Creating a budget and figuring out how to stick to a budget is by far the hardest part of gaining control of your finances.
For us, we spent so much money outside of our budget that we ended up adding to our credit card debt and lowering our credit score. And then paying them off using next month’s income paycheck.
We have paid for date nights, bought gifts for our loved ones, bought clothes, and even things we didn’t need at all.
Then we pulled the cash from our savings to pay for it all without another thought of our monthly expenses or what would happen in an emergency.
We don’t necessarily regret the cash we spent. But we do regret how frequently it was so easy for us to overspend from our bank account leaving us with little in case of an emergency.
I spoke about this topic on my Savings Segment on Fox. Watch the Replay here:
The problem? We were not sticking to our budget or spending plan.
And truthfully, it boils down to the fact that James and I were not trusting ourselves, who created our budget months ago and justifying the expenses that we could not really afford at the time.
We were guilty of that old saying, “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” But really we were robbing our future selves to overspend now.
If we had just waited and saved up to make the purchases, we wouldn’t have blown our monthly budget or our savings.
Thankfully, we’ve now grown past those personal finance struggles. We are more money savvy with our income sources and have a better financial goal.
So I’ll share my best tips on how to stick to a budget. Why? Because your personal finance success is worth it.
Plus, I’ll share how to make a budget and stick to it – once and for all! Don’t you need a larger savings account? And to feel the freedom of being debt-free? Of course, you do!
And, how to say “No” to yourself so you learn how to stick to your budget – forever! Because you’ll be able to teach your kids how to make and stick to a budget so your kids don’t end up as you did.
That’s why I can share my knowledge with you and these financial freedom tips about how to successfully stick to a budget. So let’s get down to how to stick to a budget.
Motivate Yourself To Use A Budget
The important thing to realize is that people who are successfully managing their money ALSO have a monthly budget!
Even the ones who aren’t even battling with paying off debt, still use a budget.
Because having a budget is smart even for your monthly bills. It is making sure that your monthly income is going where you want it to go each month.
Everyone has their own reason for learning how to stick to a budget.
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Maybe you are looking to pay off your student loan or pay off your other debt sooner. Or you’re looking at your credit card bill and wondering how on earth you spent that much money…again?!
Your budget is not going to stop you from eating out one too many times. Or be the one to keep you from buying that expensive dress you’ve had your eye on.
YOU have to be the one to motivate yourself to learn how to stick to a budget and to your savings goal.
Although you have created your budget, which is an amazing start, a budget is only a piece of paper and the start to your personal finance plan.
In reality, the hard work hasn’t even started yet for your financial situation.
Let Your Reason Fuel Your Determination
While you are trying to stick to a budgeting method, you’ll be reminded of the temptations and driven by your old habits. Remember them! They are what led you to the point of not having control over your financial situation.
There will be times when you’ll spend more than your monthly income allows. Hopefully, you’ll feel bad about it, because that’s how you learn how to stick to a monthly budget.
Clearly identify why you want to or have created a budget for your money management.
This is one of the biggest tips on how to stick to a budget – your reasoning why you started this all in the first place.
Is it debt repayment? Creating an emergency fund? Creating a savings account for holiday spending?
Is it to gain control of your spending habit, reduce debt, save for a large purchase, have more fun money, or build your wealth?
Having your reason at the forefront of your mind will fuel your determination to stick to a budget and to create a better money management system. This is how you learn how to make a budget and stick to it.
Things are going to happen every so often when you’ll be derailed from your budget and savings goal. But use that same determination to get your bank account back on track as quickly as possible.
Having an emergency fund helps to create that cushion for when those emergencies happen. Plus, having a budget buddy helps to keep you on track for your financial freedom.
We like to make a visual reminder as part of our budgeting method. Such as a debt thermometer when we are reducing credit card debt. Or just the date and a bible verse to remind us of our important monthly budget “meeting” to discuss how we did last month. This helps us keep our financial focus at the forefront of our minds!
Identify Your Weaknesses
When James and I lost 160 pounds in one year, we figured out that there were restaurants we had to avoid in order to stay “on plan” and continue to lose weight.
