The biggest problem with budgeting is sticking to it. Hands down it’s the biggest problem everyone faces. I mean, most of us can create a budget, but many of us struggle to stay the course. Why? Because, it requires a lot of discipline and discipline takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work.
So how do you actually stick to a budget? Most of my readers struggle with this very thing as this is the most asked question I receive every week. The truth is, it’s going to be hard – this won’t be an easy task so keep that in mind, but with practice you’ll make it happen.
This is the perfect thing for someone that is brand-new to budgeting or is just simply struggling to stick to a budget – hold a “money minute” every single day. This is where you just check-in with your finances. I used to do this every day, now I only do it once a week but by practicing this every day I became more aware of my spending habits, what money I actually had to spend, and of course, I was way more aware of my budget.
So here’s what you’re going to do during your money minute:
- Check-in on your bank accounts via online banking.
- Compare your spending (if you used a debit card, look at your bank activity for that day and if you used cash, look over your receipts) to what your budget says.
- Are you still within budget or did you overspend?
- Are there any bills that you need to pay?
- Do you need to readjust your budget? If so, do it now.
It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re married, you need to make sure you involve your spouse in the money minute. It literally only takes a minute once you get used to it so it doesn’t require an entire evening of your time, just 60 seconds.
But what if I’m always going over my budget?
I know how defeating it can feel when you’re always going over your budget and trust me when I tell you that you’re not alone with this. However, I do encourage you to reel in your spending. To do that you need to first identify what your spending trigger is. We all have one – even savers. Controlling your spending becomes easier once you know what your trigger is.
We all have a spending trigger - the sooner you figure out what yours is, the faster you'll see success.Click To Tweet
For me, my trigger was avoidance – I was in a bad place in my life and I was avoiding dealing with the reality of my situation. To cope, I would go and spend money on stuff. I can’t even tell you what all that “stuff” was as it was just stuff that I used to make myself feel better. Ever heard of “retail therapy” before? If you’re using buying stuff as a way to deal with personal issues, I encourage you to find an accountability partner that will help you stick to your goals and not spend money.
Your accountability partner shouldn’t be your shopping buddy. The person that’s going to help you break this habit needs to be someone that is going to say “hell no” when you ask if they want to go shopping, not “okay, I’ll meet you there!” I also encourage you to overcome the issue that causes you to spend – whether that’s avoidance, depression, boredom, keeping up with the Jones, or whatever it may be. I encourage you to either seek professional help or simply ask a friend to help you.
After you’ve determined your spending trigger, you’ll need to really reel in your spending and if you aren’t already, switch to just spending with cash. It’s hard to only shop with cash but it literally puts boundaries to how much you can spend. The problem with debit and credit cards is that we lose the “connection” to our money. With cash, we actually see it and feel it leaving our wallets. With a card, there’s no connection.
This post here explains how to get started using the cash envelope system, which has been such a blessing to our family and has helped us actually stick to our budget instead of always going over.
Make Your Budget Work for You
Figure out a way to make your budget work for you and for your real life. This usually takes some trial and error but overtime, you’ll figure out what works best for and the season of life you’re in. For us, I prefer using a paper system (this is the exact one I use here), but there have been times when I have preferred using an electronic system like Personal Capital (it’s FREE! 🙂 ).
There is no right or wrong answer to the way you budget so long as you actual do it and make a habit of sticking to it. If pen and paper work better, use that. If something more automated works better for you, use that. Or if a simple spreadsheet works better, use that. It’s entirely up to you.
When it comes to sticking to your budget, the best thing to do is to keep trying. The first few months of budgeting are going to be hard and you’ll probably fail more than you succeed but with time, discipline, and perseverance you’ll succeed.
What is your one tip for helping others to stick to their budgets?
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