So you’ve spent the time creating your budget (or plan to create your budget soon, learn how to here), but now you need to actually stick to it so you can take control of your finances! First, let me congratulate you on creating your budget – that took a lot of time and thoughtfulness. But now comes the real work – sticking to the budget. After all, you won’t reach your financial goals if you can’t stick to them. It takes work and determination. You CAN do it, and these tips will help you stay on track.
- Be realistic. You can’t set a goal that is only going to set you up for failure. Yes, you should push yourself to do better, but your financial goals should be something doable. Saying you won’t get takeout for 60 days, probably isn’t realistic for most people, but limiting it to only once a month is probably more in line with your habits. When you keep it real, you can win and stick to it.
- Automate as much as possible. Set up as many of your bills to autopay as close to when you get paid as you can. This will prevent money from just sitting in your checking account tempting you to spend it. This includes transfers to your savings or retirement accounts as well.
- Plan your meals. This is one way to cut down on eating out or wasting money on unnecessary snacking. Plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meal planning also helps you create your grocery list so you stay on track.
- Think small, kind of. Break down parts of your budget into weekly amounts vs. monthly or yearly. It will make some items easier to manage. If you plan $900 a month for food for the family, you might end up overspending in the first 2 weeks, leaving little left for the rest of the month. When you divide your grocery budget into weekly portions, it makes it easier to stick to it and stretch it out.
- Be social. Yes, you can still do things with friends and family, just budget for them. Birthday gifts happen at the same time each year, plan for them. Family coming to visit, budget in some fun activities. Most things that pop up aren’t surprises, they are just poor advanced planning.
- Say not now. No is a harsh word, and when it comes to spending money, you don’t need to necessarily say no to something, but not now, so that you can plan and save up for it.
- Don’t go shopping hungry. I think everyone has heard this rule before, yet we’ve all ignored it a time or two. When you go hungry you impulse buy. Stick to the grocery list, so if that requires eating a meal or snack before you go to the store, do it.
- Keep receipts. At the end of each day, write down everything you spent money on. Keep a running total and at the end of the month, compare it to what you spent. Did you stay on track, spend more, or spend less?
- Do I need this? Before you buy something that’s not on your list – ask yourself if you need it? Embrace Marie Kondo before you purchase and think “Will this bring me joy; do I need it?”. If the answer isn’t a resounding YES, then skip it.
- Remind yourself of your goals. Whether it’s pictures of a vacation you want to take, or a post-it with how much left you need to save for a new laptop – daily reminders will help you keep on track towards your goals.
- Use a mix of cash and credit/debit. Use cash as your weekly walking around money – when it’s gone, it’s gone. Use a credit or debit card to run the rest so you can set up autopayments and track where the money is going.
- Sleep on purchases. This can be anything from a new TV, appliance, or even a nice pair of shoes. Give yourself time to rationalize if you really need it – if you do, you can always go back and get it.
- A sale isn’t saving money, it’s spending it. Remind yourself that just because a shirt is 50% off, you aren’t saving $20, you are still spending $20. If you don’t need an item, don’t buy it just because it’s on sale – it’s still costing you money in the long run.
- Go green. Save extra money by turning off lights and electronics when not in use. Cut back on water usage by watering the lawn at night and taking shorter showers. Those savings add up over time and can help you reach your goals quicker.
Budgeting is hard work, and to be honest, not a lot of fun…at first. But if you want to work towards a financial goal – be it becoming debt free or saving for something big – you need to stick with it and keep yourself accountable. Review your budget and receipts regularly. If you fall off the wagon and make a big or stupid purchase, don’t throw the whole budget plan out the window. Adjust and get yourself back on track. You’ve got this!
Vice President, Lakeville Manager