I wrote a couple of posts (here and here) a few weeks back about why you need to budget. I even put up some templates for you here to use if you don’t have anything in place already (of course, you can also use Mint, Quicken or any other online/software tool). And I’m sure all of you have been working like little warrior ants getting that budget established. But now you’re probably off that high and you’ve realized that it’s not convenient or easy to change your habits of tracking your expenses and the like. So rather than sticking that budget experience in your mental file cabinet between your past New Years resolutions and weight loss goals, let’s talk a little about how to stick to that budget.
If you haven’t budgeted up to this point, you’re making a HUGE behavioral change, so if you are thinking it’s going to be a simple fix, think again. Here are a few tips on how to become a Budget Champ.
Be patient. It can take up to 6 months of budgeting to really get used to it. You may not think you’re changing a lot, but you are. And you’ve got to actually wait some time to find out if those goals are actually going to stick. You may do well the first month or two, then freak out and binge for a month. But it’s all good. Don’t get discouraged, just get back on track and keep working on it until you get to where you want to be.
Know the why. Why are you budgeting? Just because you feel like you should? Or is there a specific reason? Set a goal. I don’t care what it is, but it’s got to be something so awesome that when you are thinking about going through that nasty McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home and get something off the dollar menu (“I’ll just do the dollar menu, that can’t be that bad”, you think), visions of a vacation with the fam or a beautiful truck or whatever else dance through your head and you just pass on by. This is not to say you can’t enjoy eating out every now and then, or anything else for that matter. But you have to decide for yourself if it’s worth it to do that at the expense of your goals. And if so, how much.
Be realistic. There are two ways people usually go. You can either become budget Nazis and cut off all spending outside of basic costs, or you can set your expectations of yourself so low that the budgeting isn’t really helping you change your behaviors. I don’t recommend the first one unless you’re on an intense debt repayment plan or similarly awesome goal, otherwise you’re going to burn out pretty quickly. And with the second one, you’re just wasting your time. So be realistic about it. It’s not going to do you any good unless you’re challenging yourself a little bit, and it’s not going to end up good in the long-run if you try to be a hero.
Set a schedule. When are you going to sit down each month and go through the past month and the next month’s budgets? When are you going to update your transactions? Some people are super intense and update it with every transaction, but I think that’s a little too time-consuming. I just keep all my receipts and then update it once a week on Saturday or Sunday.
Reward yourself! If you feel like you really need this, do it. Just don’t go too crazy 🙂 But, for example, if you work really hard all month long and curb your spending by a couple of hundred dollars, treat yourself to a movie night or something like that. You earned it. Then next month you can set a higher goal and come up with another reward.
Use cash (LAST RESORT!). If you’ve tried and tried and can’t really get it done, use the envelope system. That means you set your budget at the beginning of each month and create one envelope for each category. Then you put whatever amount of cash you allocated to that category in the envelope. When the cash is gone, you can take cash from other envelopes, but when the cash is gone, you’re done. No cards, no backup, no whining.
So there you have it, those are some tips I have used to help stick to our budget. Let me know of anything that helps you.
And hey! I want to write what you want to read, so if there is anything that hits you and you think to yourself, “Hey, I think B Ririe should write about this,” just let me know and I’ll knock your socks off.