I have a nerdy confession to make… I enjoy budgeting. I like big spreadsheets and I cannot lie. In the accounting world, staring at spreadsheets is about 99.9% of your job. Those spreadsheets were boring, but I found myself addicted to using spreadsheets in my personal life.
Coming up with a budget wasn’t the hard part for me, it was actually sticking to it month to month that was the issue. Finally, I started looking at why I was blowing my budget every month. What was I doing wrong? These tips for sticking to a budget are what worked for me!
1. Be realistic.
When you create your budget, be honest with yourself. If you normally spend $300 in groceries, don’t give yourself a budget of $150. If $150 is your target budget amount, you will have to work towards it by taking baby steps. Start by giving yourself $250 to spend this month. Drop it down to $200 next month and so on. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
2. Don’t let a blown budget affect your decision-making.
I used to do this all the time. If I overspent in one category, I would just not look at my budget again that month. “Well, I already spent too much on clothes this month so the entire budget is moot.” Not true! Budgeting isn’t about having a “perfect score” in every spending category. If you overspent on clothes, work harder to spend less in other categories that month.
3. Pay yourself first.
Always have a “savings” category in your budget. If possible, set up your direct deposits to automatically deposit X amount of your paycheck into your savings account. Now you have at least one category that you will always be on top of!
4. Plan ahead.
Are you taking a road trip later this month? Is your car due for maintenance? Your budget may need a little tweaking each month based on whatever you have planned. Take a good look at the month in advance and be sure to allocate enough funds to each category.
5. Expect emergencies.
One of the most common reasons people blow their budgets is because of emergencies. The battery in your car needs to be replaced, or the A/C unit is broken when it is 90 degrees outside. Build a portion of these costs into your budget just in case. If you end up not having to use it this month, roll it up into your emergency fund.
What good is a budget if you can’t stick to it, right? You are in charge of your budget. All it takes is a little self-control and planning to show that budget who’s boss!