We could not go to Johnson’s BBQ because I couldn’t resist getting the breaded okra & biscuits. These items were detrimental to our diet.
The same thing goes for your financial well-being. You have to think about when you are tempted to spending money.
This how to make a financial goal with your budget and stick to it. Identify and plan your personal finance goals. It’s your best way of sticking to your budget.
For us, it is volleyball season. We are so exhausted from all the practices and various games. 4 kids on 4 separate teams going in 4 different directions every day. We want to take the easier, yet more expensive route, and eat out which easily drains our checking account.
To combat this, on Sunday afternoons (the one day we are guaranteed we won’t have practice nor a game) we look at the sports schedule for the coming week, and where everyone will be going. Then we determine with our budget category if we can stay on budget by purchasing discounted gift cards to eat out at an inexpensive restaurant, or if we can make an easy meal with our grocery budget before we go and bring it with us.
By identifying the weaknesses that seem to force spending money, you can choose if you want to continue spending money there (build it into your budget) or figure out a creative way to get ahead of the situation so you don’t spend money!
Get Organized With A Budget Binder
Creating a budget binder can help you track your budget entirely. You can track your living expenses, income sources, credit score, debt repayment plan, and anything else that pertains to your financial situation.
You can do this through a budgeting app, sometimes it’s better to see the numbers in person.
We thought our emergency fund had enough money in it, it didn’t take long for a large unexpected expense and some irregular expenses one month to wipe it clean.
Seeing these events unfold in just over a month really took a toll on our financial situation. But it helps to see these things on paper or even in a spreadsheet so you can try to make sure you have a pulse on your entire budgeting plan.
And while our fixed expenses normally stay the same each month, it helps to see what you are paying out each month. I notice when the security company changes the price and I immediately call to get the price lowered if I can. Or I can try to find a lower-priced company to replace them.
Jotting these fixed expenses in my budget binder or spreadsheet, not only keeps my account balances in tune but helps me keep my spending plan in check.
When the cable bill went up and up, it was the first variable expense we looked at to get rid of. When the cable company did not want to lower our cost, we said goodbye to cable. If you’re trying to gain financial freedom, or repay a student loan, look at your variable expenses that you may be able to cut out of your monthly bills.
With your budget category list in your budget binder, you can easily keep tabs on all your spending even including a holiday budget.
Learn To Say No
In order to stay on top of your monthly expenses, you have to get honest with yourself and your money management. That means you need to be prepared to say no even to your discretionary spending which is your fun money!
In fact, that’s a big part of the secret sauce to successfully learning how to stick to a budget: it’s by saying no to the credit card and no to your typical spending habit.
Learning to say no, no to yourself (to go get one more roll of washi tape), your spouse (to go see the new Star Wars movie this weekend), your kids (to get ice cream after we win the sports game), as well as even friends and family so you can continue towards your savings goal.
It’s only when you take a hard look at your living expenses and your income sources that you can really come to terms with how much money you have to work with each month. If you have a student loan or are on a debt repayment plan, that money left over from paying bills is even less.
One of our best friends invited us to go on a vacation with her to Colorado. The kids and I have never been skiing or snowboarding. I REALLY wanted for all of us to go. I was so disappointed to tell her no, that we couldn’t afford the trip because we didn’t have the cash to go right now. Our checking account had already been budgeted (and pretty thin) towards our bills and other upcoming trips for the year. Guess what?! She understood. Instead, we made plans for her to visit and that we would take her to Disney. It was hard to say no to her, especially since I don’t get to see her often, but I knew it was the best thing for our financial goal.
Or maybe I should say not necessarily saying the final “no”, but instead being prepared ahead for when you encounter an expense that you’ll feel like you should say “no” to.
For example, if everyone goes out for lunch after Co-Op classes on Friday, and you want to go, but you know you shouldn’t be spending that extra grocery budget money, think about it ahead of time and talk to your Mommy friends. Ask if everyone could pack a lunch that day, or if they could pick up lunch and then meet up at the park instead of at a restaurant. That way you can still participate (missing out is gonna be detrimental to your spending, trust me) but you won’t have to wreck your spending plan!
