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Sticking to a budget can be tricky.
Think about it. You spent a fair share of time creating your budget and tracking your spending, and one month you go over your budget. You feel irritated at yourself.
It’s okay to miss your budget here and there. Your budget needn’t be 100% strict. However, you may still wish you could stick to your budget more effectively.
In this article, I’m going to talk about just that – how to stick to your budget so that you can continue to live below your means and save money for your future. We’ll go over both money habits and behavioral things you can do so that you can get a clear picture of what may work for you.
Table of Contents
1. Sleep Before You Buy
It’s often tempting to buy something the instant we have the impulse to. This is precisely what marketers want. To stop impulse buying and save money, always sleep for a night before making a big purchase. You may find that in the morning, you’re no longer interested in buying what it was you were looking at the day before.
2. Spend Less Than You Make
This might seem totally obvious, but 80% of Americans are in debt, and much of that comes from spending money on things that we can’t truly afford. When you’re sticking to a budget, always be aware of how much money you have coming in so that you can avoid spending more than you make. Here is a great guide for paying off debt.
3. Employ Zero Based Budgeting
Zero-based budgeting is when you create a budget, and your income minus expenses equals zero. That means, if you have money left over at the end of a given month, you need to find a place in our budget for it. Some ideas for this include adding the money to your emergency fund, paying off a high interest debt, or investing the money into a retirement account.
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4. Go On A Spending Freeze
Spending freezes are when you go for a period of time without spending any money. This is generally a few days to two weeks. Some spending freezes are modified such that you can only spend money on absolute necessities. All-in-all, when you’re trying to stick to a budget, a spending freeze will help you spend less money, however, good money behavior should be employed all the time instead of simply when you’re on a freeze.
5. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning can help you save money as you won’t buy more than you need when you go grocery shopping. Planning meals has the added benefit of removing some of the chaos around mealtime, especially if you’re a parent to one or more children. You’ll have meals planned out in advance which will help with meal prep during your busy day.
6. Shop For Groceries Online
Shopping for groceries online allows you to plan out your list in advance. When you shop for groceries online versus in the store, you won’t be tempted to pick up random items off the shelves.
Another benefit of buying groceries from a website versus going in person is that you can save time. If you frequently order the same foods, you can save your list each week and quickly add everything to your cart. This saves you all the time you would normally spend walking around the grocery store and waiting in line at the checkout.
7. Stick to Your Grocery List
If you plan to shop in person, make a grocery list and stick to it. It’s very easy to get tempted by other products in the grocery store that you may not need, and this can lead to food waste. Wasted food is wasted money, so make sure you only buy what you need, which is best accomplished with a grocery list. By doing so, you'll be able to save money on groceries each month.
8. Automate Your Finances
Automating your finances involves paying yourself first automatically each month. That is, treating yourself like one of your expenses.
One way you can do this is to select an amount of money, such as $20, $50, or $100, and set up an automatic transfer each month from your checking account to your savings account. When you do this, you’ll force yourself to save money and eventually may not even think about it, because the process is automated. Down the road, you’ll have saved a lot of money, which can be further invested or used for short-term purchases or if an unexpected expense comes up.
9. Pack Lunch Every Day
Some people report spending an average of $10 per day on lunch at work, and other stats show that many workers spend approximately $2,746 per year on lunch at work.
If you pack your own lunch, you may only spend $1 to $4 per day, depending on what you bring. When added up over 261 working days in 2021, you’ll only spend at most $1,044 if you spend $4 each day. This is a significant savings each year for simply bagging your lunch.
10. Review Your Budget Frequently
Reviewing your budget frequently will help you stick to it as you can better identify what’s working and what’s not. Getting a budget right the first time isn’t always possible, so it makes sense to revise it periodically.
Of course, with that being said, you may not want to review your budget too frequently as this may cause some level of headache. Instead, find an interval that works for you, such as quarterly. Check out this beginner's guide to creating a budget.
11. Exercise At Home and Outside
While a gym does have all the equipment you need to work out, you can also do quite a bit of exercising at home and outside. Replace the treadmill and exercise bike with a good walk or an actual bike. If you have room, pick up a bench and some free weights and do strength training from the comfort of your own house.
