If you’re someone whose eyes glaze over at the thought of having a budget, but your eyes pop out of their sockets when you peek at your declining bank balance, it’s time to get serious. Here are some tips to set a budget that keeps you in the black without sacrificing your preferred lifestyle:

Let’s Be Real

A budget means absolutely nothing if doesn’t actually reflect how you spend money. Sure, you can write a transportation budget of $20 per month, but if your monthly bus pass costs $100, this doesn’t add up. Your budget needs to reflect your real spending, and it needs to be realistic for how you want to live. Make room in the budget for things that matter to you, even if you need to make cuts elsewhere to make it fit.

Keep an Eye Out

Do you get a mini panic attack every time you use your debit card, out of fear it will get declined? You need to actually monitor your expenditures so there are no surprises. Don’t be afraid of your bank balance. Embrace it and nurture it, and you won’t wind up with a money leak that catches you by surprise.

Daily Debits…

Aside from the big fixed expenses like apartment rent and insurance, you’d be surprised what kind of chunk daily expenditures can take out of your budget. Everyone has their little splurges – daily Frappuccino, weekly gossip magazines, movie nights – that eat away at the budget.

…And Replacing Them

Instead of an expensive specialty coffee, how about making coffee at home? Or buying a regular coffee and sprucing it up with the free toppings like chocolate powder and cinnamon? Read gossip online instead of buying overpriced magazines, and get a Netflix subscription or go to a second-run movie theatre to save money.

Nix the Plastic

Especially with new “tap” systems, it’s all too easy to drain the budget with credit and debit cards. Try carrying cash around instead. You’ll be much less likely to make impulse purchases. Once the cash runs out, it’s gone, and you won’t dip into the funds on your cards.

Choose Coupons

You don’t have to be an “extreme couponer” to save money. Nowadays, smartphone apps like Flipp give you the latest local flyers and coupons right on your phone, so you can find the best deals and rack up big savings with little effort.

With a realistic budget that makes sense for your lifestyle, you’ll get your money issues sorted out and reduce a lot of stress. Come back to your apartment at night and count your hard-earned savings!