While having a budget for the month is a good idea, it's hard to keep track of your spending if you don't break it down to see what you are spending each day. By first figuring out how much you're currently spending, making reasonable adjustments and then calculating your daily allowance for things like food, transportation and entertainment, you'll know when to put your wallet away.
Log Your Spending
Keep a log of your spending for a week; writing down everything you buy, from candy to gasoline to movie tickets—everything. One of the easiest ways to keep track of your spending is to hang onto your receipts each day, and then log them on a spreadsheet each night under categories, such as groceries, entertainment, transportation and hobbies. Listing your items categorically will give you a visual representation of your spending.
Calculate Your Monthly Spending
Multiply your weekly total by 4.5 to come up with a projected monthly spending total. Add in your recurring monthly expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, cell phone bills and loan payments. The combination of your recurring expenses and your projected monthly spending will give you a grand total for your current spending habits.
Divide Your Income
Compare your income with your grand spending total, and then see where you can cut back. Your budget should allow you to contribute 10 percent of your income to savings each month, and you should have enough left over after so that you should not feel pinched between paychecks. Give yourself breathing room so that you never feel panicked as your pay period comes to an end. After all, budgeting is about achieving freedom from those paycheck-to-paycheck pinches.
Break It Down
Convert your budget to weekly spending levels after you've adjusted your budget by cutting back where possible. Then divide those expenses by the number of times per week you plan to do them. For example, if you've decided cut back your eating out expenses to $50 per week, figure out how many meals that covers at your favorite restaurants. Your groceries will follow similar calculations. If you've budgeted $100 for groceries per week and you need that to cover five dinners and five lunches, that's $10 per meal. When you understand your budget from a day-to-day spending level, it's much easier to curb impulse purchases.
Joy Uyeno has been writing about travel, food, fashion, culture and finance since 2005. For three years she wrote a column for the "Honolulu Star-Bulletin" aimed at young and first-time travelers. Her writing has appeared in several local and national publications, including the 2008 anthology "Honolulu Stories." She holds a Master of Arts in writing and publishing from Emerson College.