Creating a budget is hard, and sticking to a budget can be even harder. If you find yourself busting your budget over and over again, it might be time to try something different. With these simple budgeting tips, you'll be on track and saving money in no time!
Budgeting is never easy. Let's face it, it's pretty much one of the hardest things about being a so-called "responsible adult".
But even though it's not the most fun thing in the world, keeping a tight budget does give me a lot more freedom, and it has allowed me to stay home with my sweet little boy from the very first day he was born!
So I wanted to share with you the 8 easy ways to actually stick to a budget, even if you never have before! These tips have not only made our lives easier, but they have helped us pay off $60,000 in debt over just a few years!
8 Tips for Actually Sticking to A Budget
Maybe you're trying to pay off debt, or maybe your paycheck just isn't enough these days. Whatever the reason for needing to stick to a budget, if you read and implement these 8 ideas you'll be a budgeting pro in no time!
1. Actually Make a Budget
Ok, we're starting out with something really easy. This seems really simple and that's because it is! How are you going to be able to stick to a budget if you never actually make one?
Ball-parking your bills in your head doesn't count. Sit down and write it down. If you have a partner, then you need to do this together. Dictating what your partner can and cannot have without their input isn't going to work.
If you've never made a budget before, it can be daunting. However, there are plenty of systems out there for budgeting all aspects of your life.
The budgeting and debt-reduction system that we used to get us on the right track was the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace system.
It is hard. It is worth it. You can do it!
2. Communicate with Your Partner
Communication is key to a good budget. If you are unwilling to voice your opinions or hear the opinions of your partner then things will be budgeted for incorrectly.
For example, before we actually started talking about the budget on a regular basis, Jason told me he really needed some computer part (he uses his computer to help me as we work from home and maintains our family computers himself) but I didn't think it was all that important, so I left it off the budget.
He didn't make a big deal about it at the time because he didn't want to cause a disagreement and we both went on about our business...
Ahem, BIG MISTAKE! Fast forward to 2 weeks later when his computer crashes and now he absolutely needs the part which of course busts the budget for that month.
If I had asked him more about the part, or if he had been more forthcoming that wouldn't have happened. Lesson learned!
3. Stop Buying on Impulse
Sometimes trying to live on a budget can feel overwhelmingly restrictive, even when it's not. This is where the impulse buy comes in.
If I'm in the store, see something that I want, and even though I know I don't have it in the budget I decide to buy it anyway. IMPULSE BUY!
If you're like us and run a zero-based budget... now that money has to come from somewhere else. Maybe even savings. Yikes!
Yes, I momentarily felt good about being able to blow a little bit of money, but in the long run, it's really not worth it. Which leads me to number 4.
4. Be Patient
Even when you budget in pocket money, it can still take a while to save up for a bigger item. And if you're anything like me, you really hate waiting.
For the most part, we live like we're "broke" even when we have thousands in the bank... which is of course WHY we can sometimes have thousands in the bank.
But it can make waiting even harder to know that you actually DO have the money to buy bigger items now. That's something you and your partner need to weigh and decide on.
For us, it pretty much always comes down on the side of patience. Sigh.
If it's something you really need, it will be there in a few months once you've saved up the money. And it's (probably) not worth busting your budget over.
5. Check Your Calendar
Forgotten events happen far too often in our family for my liking! Ha!
There's always some event that we've forgotten to plan for... Birthdays, anniversaries... even just a good ol' fashioned potluck can throw a wrench in your budget.
So, when you sit down to make your budget, ALWAYS use a calendar. Check Facebook and emails to make sure you aren't forgetting an event or obligation.
When you run a tight budget, even a $20 gift or a big dish for Sunday lunch can bust an otherwise healthy budget.
6. Make a Meal Plan
It may seem like nothing, but just getting those meals down on paper will help you save mega bucks!
In fact, food is where most people say their budget needs cutting the most. For us, we buckled down a few years ago and were able to save almost $1,000 a month just from our food budget!
So, make a meal plan and stick to it. That last part is hard sometimes. But plan in a dining out meal here and there, plan in meals with friends and family, and you'll be able to make it work.
7. Set Realistic Expectations
This one is really tricky. Sometimes what we plan in our heads is not really what ends up happening in reality.
Be careful when you are planning trips, or getting gifts. If you aren't going to be happy with a less expensive gift, then budget for a nicer one. If you don't want to stay at a motel, then budget for a nice hotel.
Convincing yourself that you're going to be ok with one thing, only to get down to it and realize you really aren't ok with it at all, can be a HUGE budget buster.
It's ok to want nicer things, just make sure they fit into the budget and that they really are worthwhile. Also, be sure to remember number 3 here... keep your partner in the loop as to what you really want and need. But be sure to listen if they disagree or have other options to offer.
8. Check Your Pride
Oomph. Just reading that hurt me a little bit, how about you?
Sometimes examining our pride can be a difficult thing. But it's important to keep it in check for a lot of reasons, and budgeting is one of them.
The term "Keeping Up with the Joneses" applies here. "Needing" a newer car, newer phone, better shoes, or the latest game system can really bust a budget.
Be ok with having less. Be ok with saving up. And remember that you are living a different type of life than most other people around you.
Most people in our culture are up to their necks in debt. They are suffocating in financial quicksand... Don't be like them. Stand out from the crowd and control your money.
Don't let pride get the best of you. Save for what you want, but don't let others dictate what that is.
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Before we talk about some of the big questions that might arise from trying to follow a budget, here are some additional budgeting tips that will help you save even more money!
After reading all these tips, you may be left with a few questions. Here are some common questions about budgeting that I've heard over the years, and my answers to those questions!
Yes, it's essential to include some "fun money" in your budget for occasional treats or entertainment! Just make sure it's within your budgeted amount. We started out with $50 a month per person and went from there as our budget allowed.
Create an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. If you don't have one, adjust your budget to allocate more funds to savings until you've built a sufficient buffer. $1,000 is the recommended first goal, and then working up to having 3-6 months of bills in savings. You can also create an emergency food supply so that food funds can be diverted in a crisis.
If you overspend or deviate from your budget, don't be too hard on yourself. Adjust your budget if necessary and try to make up for the overspending in the following months. But just like like with dieting, you don't want to use it as an excuse to binge on spending money! Just accept that it happened and move back into your budget without guilt.
Give your budget at least a few months to see trends and identify areas that need adjustment. It's essential to have a clear picture of your spending patterns before making significant changes!
So there you go, those are our top 8 budget busters and how to avoid them! These guidelines have allowed us to pay off almost $60,000 in debt in just 2 years!!!
These tips are real. They are doable. They are worth implementing in your life! What do you think? Could you live with these tips?