Creating a budget is the easy part…knowing how to stay within your budget is the tricky thing! It feels good to have everything on paper and know where we can save money, but making a conscious effort to follow the planned budget can be another story. Does it have to be that difficult? No, it doesn’t. Here are 5 ways to make things easier.
1) Stay Committed
Without commitment, a budget is just writing on a paper. Make it a daily task to review your expenditures and income so there’s always an understanding of where your finances stand, and a reminder to stick to your goals.
2) Make Lifestyle Changes
Simple changes in your lifestyle can make it a lot easier to stay within your budget. Packing a lunch for work or school can save up to $35 a week. Multiply that by four weeks and that’s $140 a month in savings to keep you on target.
Another example: instead of walking into a supermarket with no list and no idea of what to prepare for the week’s meals, plan ahead. Plan meals for the week, create a shopping list, then shop on days where you can receive extra in-store savings or double-coupon deals. Studies have shown that people who shop with a list are less likely to overspend.
3) Keep your Focus on the Prize
When you created your budget, you probably had a goal in mind. Financial security, saving for a dream vacation, planning a purchase of a new home, or simply getting out of the rut of living payday to payday. No matter what your initial thought or goal was when you created your budget, keep your focus there. Write it on the top of your monthly budget as a daily reminder of the positives, rather than the negatives, of sticking to your budget.
4) Think Before you Spend
When you go to the mall and see the latest must-have gadgets or new clothing trends just STOP! Ask yourself this question: “Is this something that I need, or just something that I want?” There’s a big difference. There should be extra money in your budget for variable purchases, but buying on a whim means that you may have to cut from somewhere else.
5) Pay Cash
Keep your credit cards at home. The amount that you pay in interest could be added to your savings for that dream vacation that you have been thinking about, or that new car that you desperately need. Credit cards are a sense of false wealth – nothing more, nothing less. If you don’t have the cash, than it’s probably something not worth buying. Remember, your desire is to stay on task with your budget, not increase debt for fleeting pleasure.
Remember, a budget is meant to keep you free from the chains of debt. It’s not meant to make your life miserable and boring. Budgeting correctly, and staying within the guidelines that you set for yourself, may be difficult, but the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks.