A whopping 82 percent of Americans keep a budget, according to a recent survey.

Hard to believe, right?

It’s hard to believe because it’s simply not accurate.

When pressed exactly “how” they use a budget, 33 percent said it’s scrawled out on paper (somewhere) and almost 20 percent keep track “in my head.”

Odds are if you’re reading this, you’re not keeping a budget either. Truth is that almost 60 percent of Americans don’t use a household budget.

A budget is essential if you want to be able to buy the things you need (and want!) now – as well as save for the future.

Here are seven budgeting tips that will help you figure out where your money goes – and how to spend smarter:

  1. Keep it real. Starting a budget is like starting an exercise routine: It’s best to ease yourself into it. Drastic changes that are impossible to make will only leave you feeling discouraged and defeated. Don’t beat yourself up when you stumble. Learn from your mistakes and keep at it. Also, leave a percentage of your budget for the “fun” stuff.
  2. Don’t guess. Review all your bank transactions for the past three months to get an idea of how much your life really costs. Don’t assume you spend “about 50 bucks” a month on gas. Find out what you’ve paid in the past and budget that amount. You’ll be surprised, maybe even shocked, by what you discover.
  3. Use the right tools. Axiom Bank’s new mobile app, AxiomGO, has an integrated personal budgeting tool, My $ Manager, that calculates your income and helps you set spending limits for various categories. You will get pinged when you’ve almost reached the amount allotted for each category, meaning you’ll know to start saying “no” so you can cover the mortgage. Furthermore, you’ll be able to set payoff and savings goals to keep yourself accountable.
  4. Be a money detective. Identify a common purchase or two that can be cut back or eliminated. For example: One less trip to the coffee shop each week could net you $300 over the course of a year. One fewer family dinner at a restaurant each month could easily double or triple that. Build upon your early success by tackling one expense at a time. The AxiomGO app makes this simple to do by categorizing all of your spending by type in real time.

SWEEPSTAKES: Log into My $ Manager on the AxiomGO mobile banking app and start setting your financial goals. Just one goal will enter you to WIN one of two $250 prizes, or one of three $100 prizes! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO.

  1. Challenge yourself. Vow to stop eating lunch out and then transfer what you would have spent to your savings account. (The AxiomGO app makes this process virtually seamless.) Or try a “spending freeze,” where for a week or two you only buy necessities. Plan “no-spend” weekends and fill them with free entertainment alternatives. Get friends and family in on the action by challenging them to savings competition.
  2. Budget to zero. You need to know exactly where money goes. Are you actually spending $50 a month on gas, or are you spending $38 on gas and $12 on snacks from the convenience store? One way to do this is to record— in detail — every single purchase you make for a week. When mapping out your expenses, account for every single dollar. It may feel strange — even uncomfortable — to do this. Only when you know how all your money is spent will you actually be in control of it. Plus, you won’t be left wondering “where did all my money go?”
  3. Focus on the endgame. Forgoing certain purchases might feel like a sacrifice, but keep it in perspective: You’re on the path to something bigger. Whether you want to retire debt, save for a vacation, boost your rainy-day fund or simply stay in the black each pay cycle, focus on how small savings decisions can really add up. The AxiomGO app lets you personalize your goals and helps you achieve them.

Axiom Bank N.A, a nationally chartered community bank headquartered in Central Florida, provides retail banking services, including checking, savings, money market and CD accounts.