How to Stick to your Budget
Setting a monthly budget is one thing, but actually sticking to your budget each and every month is another! In today’s society, you’re constantly bombarded by temptations that can lead you away from your plan. TV commercials, an enticing “sale” sign and a beautiful store display can all tempt you to spend outside of what you can afford in your budget. Never mind that you may not like to delay gratification for something that you want today!
But, the truth is, what you decide to do today will determine your future. Having a budget in place to help eliminate debt and not consciously sticking to it, may make our lives enjoyable today, but will give us much misery in the future.
Here are some tips to make sticking to a budget a bit easier:
Set specific financial goals
Since you’ve most likely put a budget in place so you can attain financial goals, it’s important to get specific by providing numbers and deadlines for your goals. For example, instead of “My goal is to save enough for a down payment on a house”, a better one would be, “My goal is to save $2,083 a month for a 20% down payment on a $250,000 house in 24 months”. Setting specific goals gives an idea of how well or how poorly you’re doing. In turn, possibly enticing you to be more disciplined with your budgeting or allowing yourself a pat on the back!
In terms of goal setting, it’s important to set goals that are reasonable. Not ones that are setting you up for failure right from the start.
It’s also important to be realistic when you’re setting up your monthly budget. Say you’ve discovered that you spend, on average, $800 a month on groceries after you’ve tallied up your receipts from previous months. Don’t decide that having a budget of $500 for groceries is “totally doable” since you have to “reach your financial goals as fast as you can because you’re so excited”. This is just setting you up for failure. I’m not saying it’s not impossible to eventually get your budget down to $500 a month, you’ll just want to work slowly, one step at a time, at reducing your monthly grocery budget.
Think about the last time you started a workout routine or tried to kick a bad habit; having a partner by your side, holding you accountable is crucial. Involve your family (or a very good friend) in your plan. Explain why you need to scale back on some areas, and get their input and encouragement on those things. From here, review your budget once a week with your family (or very good friend) to make sure that you’re on track. Not only is it good to have someone help keep you on track, it’s great to have someone helping you celebrate your successes!
If you leave your debit cards and credit cards at home and only bring the amount of cash that you have budgeted, then that’s all you’ll be able to spend. So if your budget allows you $100 at the grocery store each week, then only bring $100 with you. (These printable Cash Envelopes are a fantastic tool to help you organize your cash.)
You’ll be more likely to avoid those unnecessary items that might otherwise end up in your cart. They may not seem like a big deal because they’re only a few bucks, but when you end up at the checkout with $110 worth of items, you’ll be forced to put some things back, making you prioritize and forcing you to stick within your budget. If you had your debit card with you, chances are you’d think “It’s only a few dollars”, and you’ll find yourself short at the end of the month.
Remember your goals
As you go about the daily life of living within a budget, it’s important to remind yourself often of why you’re living on a budget. Is it because you want to save enough for that winter vacation? Or maybe it’s to pay off your consumer debt. Regardless, it’s important to constantly remember your financial goals to help fuel the excitement of what’s to come, if you manage to successfully stick to your budget. It could help to write down your financial goals and carry them around with you in your wallet or purse. Every time you pull out your cash and look at those goals, you’ll be reminded of the reason you have a budget.
When you divide your big goal into several mini goals, make sure you reward yourself each time you accomplish one of those mini goals. Not only will this help spur you on, you’ll also start to feel as though your big goal could definitely become a reality if you stick to it. Your reward may be as simple as a long bubble bath or a bowl of ice cream; or as extravagant as a fancy dinner out. Of course, as long as it is still within budget! Here are some great ideas to treat yourself for free.
What are the things that you do to make sticking to a budget easier? Let me know in the comments below.