How to Stick to Your Budget

how-to-stick-to-your-budgetThere is a gap between a budget in theory and a budget in practice. Real life intervenes, and it’s not always easy, despite your best intentions.

Beyond setting a budget, here are some steps that you can take to help it stick.

The Envelope Please…

While this may seem a bit extreme, at least initially, it helps modify behaviour to more easily support a budget.

We become accustomed in our buy-now, pay later society to bending our spending habits to match. One way to combat that is to adopt the old-fashioned, live on cash approach. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

When you receive your paycheque, take out the cash for the “spend” portions of your budget (i.e. groceries, gas etc) and place funds in individual envelopes. Taking away the extra “safety” net of plastic with credit and/or debit, is extra motivation to stay on track with your spending.

Break down your Line Items

It’s not simply enough to allocate funds to “groceries” or “entertainment”. What do those activities and expenses entail? The greater the level of detail, the greater the likelihood that you can maintain control over your spending.

For example, with grocery spending, research sales and plan menus weekly around them, keeping mindful of your total budget allocation. Lay out a detailed list with specific ingredients for your menu. Stick to the items on your pre-determined plan, and you should be able to stick to your budget.

Get Support

Again, realize that sticking to a budget is not always easy, and requires commitment in all the nooks and crannies of your daily life. Like with implementing any major change to your behaviour, it helps to have support along the way- to boost motivation and encourage commitment.

Align yourself with friends who are trying to accomplish the same thing. Not only can you encourage each other, you can share resources, like coupons and group-buying, and exchange favours (like child-care) with like-minded folk.

Be Reasonable

Realize that once in a while you are going to fall off the budget wagon; the key is not to become disheartened. As I am constantly telling my kids, there are no real mistakes, just opportunities to figure out different ways of doing things. Maybe your budget is too restrictive? Maybe, in the actual application of your budget in your daily living, you realize that you may have forgotten to include something, or not allocated sufficient funds to various expenses.

Living by a budget is a long-term proposition, and requires commitment, even when it doesn’t feel successful in the moment.

Read, Read, Read

They say knowledge is power, and when it comes to managing a budget, that is especially true. Become acquainted with finances and how to set financial goals (and how to achieve them). Get familiar with terminology and how it helps to shape your long-term financial future. Not only will this make your budgetary activity more efficient, it will help put your budget in big-picture context and serve as motivation.