How to Stick to the Budget You Set

how to stick to a budget

Building a budget is easy. Sticking to it is hard. But it’s a must-do if you want to reach your money goals. So let’s talk about how you can …

1. Start by Setting a Budget You Can Actually Stick To

Much like dieting, total deprivation can backfire when budgeting. Set yourself up for success by being realistic about your spending.

Download an app like Mint, nerd out with a fancy excel spreadsheet or use a simple pen and paper to write down where your money is actually going at the end each day.

Rather than eliminating entire expense categories, like eating out or entertainment, start by putting some basic parameters on your monthly spending in each category.

It might take some time to find the exact budget amounts that work for you and your lifestyle, but you can always adjust as needed. And you can always challenge yourself to get more savvy and find greater savings later on.

But to start, any budget savings you can stick to, even if it’s just $5 to start, is a win.

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2. Track Your Money

It doesn’t do much good to set a budget if you don’t have any way of staying accountable to it. Which is why tracking your spending is a must.

Download an app like Mint, nerd out with a fancy excel spreadsheet or use a simple pen and paper to write down where your money is actually going at the end each day.

By regularly checking in with your numbers, you’ll be able to track your progress throughout the month and make adjustments as needed — before you get too far off track.

3. Build Financial Goals Into Your Budget

In addition to your expenses, be sure to build your financial goals into your budget. If you want to take a vacation, buy a house and grow your investment portfolio, each of those financial goals should have a line item in your monthly budget.

If you don’t take this kind of incremental approach to your big-picture financial goals, your budget will be totally thrown off whenever the urge to hit the open road or invest in the stock market or buy the dream home hits.

4. Save Before You Spend

If you wait until the end of the month to save the money you’ve budgeted for your financial goals, overspending in other budget categories can creep in and deplete those funds before you ever get the chance to set them aside.

Prioritize your savings (and keep your other budget categories in check) by setting aside funds for your financial goals first.

That way, you can only spend what’s leftover in your checking account after saving. Rather than trying to save what’s leftover in your checking account after spending – which is often nothing.

5. Avoid Impulse Buys

If you have a tendency to overspend, try implementing a 24-hour hold policy the next time you’re tempted to buy something. If you sleep on it, you may find that in-the-moment urge to buy passes.

You can also ground your spending by considering the time cost of any purchase. For example, if you’re tempted to buy a $100 pair of jeans and you earn $20/hour after taxes, you can consider whether that pair of jeans is really worth five hours of work.

It may or may not be, but taking the time to stop and consider the value of the purchase before making it, can go a long way in creating more mindfulness around your spending, and whether or not your particular spending choices are really in alignment with your goals and budget.

6. If You Haven’t Yet, Define Your Why

Ultimately, the best way to stick to your budget is to remember why you set it in the first place.

Was it to prioritize your journey to debt freedom? Or to give you the confidence and security you want to start you own business? Or build the savings you need to put the down payment on your dream home?

That way, when you’re tempted to buy some shoes you can’t afford or some tacos that don’t fit into your spending plan, you’ll remember why, and be more likely to stick with your money plan.