Sometimes it’s fun to play games with your budget. Not, like, cutting it up to make it into a puzzle, but playing around with the numbers to see how your spending would look during various hypothetical situations. In doing so, you may even stumble on a viable change that you can institute immediately to manage your money more effectively.
One way to mess around with your budget and possibly come up with something useful is by adjusting it to see just how much you could save this year. You can start by tweaking all your discretionary expenses by maybe 5 percent or 10 percent or more. Next you create another version of the budget with a little more shaved off, then a little more. You can go even further by tweaking your variable expenses, like electricity and groceries. Remember, this is just a fun experiment—not a binding contract—so don’t be afraid to really get aggressive about making changes.
When you’re done, your budgets will range from only slightly changed to completely impossible and ridiculous. That’s a good thing because the goal is to help you see how adjustable your budget is and to get a sense of the difference between reasonable changes and unreasonable ones. But as you review each version, see if you can actually make any of the changes it holds, and then see how they affect your real budget.
Another way you can approach this hypothetical budgeting is by picking a big number for your savings goal—one that exceeds the actual savings goal you’ve set. Then, adjust your expenses to see what it would take to get there.
At the end of the exercise, you’ll probably find a few budget changes that might actually work for you. You could even discover that the bigger savings goal isn’t as unreasonable as you thought it’d be.