You can often invest in inexpensive exercise equipment for the price of a few months at a fancy gym, meaning you’ll save tons of money in the long run. By cutting out your gym subscription, you’ll lower your overall living expenses, which will help you stick to your budget.
12. Take Advantage of Rebate Apps
With Swagbucks, you can scan receipts or shop online to earn cashback in the virtual currency known as SB. SB can then be converted into cash or gift cards. Check out my Swagbucks review here or sign up for a free Swagbucks account with this link.
Ibotta is a cashback and rebates app that works at hundreds of retailers and grocery stores. You can save money when you shop online or by taking a picture of your receipt. Get started with Ibotta today.
Lastly, Honey is an online app that works as a browser extension. Whenever you find yourself at a website’s checkout, Honey will look for discount codes for you automatically so that you can save money. You’ll also earn Honey Gold which can be converted into cash. Check out Honey at this link.
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13. Don’t Buy Brand New Phones
The latest new mobile phones can cost upwards of $1,000 and more, plus the cost of insurance if you buy insurance. Instead of buying a brand new phone every few years, consider buying a phone that is already 1-2 years old. You can often buy a decent 2-year-old smartphone for a few hundred dollars, and you generally don’t need insurance on an older phone.
The combined savings between buying an older model and not buying insurance can help you save hundreds a year on mobile phone costs, which will help you stick to your budget.
14. Check Out Thrift Stores
Thrift stores are great places to get deals on many different things. Why spend hundreds of dollars on designer clothes that don’t actually do anything special for you when you may be able to find perfectly good clothes at a thrift store.
Other stores worth mentioning are dollar stores, where generally everything is under $5. Shopping at these stores can often save you a lot of money on everyday things around your house.
15. Have Multiple Bank Accounts
You can use multiple bank accounts in your budget. That is, you can have one bank account for fun money, one for necessary expenses, one for your occasional splurge, and one for travel.
These are examples, of course, and you can use bank accounts however you want in order to better stick to your budget.
16. Save Excess Money
Saving excess money has a few benefits that are all around helpful.
- When you save excess money, you will have more money for future months so that you can budget for unexpected expenses
- Saving excess money means you can buff up your emergency fund
- When you have extra money each month, you can pay off debt
- Extra money can be invested to grow your wealth
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17. Delete Your Credit Card Information From Websites
It’s entirely too easy to buy something on impulse when your credit card information is saved on a website, such as Amazon. If you have trouble with impulsive spending and it’s causing you to go over your budget and hurting your financial goals, try removing your credit cards from shopping sites to curb your spending habits.
By removing your credit card information, you’ve now added several steps between having an impulse to buy and actually ordering something. You now have to find your credit card and enter all of the information. This gives you some time to rethink your purchase.
18. Drink More Water
Drinking more water means drinking less fruit juice, sports drinks, soda, and alcohol, all of which can get pretty expensive if you overdo it. Instead, drink lots of water, preferably filtered water, so that you’re not spending money on the bottled kind.
Not only will drinking more water help you save money and stick to your budget, but it’s also incredibly healthy.
19. Indulge Occasionally to Not Deprive Yourself
When you budget too strictly, you may inadvertently deprive yourself of an occasional fun night out or reward. It’s important to reward yourself for sticking to a budget and saving money. Always set some money aside for something fun or an occasional splurge or indulgence.
Like strict diets with no cheats, strict budgets with no fun money often cause people to slip up eventually and feel guilty. Instead, spend a little on yourself or your family and reap the rewards of your good money habits.
20. Track Your Successes
A great way to stay on track is to track your successes. Keep note of months where you were able to stick to your budget and what you did in order to do so. This will help you stick to your budget in future months as you’ll know exactly what’s working and what’s not.
Tracking your successes is also a great way to stay motivated, as you’ll see how well you’ve improved month-to-month and year-to-year.
Wrapping It Up
Sticking to your budget is, in part, one way to maintain financial stability. As you tweak your budget periodically, ask yourself what is helping you and what isn’t. Focus on the things that are helping you so that you can better create and stick to a budget each year.
What are your favorite techniques for staying under budget?