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15 Clever Ways To Stick To Your Budget

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Having a budget helps you track where your money is going each month. It also aids you in reaching financial goals. Some people track their budget on pencil and paper. Others use spreadsheets. Lastly, some use apps.

Whichever method you ultimately choose, creating a budget is one step to improving your financial situation. However, with that in mind, sticking to your budget can prove challenging for some.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to stick to your budget so that you can keep more money in your wallet and obtain things that make you happy. Whether it’s boosting your savings, getting out of debt, putting your kids through college one day, or buying a dream home – it all starts with the basics, which include creating and sticking to a budget.

Let’s jump right in.

1. Determine Your “Why”

Determining your “why” comes down to understanding why you’re putting in all the effort to improve your financial situation. What are your goals? What do you aspire for? Are you hoping to retire at a reasonable age? Do you want to travel? Would you like to put your kids through college? 

There are many reasons why you might be looking to make a change, and by identifying your “why,” you’ll more easily motivate yourself to stick to things. 

For instance, say you start deviating from your budget more and more, and debt starts to accumulate again. By having a “why,” you can remind yourself that there is a reason you’re doing this, and you can use this as motivation to get back on track.

2. Create a Budget that Works for You

Perhaps the first way to successfully stick to your budget is to create a budget that works for you. If your budget is too restrictive or simply unrealistic, you might feel it’s impossible to keep to it, which in turn will make you throw in the towel.

Some people choose to employ the 50/30/20 budgeting method, which is when you use 50% of your income for needs, 30% of your income for wants, and 20% of your income for savings and investing. While this is a guideline, if you’re spending significantly more money on wants and significantly less money on savings or paying off debt, you might want to refocus how you’re using your money. 

Likewise, if you’re spending considerably more than 50% of your income on needs, you might be living beyond your means.

At the same time, it’s okay to have money spent on things that bring you enjoyment – to an extent.

In the end, you’ll want to create a budget that gives you some wiggle room while also allowing you to save money and pay off any debt that you might have. This will help you stick to your budget.

3. Spend Less Than You Make

One of the fundamentals of personal finance is to spend less than you make, as that is the key way to live within your means.

There are two specific ways to successfully spend less than you make.

  • Cut back on spending. Finding ways to save money on everyday things will lower how much money leaves your bank account each month. This includes reducing common bills, shopping less, eating out less, using cash back apps, and so on.
  • Make more money. You can only cut back on spending so much. The other way to live below your means is to make more money. When you earn more, you increase how much money is coming in each month, making it easier to have more cash at the end of the month. It should be noted that when you make more money, it’s wise to avoid lifestyle inflation, which is when you spend more as you make more. Instead, tuck that extra money away into a savings account or use it to pay off debt. Additionally, you can use that money to invest for the future.

Consistently spending less than you make keeps you on track with your budget and helps you reach financial goals quicker and with greater ease.

4. Pay Yourself First

Paying yourself first means putting money aside for your future before you pay anyone else. You can look at it as treating yourself as an expense in your budget. This can be as simple as transferring $5 a week from your checking account to your savings account.

How is this important? Imagine that you save $100 per month by paying yourself first, and a year later, you have an issue with your car that’s going to run you $600. Fortunately, you saved $100 for 12 months, or $1,200, meaning not only can you cover this expense with cash, but you also have money still left in your savings account. You’ve successfully avoided swiping your credit card and increasing debt.

Of course, you can also save money for positive events, such as a trip to a beach resort that you and your partner have wanted to plan a romantic getaway to. There are any number of reasons to pay yourself first, and these might lead back to your “why” and any goals you’ve set up for yourself.

5. Automate Your Finances

Pairing up with paying yourself first is setting up automatic savings. Setting up automatic savings comes down to creating an automatic transfer between your checking account and your savings account. This can be done weekly, monthly, or with each paycheck. By doing this, you force yourself to save money, on autopilot, without you having to do anything once it’s set up.

Additionally, you can do things like setting up autopay on your bills and the minimum payment on your credit card. This will prevent you from being late with payments, which will help you avoid late fees and potential hits to your credit score.

Since late fees are often things you don’t budget for, a single late fee can throw off your budget. By setting up autopay, you can more easily stick to your budget by not incurring unexpected fees.

6. Look for Ways to Reduce Spending

If your budget is tight, or you’re having trouble spending less than you make, then looking for ways to reduce spending will help you stay on track. Several ways to reduce spending include:

  • Negotiating your cable and internet bill. This article discusses some of the best ways to negotiate your internet bill. If you don’t want to negotiate yourself, use the app, Trim, to negotiate for you.
  • Shop around for auto, renters, and homeowners insurance as it applies to you. Using an insurance comparison site like The Zebra is a good way to do this. The Zebra is free to use and takes a few minutes to enter your information. Once you enter your information, The Zebra finds you several insurance companies that want your business, along with quotes. You’re then free to click on any of the quotes and continue signing up.
  • Reduce your mobile plan. You might not need all of the features your phone plan has, and if you don’t, you might be able to save money by downgrading. 
  • Buy refurbished phones when you upgrade. New phones can cost over $1,000, but a refurbished phone is generally all you need, and you’ll pay a lot less for one.
  • Delete your credit card information from online stores, and don’t store your information in the future. By having to enter your credit card information each time you want to buy something, you slow yourself down and add manual steps to each purchase. This gives you more time to stop yourself from making the purchase.

Check out this article on over 40 ways to reduce spending in your life.

