spouse gifts since they won’t see it on the credit card statement and ruin the surprise.

Then there’s the Whole Foods splurging issue… By getting our remaining balance printed on the receipt every time we grocery shop, I’m hoping the visual budget reminder and looming fear of eating Ramen noodles once we reach zero will help pace spending a little better.

I’m thinking the applications to this are endless and can be tailored to whatever purchases repeatedly put you in the red. It’s usually the little things that add up to the where-the-heck-did-our-money-go conversations, isn’t it? Downloading one too many $3.99 (or $4.99 if you have to get HD like someone who shall remain nameless) movies can add up to double digits before you know it. Same with those daily cappuccinos.

The Mango Card and other prepaid debit cards can help in areas where a specific vendor gift card wouldn’t work – like personal spending on clothing, etc. The problem is that most have monthly fees or transaction fees. I’ve found that the Mango card probably has the most minimal fees in comparison to other brands, at $5 a month (which is waived if you load $500 or more a month) and no transaction fees. This could add up to $60 a year, which can be money down the drain, but if your budget overages are significant, it’s a small price to pay for staying within the limit. The other option is going the Visa/AmEx gift card route, but those aren’t reloadable.

What do you guys think? Have you tried something like this before? What budgeting measures do you have in place that worked for you?

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posted by christine in Money and have Comment (1)