Easy Ways to Stick to a Budget
Sticking to a budget is super important for everyone, no matter how much you're making or how much money you're trying to save... But it's often incredibly tricky.
Here are five easy ways to stick to a budget.
1. Use a Budgeting App
One of the easiest ways to stick to a budget is by using an app specifically designed to help you keep track of your finances and hit your saving goals. One such app is Cleo, an app that, per its own website, decisively "doesn't suck." Cleo connects to your bank and tracks your spending — and it uses a special AI integration that will literally call you out if you break your pledges.
Cleo will help you budget, save, build credit, and much more, and it comes with special quirks that will make saving a bit more fun — including a "swear jar" that helps you control your worst spending habits. A budgeting app can act like an old friend looking over your shoulder and giving you a little extra support as you try to stick to your financial goals, and Cleo is definitely the friendliest of budgeting apps around.
2. Be Realistic
You're not going to want to stick to your budget if you set it way too low — then every time you look at your budget you'll find yourself disappointed and sad, and it'll keep spiraling. When you set your budget, be realistic and make sure you also have categories for emergency expenses or splurges. It's not like you're never going to splurge on your item of choice (be it an expensive meal out or an impulse-bought outfit), so put that into your budget as well and figure out where else you can save or skimp in order to make room for those inevitable stretches.
3. Review Your Budget Regularly and Build Your Habits Over Time
No matter how you hack your budget, be sure that you make checking and reviewing it into a routine. Be sure you review your spending at least every two weeks, if not once a week, and give yourself time to grow. Like any other skill, budgeting takes practice, and you'll get better at it the more you do. You might even try to set a timer for once a week and give yourself fifteen minutes to go over your budget at that time.
It's important to start slow and build your budgeting muscle over time as well. If you're just getting started or have a history of failing to properly budget, start with one or two categories and go from there. Or challenge yourself to save on one area each week, and then add more goals as time passes.
4. Determine What You Want to Do With Savings
It's important to feel like all your budgeting work has a purpose. Finding your "why" and figuring out what you're budgeting and saving for can really motivate you to do better, and this makes giving up little expenses a lot easier. Figure out what exactly you want to accomplish with your budget, and also make sure your goals are achievable and possible.
Of course you'll need savings for an emergency fund, and maybe you need to save to pay off loans and retirement; be sure you have specific goals for these categories, and also it's never a bad idea to pick a few fun things to save for.
5. Automate Your Savings
Saving money is really hard, when all is said and done, so it might be easier for you to just automate your savings so all that cash doesn't suddenly appear in your bank account, giving you the illusion that you can buy whatever you want (until you're broke before the next payday). You might want to enroll in a 401(k) plan or schedule automatic transfers to a saving account. Just be sure that you're tracking how much you're saving, and once you've saved enough you can consider investing.
Of course, Cleo is probably the easiest way to implement all of these tips, since the app helps you do all this and more (with a fun and friendly twist), and it's free! (Or you can get the plus version for $5.99 a month, which gives you features like Cleo Cover, a form of overdraft protection, and Daily Cash, a cashback rewards program).
Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!