I like to think of budgets as a diet for your money. You need to watch every cent, be disciplined, and be accountable at the end of the day.
And just like diets, budgets can be tough to stick to. However, we all need to understand that nothing worth having is ever easy!
So don’t give up if you have a splurge or a blowout – hey we all do it every now and then (even us here at SAHM!). What can I say – no one is perfect!
Admitting that mistakes are unavoidable does not mean just quitting budgeting altogether. Like what we said, budgeting is worth it; you will surely see rewards not just down the road but along the way. Here are 5 tips for sticking to a budget:
1. Write it Down!
To be accountable for your spending, first you need to know where it’s going in plain black and white! That means sitting down with pen and paper or using a spreadsheet to find out your financial position. Think of it like a food diary – you write down what you eat to see where your going wrong. This is exactly the same thing. And you need to be brutally honest or else you’ll just be cheating on yourself. If you’re not sure, keep every receipt for a fortnight and log them into your budget. You will soon see where that money is going. Once you know where it is going, you can work on how to reduce it i.e. “cut the fat.”
If you’re not sure, keep every receipt for a fortnight and log them into your budget.
The best way to avoid getting overwhelmed by your budget is to divide them into categories such as these:
Utilities (Electricity, gas, water)
Phone, Mobile and Internet Expenses
Insurance (House, Health, Life, Car etc)
Car, Transportation and Tickets
Food and Clothing
Other (debts, gym memberships etc)
I need to emphasise just how important savings are. You might have heard of “Paying yourself first” – this is so true. If you keep spending all your money and leave nothing for yourself (and your family), what will take care of you during hard times?
It is best decide on the amount after you have completed your budget! This way, you wouldn’t be putting unnecessary pressure on yourself if your current income and budget just cannot allow your desired savings. If you’re totally new to saving, I suggest you start small and develop the habit first. Gradually, you will be able to set aside larger amounts and your savings will surely grow.
When it comes to saving money, it is best to start small.
Oh, and put that money in a separate account that has a good interest rate!
2. Work Towards a Goal!
If you have never lived by a budget before, working towards a specific goal in mind is the easiest way for you to start. In other words, you need to have something in mind like early retirement or a new car. Now it can even be a frivolous thing such as a holiday or a shopping spree!
Whatever it is, what you will learn on the way will be invaluable. Work out how many weeks you have to pay for your goal and work it into your budget.
Make it something you really really want – it’s the disciplined saving that you will learn along the way!
3. Treat Yourself Every So Often!
You’ve been sticking to your budget for say two whole weeks without a single slip up so schedule yourself a treat. It is important to allow yourself to have fun once in a while to avoid feeling burned out. Even dieters enjoy the occasional cheat days!
But keep in mind that you should not let that treat spoil the entire point of saving. Make it something small but something you like.
A night at the movies or a lovely take-out lunch is perfect. Choose something you can really enjoy that won’t break the bank. By rewarding yourself every so often, it will be easier to stay on the “financial diet.”
4. Make Your Budget Workable!
Another valuable thing to remember on how to stick to a budget is to be strict on yourself – but not so strict you can’t possibly live or you will end up really resenting the budget. Just make it work to fit your lifestyle while learning the art of discipline. For example, if you are finally able to round up your receipts and make a log of your spending, you surely deserve a pat on the shoulder! But what is more important – and challenging – is how to stick to a budget.
Along the way, there will be times when you will go over your budget. That’s completely normal. You don’t need to beat yourself up over a simple mistake – just strive to do better next time so you won’t repeat it!
Don’t cry over spilt milk – but learn from your mistake!
5. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
It also helps to seek help. Most financial institutions now have a free financial advice service – use it! Or if you have a financially savvy friend that you trust with your financial situation, let them look over your budget and help you out. In fact, seek our friends or family who are great with money and find out what makes them tick. Most people love to talk finance and it’s great to learn from someone that has done it firsthand. Trust me; they’re dying to talk about financial matters with you!
Budgeting is not just a task that needs to be done every month (or every week or every fortnight – you get it). It is a vital step toward a total lifestyle change. Let’s go back to dieting: crash diets never work better than choosing to eat healthy everyday! In terms of budgeting, aside from just counting your cents and tracking where you go, it is living frugally and simply everyday that makes the huge difference.