Do you find that you often reach payday with a certain sense of desperation for that next infusion of cash? Are you struggling to stretch your funds over the course of the month, and are you dipping into savings and credit cards more often than you’d like? If you feel like your money management is spinning out of control, consider locking down on smarter strategies that will protect your funds and help you reach your long-term goals.

Use Strict Shopping Lists

Image via Flickr by BruceTurner

Create a budget for your monthly spending and sit down to create a mindful shopping list before you leave the house. Work out weekly menus so you know that you’re purchasing the right ingredients for well-balanced meals rather than a haphazard selection of items that may leave you tempted to eat out later in the week.

According to the National Resource Defense Council, the average American family throws out a quarter of the food and beverages it buys. This waste adds up to an annual loss of $1,365 to $2,275 per family. Reclaim this money with proper planning. Think ahead about how you can use leftovers. Buy and cook only what you need. Stick to your list and avoid unplanned items that may throw off your strategy.

Take Cash for In-Store Purchases

When you’re shopping in a store, try sticking to cash instead of credit, debit, or bank card purchases. You can easily overspend when you have a card in hand because the card instantly covers any overage. If you’re confined to cash, you’ll be more careful about what you pick up because you won’t be able to pay for items that exceed your allotted funds.

This cash budgeting system typically calls for setting aside envelopes of cash monthly or weekly for store purchases. Since you can spend only what’s in the envelope, you’ll have to allot those dollars carefully, and you may need to curtail spending at the end of the month if you overspent. This trick can help you rethink your habits and manage money more thoughtfully.

Avoid Billing Shock With Smart Calculations

When you’re budgeting for your bills, you’ll appreciate having an accurate estimate of how much you’ll spend. You can request a copy of last year’s monthly bills for your home from many utility companies. Studying your bills will give you a good idea of what you spend to heat and cool your home during each season. Some utility providers will let you opt in to a set bill each month so that you pay a predictable amount spread evenly across your fluctuating energy use.

Banish fluctuating tech bills with a stable option throughout the year. Choices such as prepaid phone plans from a carrier like T-Mobile can protect you from unexpected overages that will throw off your budget. With a T-Mobile prepaid phone plan, you can still enjoy unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data without the hassles of contracts and credit checks.

Plan Ahead for Dining Out

One common budget-bursting trap is the temptation of eating out when you’re on the go. Do you often stop to pick up a fast-food dinner simply because your errands ran over and you have hungry kids chanting from the back seat? Do you get lunch out at work because you forgot to pack your lunch at home? If you’re dining out as a convenient solution to a problem with time or planning, this expense may add up quickly to more than you anticipated.

Plan ahead for your meals out and limit these meals strictly to what you can reasonably afford. Whether this limitation means three restaurant lunches a week or a single fast-food dinner each month, knowing your budget and acting accordingly will protect you from overspending. Time your errands to avoid peak meal times. Keep a snack bag stashed in the car for emergencies, and start packing lunches the night before to cut pricey meals from your budget.

With smart preplanning, you can keep your budget under control and banish those sneaky spots where you’re spending more than you can afford. From set tech bills to better grocery management, the above tips will put that much-needed cash back in your wallet or purse.