You don’t have to sacrifice your fun money for bills when you learn how to make a realistic budget and stick to it – you just have to get creative to learn how to have cheap fun!
Set A Monthly “Budget Date”
Money flies! No, seriously, your entire paycheck will be gone in the blink of an eye if you don’t control your monthly income ahead of time.
Keeping a pulse on your financial situation helps you to know what is going on with your income, grocery budget, and your monthly bills. That your budget and/or cash envelopes are doing what you WANT them to do.
It doesn’t have to be a long, treacherous, aggravating meeting. Just you and your budget buddy, (aka spouse, friend, or relative), identifying whether you met your goals for your monthly expenses or not. If not, how to fix them for next month. You are on the same team and have the same goal. So it is both of you that needs to work together to find realistic budget solutions to control your finances.
Sometimes we have an unexpected expense or even irregular expenses that pop up. It sure is nice to know that I’m not on my own to figure out how we are going to pay for it. James, my budget buddy, has really discovered some easy ways for us to sell stuff or make sacrifices (together) so that it becomes a team effort to get the job done.
Choose To Be Content Today
In addition to telling myself no, it’s important to learn how to be content with the season of life you’re in and even with the amount that’s in your checking account.
Since this is one area you have control over, my budgeting tip is that you can choose to be content with what you have.
I say “choose” instead of “learn” because I constantly have to remind myself that I am content. I am choosing it.
Kinda like when your husband leaves his clothes on the floor. And you choose to pick them up and put them in the hamper for him. (For the umpteenth time this week.) It’s a choice not to get mad. Because he did do the dishes this week, filled up my van with gas, and made dinner several times this week.
Every time you go to spend from your checking account or cash envelopes, you are essentially making a small decision to stay on your spending plan (or not). You can decide if you want to cook at home or eat out instead. It’s up to you to look at your grocery budget and fun money cash envelopes and make the decision accordingly.
BONUS FREE DOWNLOAD
Create A Plan For Your Money
These FREE Budgeting Spreadsheets will help you keep a pulse on your money (from the palm of your hand).
There have been times when I was unable to eat out because the fun money wasn’t there. I had to learn to be content with my meal plan and cooking at home because there was no other option. If I ate out, we would go over budget. Or more realistically, not have the money in our bank account to pay our monthly bills. If we stayed in and ate what we had (sometimes that was cereal for dinner), we’d be fine. And our credit card debt didn’t go up because of the bad choice we made.
I am embarrassed to tell you that it really was that cut and dry. But that’s the truth of it.
We had to be content with the choices we made when we were in our right mind and formulating our budgeting method. This can work for you too. It will not only help you accomplish your financial goal, but it will alleviate the guilt of overspending and feeling bad about your spending habit later.
Make A Plan For Emergencies Before The Emergency
Sticking to your budget will be an extremely difficult journey especially when you have irregular expenses pop up or even those crazy unexpected expenses.
Like the busted headlight from a flying duck…true story.
Or the water leak from the bathroom wall…
Or the kid who grew out of all of his shoes in a month…
I could go on and on about the crazy things that happen at my house that are constantly costing us money.
But the best budgeting tip I can give is to have an emergency fund for those unexpected expenses. Even with a realistic budget, you’ve got to have a budget category that includes your backup plan.
Unexpected expenses happen even to the most prepared. But it’s how we are able to ride out the tidal wave still afloat because of our emergency fund or the wave sinks us because we weren’t prepared.
I hope you learned from these tips on how to stick to a budget so your future is a financial success!
Plus, making a budget and sticking to it so you can have a larger savings account and getting out of debt – is worth the work!
And, learning how to say “No” to yourself so you learn how to stick to your budget – is so important! You’ll be able to teach your kids how to make and stick to a budget so your kids don’t end up as you did.
You have to get creative in order to learn new tricks so that you can change your spending habits to be a financial success.
But when you finally get consistent with your budgeting method and it becomes second nature, you’ll be able to stick with your budget automatically and it will be worth it!