Problems with money are stressful. The less cash you have to spend on the things that matter to you, the more likely you are to lose sleep over your malnourished bank account. While learning how to budget and save your money more effectively can help to eliminate these problems, many people find the simple act of saving to be stressful too.

The reason that people end up being overwhelmed by their budget is that they don’t know how to use it properly. It’s easy to assume that the only way to save cash is to stop yourself from buying the things that you want and place endless restrictions on yourself. However, the truth is that saving doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems.

Try these creative and stress-free ways of managing your cash.

1.     Use the 30-Day Rules for Big Purchases

If you know that you’re the kind of person who frequently spends money on things without thinking, then you need a way to overcome this habit. One option is to force yourself to take 30 days to make any huge decision. While that might sound like a lot of time, remember that you don’t need to take 30 days every time you want to buy something like a packet of crisps or an extra chocolate bar from the shop. Instead, use this method when you’re going to buy something like a television, or when you’re thinking of taking out a new loan.

If 30 days means that you’ll end up not being able to take advantage of a sale or discount, make sure you give yourself at least 24 hours. You should be able to sleep on any significant decision.

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2.     Prepare Meals in Advance

If you find yourself constantly calling into Greggs or McDonalds on the way to work because you’ve forgotten to bring a packed lunch with you, then you could be spending a fortune on food that isn’t great for you in the long-term. An easy and stress-free way to cut the costs without using too much of your spare time is to prepare all the meals you’re going to need for the week in advance.

On a Sunday afternoon, dedicate ten minutes to preparing the meals you want for your lunch. It doesn’t take long to make five portions of pasta salad, or 5 wraps to see you through until the next weekend. You could end up saving a lot of money over the course of the year.

3.     Keep the Change

Sick and tired of not being able to save enough money into your emergency account? Try making every penny count. Rather than telling yourself that you spent $8.50 one day on something that you bought at work, mark it off as $10 out of your spending money. Whatever you’re left with at the end of the month from rounding your purchases up, you can put aside into your savings.

This might not give you a considerable amount of extra money to work with every month, but it’s a great way to make sure that you’re boosting your savings whenever you can. You may even find that you reach your targets faster this way.

4.     Be Creative with Gifts

Gifts are one of those things that we all tell ourselves that we need to pay for. However, it can be easy to get carried away with big items for your friends and members of your family. Although a lovely gift can be a wonderful way to show your generosity, don’t put yourself in debt just because you want to give your friends something nice.

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If you’re starting to prepare for Christmas and the winter holidays now, think about how you can creatively save some cash and give something meaningful too. For instance, you could learn how to make candles or homemade bath bombs!

5.     Keep Track of your Finances

Finally, it’s tough to make a real difference to your finances when you don’t know what you’ve got going into and out of your bank account each month. Whether you’re writing notes on a piece of paper or tracking everything with a smartphone app, make sure that you have a reliable way to track your expenses.

Tracking your expenses will help you to see what kind of progress you’re making when it comes to things like reaching your financial goals and paying off your loans. It should also highlight the areas where you have the most trouble with your spending.