6 Tips for Sticking to Your Budget
The struggle is real and self-discipline is hard. Even after you’ve disciplined yourself into creating a monthly budget, there’s still the discipline of tracking your expenses throughout the month, and possibly the hardest of all is the discipline of sticking to your budget! Budgeting is definitely not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of plan. You have to stay on top of things throughout the month, and sometimes before the month begins, to make sure you are sticking to this budget you created and therefore staying on track with your financial goals! You are not alone if you struggle with this, it’s an ongoing struggle for most families. But, if you want to get your money under control, you’ve got to get yourself under control. I’ve made a list of 6 tips for sticking to your budget, and these are tips our family uses all the time to fight against going over budget.
1. Check the calendar before you budget.
Let’s get really honest with each other here. Often times the “unexpected” expenses that come up are actually just expenses that I forgot about because I didn’t pay attention to the calendar before I budgeted. So before you sit down to create a budget for the next month, pull out the calendar and check for social events, holidays, birthdays, showers, celebrations of any kind, doctor appointments, seasonal things like back to school needs, date nights, etc. Just look for anything on the calendar that you need to include a space for in the budget. Sometimes this even means thinking ahead for unplanned dates. I’ve gotten invited to bridal showers two weeks before and that means I didn’t have time to budget for it the month ahead. However, if you know a family member, for example, is getting married and you anticipate being invited to a bridal shower, just budget for it early and when you get invited you’ll already be prepared. With that being said, even if you look at your calendar and plan ahead, there will still be truly unexpected expenses that come up. And that brings me to tip number 2…
2. Adjust your budget when needed.
Rather than throwing in the towel when something unexpected comes up, you can choose to adjust your budget when needed. This will take only a little extra time and effort yet it will save your budget and therefore your financial goals. Whenever something unexpected comes up, just sit down and figure out where you can adjust your budget categories. Maybe it means reducing your restaurant or grocery budget and making that stretch for the rest of the month. It could mean cutting out any additional personal spending for the month. Cut out something nonessential and move it to the category for the unexpected expenses. You can choose to keep a Miscellaneous category with some extra funds as a “buffer” but in my experience during debt pay off, the miscellaneous fund was just too much freedom for spending and it worked better to adjust other categories with nothing extra leftover. You do what works best for you.
3. Stay out of the stores.
This one is a game changer. You’ve got to stay out of the stores (and I think that can include unsubscribing from sales emails!). Staying out of the store will help prevent the temptation to spend money. And don’t even think about going to Target to just “look around” because we all know how that ends up. You can even stay out of the grocery store as much as possible to avoid over spending on your grocery budget. Order online and schedule a pick up or delivery so you’ll buy only the things you need. You’ll find it easier to resist temptations and spend less money when you’re not physically in a place to spend it. Shopping can no longer be considered a “hobby” when you have financial goals to reach! This is about priorities. Find new hobbies and things to do that don’t involve spending money like going to the park or the library. Some sacrifices only need to be short term to help you reach your financial goals, but if you’re still struggling with spending read this post about 20 Ways to Reduce Impulse Purchases.
4. Track your spending (faithfully).
Track your spending. Do not take this lightly! You must track every single purchase you make if you want to stay within your budget. Just like with dieting, you can’t not log a cheat meal and expect it not to impact your goals. You have to track everything so that you can keep yourself from going over the limit. Not only does this help you stay within budget, it helps you be more aware of your spending. Are you purchasing things you didn’t actually budget for? Are you spending way more money than necessary in a certain category? When our family first started budgeting, it was eye opening to realize how many gas station drinks we were buying once we started tracking it. Needless to say we cut way back and started bringing drinks from home or choosing to go without. We just weren’t paying attention before we started tracking. We have tracked every single penny spent since the beginning and I truly believe that has made the biggest difference in how quickly we have been able to pay off debt.
5. Set financial goals & keep them visible.
Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, save for a car, a vacation, or start investing for retirement you need to set goals. It’s not enough to just say “one day” we will have all our debt paid off. You need to know when it’s going to happen and how much money it’s going to take. Make the goals measurable and with a deadline. Then make sure to keep these goals visual. Put it on your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, or above your desk. Keep it somewhere you will see everyday and be reminded of what you’re working towards. Staying focused on your goals will help you avoid straying from the budget because you know what you’re giving up or postponing if you do!
6. Find an accountability partner.
It is hard to walk a difficult path alone, so find yourself an accountability partner. Find someone that is going through the same things or has gone through them. You need to be talking with and being inspired by other people who are sticking to their budgets so that you will be held accountable to your own. If you’re married, your spouse could be a great accountability partner. However, sometimes spouses can give into each other way too easily and you need an outside source both for accountability and for new ideas. I can remember early on in our budgeting months I texted a friend a screenshot of our EveryDollar budget with $0.24 left in our grocery budget the last week of the month and we were both so excited! It was amazing to have a friend share in that excitement and be encouraging! If you don’t have a friend you know of that’s currently budgeting, join in on the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram or follow me @mrsjesstingle and feel free to tag me. Feel free to send me a message or email at any time and I will gladly encourage you and be excited with you!