How to Stick to your Budget Every Month
Budgeting is one of the most important skills to master in your working towards financial goals. Yet, it never seems to fail that once you decide to make some changes in your life, the universe puts a barrier in your way.
The same happens when trying to budget. Trying to save your emergency fund? Suddenly your car needs all sorts of repairs. It happens.
So if you are new to budgeting, or have struggled to stick with one in the past, we have some great tips for how you can stick to your budget and finally gain control of your finances.
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Tips to Stick to your budget
When you are getting started budgeting, and you are excited to pay off debt or save for some big goals, it is easy to get carried away.
Suddenly you want to cut spending here and stop paying for things there. And then you are left with proposed money in your budget categories that isn’t actually realistic.
When making changes to your spending, it is best to start small and make changes that you know you can stick to. If you have been spending $700 on food each month, and suddenly decide you want to spend $350 this month, that isn’t going to work. You will get discouraged with the failed budget and want to give up.
So be realistic with your budget. Track your spending for past months to see what you have spent in the past and then set realistic goals to lower that spending (if lowering is needed).
Remember Your Why
Let’s be honest–taking control of your finances is hard. It requires commitment and perseverance. But it is so worthwhile!
But why are YOU doing it? What is the motivation behind your efforts to budget and win with your finances?
You need to know this important piece. Because your “why” is what will keep you going when times get hard.
When you are frustrated, feel like it is a losing battle, and want to give up, you need to remember your why–your reason for doing all of this. And that will help you to keep going.
It can help to create a visual representation of your why/goals. This way you will “see” your why every time you go to the place where it is displayed.
For example, we are saving for a house. So I have a house savings tracker taped to the wall above my computer. That way the goal is always in front of me to keep me motivated and focused on why I am working so hard.
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Believe it or not, you actually spend MORE money when you pay with your credit card. When paying with cash, it is actually more painful to part with that cash.
There is actually and mental and physical reaction to the act of handing over that cash. Swiping the card is easy–pay it off later. Paying with cash–you know that money is now gone.
Furthermore, if you only have a certain amount of money for a specific item or event, you will be careful to stay within that amount. If it is on a credit card, the amount tends to get bumped up without much thought.
Switching to a cash budgeting system can be difficult. But it is definitely eye opening, and forces you to be more careful with the money going out of your bank account.
Track Your Spending
When you are trying to make adjustments to your spending, the only way to know exactly how much is going out is to track your spending.
This can be done on the computer or on paper. But save your receipts and write down how much you spent in each budget category throughout the month.
Once you see where you money is going, you can see potential problem spots and where you need to focus more effort to make a change.
Making a budget is really only the first step to budgeting. Tracking your spending is the next step so you can actually see how accurate your budget is and if you need to adjust the budget or adjust your spending.
RELATED ARTICLE: Budgeting for Beginners
Your grocery budget is one of the hardest budgeting items to keep in control of. One of the best ways to gain control of your grocery budget is to meal plan.
Meal Planning allows you to know exactly what groceries you need and stick to that list. Plus you can plan meals that are very budget friendly, further helping to limit your grocery spending.
Also, if you can meal plan in advance, you can grocery shop in advance. This means you will be going to the stores less often.
And the less that you visit the stores, the less chance you will have to spend money that doesn’t need to be spent.
On of the best resources for starting a budget friendly meal plan is the $5 Meal Plan. You get pre-made meal plans that are filled with delicious recipes, designed to be super budget friendly.
If you want help getting started on meal plans, definitely check out the $5 Meal plan program. It might just save your budget!
RELATED ARTICLE: Meal Planning for Beginners
Log Into Your Bank Account
This tip might seem strange. But, how can you know the health of your finances if you don’t check on them regularly?
The best way to do this is to log into your bank account, online, and see what is going on.
I am in our online bank account multiple times a week, if not daily. I like to know how much is in our checking account, what bills have come out, make sure we have enough in the account for upcoming bills, etc.
As an added bonus, this also allows me to make sure there are no fraudulent charges happening on our account.
Have a Checking Account Cushion
Sometimes life happens and you go over budget, and the damage hits your bank account. Hey, it happens to everyone!
But if you have been planning where every dollar you have coming in is supposed to go, that might leave you with nothing in your bank account to help soften the blow. Which could lead to overdraft fees. EEEK! No good!
This is where a checking account cushion comes in. It doesn’t have to be a lot–even a hundred dollars could do the trick. But you want some extra money in your checking account, beyond what is needed to pay the bills, to catch occurences like this, so you don’t have the pay an overdraft fee.
Give It Time
Guess what, pretty much every one fails the first time they do a budget. They get excited, make the plan, feel determined, and then the month (and life) happens and suddenly all the budget numbers are totally different than the actual spending. It happens.
Learning to budget and getting control of your finances takes time. So don’t assume that budgeting isn’t for you because it didn’t work the first time.
Take a step back, look at what worked and what didn’t and adjust from there. Try again. Don’t give up. You only fail if you give up.
And, trust me, you don’t want to fail when it comes to finances. That leads to nothing good.
Final Thoughts on Sticking to Your Budget
Yes, staying on budget can be hard. You are re-wiring the way you think about money and how you spend. Change is never easy, and often not fun.
But if you can use these tips, you will get better at it and you will eventually have a budget that you can stick to.
You got this! Leave a comment and let me know your tips for staying on budget.