In some ways, creating a plan for spending and managing your money (i.e. budgeting) is the ‘easy’ part. On paper, it works—you see where funds are allocated, and you know what you’re able to save, invest, or hang onto in the end while making all other ends meet. But simply having a plan doesn’t mean you’ll stick to it. We’re here to help with a couple tips for sticking to your budget, and to make your financial plan a reality!
When it comes to sticking to your budget, it can be helpful to tell those closest to you about your plan, goals, and what you’re hoping to achieve. Not only is their support helpful in making sure you’re successful, but it can also help you stick to the plan when you’ve verbally committed yourself in front of someone else.
In a world where apps, watches, and credit cards are easily swiped and scanned, tapping into the power of something physical can be extremely beneficial. Swiping a card for a $200 purchase feels significantly different than handing over a stack of twenty dollar bills, and most people find it helps them be much more mindful of what they’re spending and where. Each week, head to the ATM for an allotment of cash to see you through your groceries, gas, entertainment, and so on. When the cash is gone, you wait until the next week to replenish it.
Before grocery shopping each week, set a few minutes aside to plan out what the majority of your meals will be. Look through recipes and decide what you’ll need for meals for the whole week (you’ll be delighted to see how much time this can save you, especially when you plan to make a main dish that spreads across multiple meals). Meal planning stops you from buying things out of habit, or that you don’t actually need for the week ahead. You’ll be surprised to see how much money this will save over time, and how much you can also reduce food waste.
Stop impulsive spending in it’s tracks by applying a wait rule. If the item isn’t something you truly need, but simply want, tell yourself that you can buy the item IF you still want it (say) next month. By putting some distance between yourself and the purchase, you’ll have time to save money for it, and to determine if it’s really something you’d like to have. You’ll sometimes find that the desire was simply an impulse, and you’re happier to have money in your pocket instead of the item.
Give your new budget and habits a test drive before checking in and reevaluating. Ask yourself if the budget you set is realistic, or if you budgeted too much for some things, or too little for others. You probably won’t be able to answer these questions until you stick to your budget for a month or two. Use these tips to help you adhere to the plan, and if your budget isn’t working for you, redesign it until it is. It’s meant to help, not hinder!
Lastly, don’t forget to reward yourself along the way. Even small rewards can help you stick to those financial goals you’ve set!