7. Create More Income

Creating more income not only gives you more wiggle room in your budget but it also allows you to expand your goals and reach goals faster. With more money, you can do more things in life.

Here are some common ways to make more money.

  • Work overtime at work. If your job offers the availability to work overtime, this can be a quick way to earn some extra cash.
  • Pick up a second job. If you work part time at your main job or have the need or desire to make more money, pick up a second job to quickly increase your monthly earnings.
  • Start a side hustle. Similar to having a second job, a side hustle earns you more money, though generally more at your own pace and on your own schedule.
  • Ask for a raise. If you’re regularly taking extra shifts or solving problems at work that no one else is, you might be able to get a raise, which becomes an instant boost to your income.
  • Find a job that pays better. If you’re working a job that isn’t paying very much, start job hunting. You can find jobs in local listings or on websites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, or FlexJobs. Put your location as “Remote” to find jobs around the country where you can work from home, if this appeals to you.

8. Get on the Same Page with Your Spouse or Partner

When you’re in a committed relationship with someone and share expenses, it’s easier to stick to a budget when you’re both on the same page. Find a quiet evening to talk about money with your partner and work out both goals you each have individually and goals that you have as a couple.

In some relationships, one person is more a spender and one is more a saver. In others, both people have spending problems, and sometimes both are good at saving money.

However your relationship is set up, sometimes it makes sense for one person to manage the finances – usually, the one who is better with money. In this case, that partner can focus on drafting up a budget with input from the other. Then, both of you can sit down and go over how you plan to stick to the budget and work together to keep each other motivated.

As time passes, get together for a quiet evening periodically and see how the two of you are progressing towards your money goals and what, if any, changes can be made to improve things further.

9. Employ Meal Planning

Food waste is common, which can lead to spending more money than we intend on groceries. By planning out meals in advance, you’ll know exactly what food to buy and how much of it to buy. This not only saves you money at the grocery store, but it can reduce feeling overwhelmed at mealtime when you’re preparing food for yourself and your family.

Another great reason for meal planning is budgeting how much you’ll spend on food. A family’s food budget is often one of their highest expenses, outside of their rent or mortgage. If you find you’re spending too much money on food, then planning meals that incorporate less expensive ingredients can be hugely beneficial in helping you stick to your budget.

10. Break Your Budget Down by Paycheck or by Week

If you’re struggling to stick to your monthly budget, then break your budget down by paycheck or even week to week. When you do this, it might feel easier to keep everything on track, as you’ve broken your budget into smaller pieces.

For example, say you give yourself $100 per month on eating out. This can be broken down to $25 per week, which might be worth a few lunches here and there or a decent dinner.

11. Learn to Say “No”

Peer pressure might be rearing its head when you see all of your friends spending money, and you’re tempted to do the same. This is where learning to say “no” to yourself comes in handy. Remind yourself of your “why” and that saving today will lead to a better tomorrow. 

It’s easy to get caught up in what others are spending their money on, and what you don’t know is their financial situation. They might be drowning in debt or have no money saved for the future. 

You’ll also want to learn to say “no” to your friends if your friends regularly go out and spend money on things like drinking, clubbing, concerts, and shopping. Of course, going out here and there to be social is healthy and good for you, but limiting how much you spend when you hang out with friends is key to sticking to your budget while maintaining a healthy social life.

12. Use Zero-Based Budgeting

Zero-based budgeting is when you assign every dollar you make to an expense. So, when you get your paycheck, take note of how much money you made and then break that money down across your budget. At the end of the exercise, you should have no money left. If you have any leftover money after assigning all expenses, then assign the extra money to something such as a credit card needing paying, a savings account that needs money, or a discretionary spending category such as having fun,

When every dollar has an assigned place, it’s easier to stick to your budget.

13. Sleep On Impulses to Buy Things

Impulse spending is a common reason why people live outside of their means. With online stores allowing you to buy things with a single click, impulse shopping is easy to get caught up in.

One way to curb impulse spending is to sleep on any impulses you have instead of purchasing something right away. Employing the 7 Day Rule has a higher success rate than simply sleeping a single night on an impulse.

With the 7 Day Rule, you wait 7 days before making a purchase on something you impulsively wanted to buy. Oftentimes, you’ll realize you don’t need what you planned on buying, and you’ll decide against the purchase, saving you money.

14. Update Your Budget as Needed

Most budgets aren’t perfect, and your financial situation will change over time. With that in mind, updating your budget every so often will allow your budget to adjust with changes in your life. 

This will also give you the opportunity to adjust things to better make a budget that works best for you.

When you update your budget, re-evaluate things like ways you can save money and if you need to find ways to increase how much you bring in each month. Determine if you can lower spending in one area to cover another area that proved to be more costly than you initially thought. Look at things like ways you can pay down credit card debt faster.

15. Have Fun Money in Your Budget

Within reason, have fun money in your budget. It’s important to allow yourself to have an enjoyable time once in a while, as long as it doesn’t break the bank. Be sure to reward yourself when you reach specific financial goals. That way, you’ll continue to feel motivated as you keep your finances on track over time.

Wrapping It Up

Remember, the money you spend can be broken down into how many hours of work you have to do to replace what you spent. If you spend $45 for a fancy item you see online, and you make $15 an hour, then you have to work 3 hours (not including taxes and deductions) to replace that item.

Using what you’ve learned in this article, you’ll be better able to stick to your budget. Click here to download Clean Cut Finance’s free home budget spreadsheet to help you get started budgeting.

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