Before the year is over, you always have a list of New Year’s resolutions. It could be about an oft-repeated promise to lose weight, quit nicotine addiction, or to budget your paycheck and get out of debt.

But even before the first month of the New Year is out, you give up. These useful but practical tips will bail you out of the overspending trap. Budgeting a slim paycheck can be frustrating, especially when unexpected money emergencies crop up. If you are receiving less than $1000 every 14 days, the prognosis is grim. Cutting back on some regular expenses can be very inconvenient for you, especially if you have kids to consider; but better the one-time inconvenience than a lifetime of never ending debt.

For emergencies like this, it’s best to be prepared. Instead of dividing your money into the usual groceries and food, bills and utilities, and rent, add one more money envelope or money clip – this time, one for savings. Impossible, you say, because you can barely survive on your paycheck.

You are right – it is downright impossible to save money when you’re already penny-pinching. Here’s how to stretch your budget some more. Go over your previous expenses and trim down the fat, and say goodbye to impulsive shopping.

Make the budgeting fun. Consider the amount you save as points, and these points should go into the savings envelope. You’ll marvel at the way your savings envelope grows, slowly but surely.
Plan a two-week menu to determine how much fresh produce, canned goods, and staple you need to buy, but don’t stint on the children’s milk. Buy fewer sweets and expensive cuts of meat, and go for more fish and vegetables, or try those nutritious one-dish meals. At the end of two weeks, there will be less unused items in the refrigerator.

Bring home cooked meals to work, instead of crossing over to the deli for your lunch or coffee breaks. If your office is not issuing freebies like bottomless brewed coffee, take your instant brews to office. As much as possible, avoid the adjacent coffee shop because you cannot afford a bagel, which adds up to your unnecessary expenses.

Schedule your family activities at home to minimize the use of the TV, and make sure that lights are off by 10 in the evening. It may sound a bit Nazi-ish, but sticking to your guns and making sure that everybody follows the new regime pays off wonderfully in many ways.

For your daily commute, take the public transport and convert the unused gas money to savings. Compute the expenses for gas and everybody’s daily commute to school and work. If it’s cheaper to buy gas, then load up the tank. You can stretch your gas mileage by avoiding the morning and after office rush.

There is no contest when it comes to the rent. It has to be paid upfront monthly (no ifs and buts), or else you’ll land a pitiful heap in the streets. You have other options, though, like looking for a house that’s cheaper, or one that’s nearer your place of work. If you can find a house that is rent-to-own, so much the better, but stick to your rent budget.

When living on a Spartan budget, forget about shopping for new clothes and shoes, unless it is a matter of life and death. But let everybody try to save their allowances for something they’d like to buy. This may take time, but they will learn the value of money and saving it.