How to make the most of your money on any budget

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You check your bank account, the available balance isn’t what you were expecting it to be, but you have no idea what you spent your hard-earned cash on. Sound familiar?

All of us have probably experienced the above at some point in our lives, and it sucks when you realise that payday is still a couple of weeks away.

It’s easier than ever to lose track of your money when it doesn’t physically leave your wallet, but there are many ways that you can take control of your spending.

Implement the following five tips into your routine to make the most of your money on any budget.

1. Stop buying lunch at work

It may be convenient, but the savings you can make by cutting out this habit may surprise you. For example, let’s say you spend $6 a day on lunch – that’s $30 a week.

In a year (I’ll use 48 weeks to allow time for holiday or sickness), you’ve spent $1,440, and that’s not considering any snacks or drinks you might buy throughout the day.

Instead of buying lunch, try taking leftovers from the night before or prepping your lunches over the weekend. To make the most of the money you’re now not spending on lunch, put $6 away in a savings account each day and reap your reward in 12 months.

2. Use a spending tracker

This is a financial life-changer.

If you really want to see where your money goes, track exactly what you spend each day, either in a notepad or on an Excel spreadsheet.

It doesn’t take a lot of time (15 minutes at the end of each day), and it will help you spot any spending habits that may be sneakily eating into your money, like the four takeaways you order every week.

3. Take advantage of loyalty schemes and membership cards

If you tend to shop in specific stores, you should check to see whether they offer loyalty schemes where you can earn points every time you shop.

This is great for grocery shopping because food is something you need to buy often, and it won’t cost anything extra to collect points.

Depending on the store, they may offer vouchers or coupons in exchange for your points every few months or so.

Alternatively, if you’re a film buff like me, see if your local cinema offers a membership card that allows you to watch unlimited films for one set fee every month. At my cinema, paying to see two films every month costs more than the monthly membership fee, so it’s a no-brainer.

4. Become a discount code queen

Before you order anything online, do a quick search to see if there are any active discount codes that you can use on your purchase. If you can’t find any, it’s always a good idea to sign up for the store’s newsletter as you tend to get a discount off your first order.

Check your emails for any old discount codes sitting in your inbox. Even if they supposedly expired on a date long gone, always test the code; I recently used a discount code from a year ago to get 10 per cent off a shirt and free delivery. Winner winner!

5. Switch to a credit card that rewards you

If you regularly use a credit card, you might want to consider switching to a provider that rewards you for spending.

Note: this is not an excuse to go wild and buy things you don’t need. Instead, you can use the credit card for your everyday purchases and pay it off at the end of the month.

Stores like Amazon offer credit cards that earn you reward points for your purchases which you can collect and then spend on Amazon.

This article originally appeared on A Girl In Progress.