Sticking to a budget was and is by far the hardest part of gaining control of your finances.
For us, we spent so much money outside of our budget that we ended up carrying balances on our credit cards and paying them off using next month’s paycheck. We have paid for date nights, bought gifts for our loved ones, bought clothes, and even things we didn’t need at all.
Then we pulled the money from our savings to pay for it all without another thought.
We don’t necessarily regret the money we spent, but we do regret how frequently it was so easy for us to overspend.
I spoke about this topic on my Savings Segment on Fox. Watch the Replay here:
And truthfully, it boils down to the fact that James and I were not trusting ourselves, who created that budget months ago, and justifying expenses that we could not really afford at the time. If we had just waited, and saved up to make the purchases, we wouldn’t have blown our budget.
Thankfully I’ve now grown past those struggles and that’s why I can share my knowledge with you these tips about how to successfully stick to a budget:
Motivate Yourself To Use A Budget
The important thing to realize is that people who are successfully managing their money ALSO have a budget!
They aren’t even battling with paying off debt, yet they still use a budget.
Because having a budget is smart. It is making sure that your money is going where you want it to go each month.
Everyone has their own reason for creating a budget.
Maybe you are looking to pay off your debt sooner, or you’re looking at your credit card bill and wondering how on earth you spent that much money.
Your budget is not going to stop you from eating out one too many times or be the one to keep you from buying that expensive dress you’ve had your eye on.
You have to be the one to motivate yourself to stick to your budget.
Although you have created your budget, which is an amazing start, a budget is only a piece of paper. In reality, the hard work hasn’t even started yet.
Let Your Reason Fuel Your Determination
While you are trying to stick to your budget, you’ll be reminded of the temptations and driven by your old habits that led you to the point of not having control over your money.
There will be times when you’ll spend more than you budgeted for, and hopefully, you’ll feel bad about it, because that’s how you learn.
Clearly identifying why you created a budget, whether it is to gain control of your finances, reduce debt, save for a large purchase, or build wealth, having that at the forefront of your mind will fuel your determination to stick to the budget you created.
Obviously, things are going to happen every so often when you’ll be derailed from your budget, but use that same determination to get back on track as quickly as possible.
We like to make a visual reminder, such as a debt thermometer when we are reducing debt or just the date and a bible verse to remind us of our important monthly budget “meeting” to discuss how we did last month, to keep our focus at the forefront of our minds!
Identify Your Weaknesses
When James and I lost 160 pounds in one year, we figured out that there were restaurants we had to avoid in order to stay “on plan” and continue to lose weight.
We could not go to Johnson’s BBQ because I couldn’t resist getting the breaded okra & biscuits, which were detrimental to our diet.
The same thing goes for your financial wellbeing. You have to think about when you are tempted to spend money.
For us it is volleyball season. We are so exhausted from all the practices and various games (4 kids on 4 separate teams going in 4 different directions every day) that we want to take easier, yet more expensive route, and eat out.
To combat this, on Sunday afternoons (the one day we are guaranteed we won’t have practice nor a game) we look at the sports schedule for the coming week, and where everyone will be going and then we determine if we can stay on budget by purchasing discounted gift cards to eat out at an inexpensive restaurant, or if we can make an easy meal before we go and bring it with us.
By identifying what weaknesses seem to force you to spend money, you can choose if you want to continue spending money there (build it into your budget) or figure out a creative way to get ahead of the situation so you don’t spend money!
Learn To Say No
In order to stay on budget, you have to get honest with yourself and that means you need to be prepared to say no.
In fact, that’s a big part of the secret sauce to successfully staying on budget: it’s saying no.
Learning to say no, no to yourself (to go get one more roll of washi tape), your spouse (to go see the new Star Wars movie this weekend), your kids (to get ice cream after we win the sports game), as well as even friends and family.
One of our best friends invited us to go on a vacation with her to Colorado. The kids and I have never been skiing or snowboarding, and I REALLY wanted for all of us to go. I was so disappointed to tell her no, that we couldn’t afford the trip because we didn’t have the money to go right now. Our money had already been budgeted (and pretty thin) towards our bills and other upcoming trips for the year. Guess what?! She understood. Instead, we made plans for her to come visit and that we would take her to Disney. It was hard to say no to her, especially since I don’t get to see her often, but I knew it was the best thing for our budget.
Or maybe I should say not necessarily saying the final “no”, but instead being prepared ahead for when you encounter something that you’ll feel like you should say “no” too.
For example, if everyone goes out for lunch after Co-Op classes on Friday, and you want to go, but you know you shouldn’t be spending that extra money, think about it ahead of time and talk to your Mommy friends to ask if everyone could pack a lunch that day, or if they could pick up lunch and then meet up at the park instead of a restaurant. That way you can still participate (missing out is gonna be detrimental to your spending, trust me) but you won’t have to spend the money!
Set A Monthly “Budget Date”
Time flies! No, seriously, the whole year will be gone in the blink of an eye if you don’t control it ahead of time.
Same thing with your money. You have to keep monthly tabs on it so that you know what is going on and that it is doing what you WANT it to do.
It doesn’t have to be a long, treacherous, aggravating meeting. Just you and the hubby identifying whether you met your monthly money goals or not. And how to fix them for next month. You are on the same team, that means it is both of you that needs to work together to find solutions to control your finances.
Sometimes we have a big purchase coming up and it sure is nice to know that I’m not on my own to figure out how we are going to pay for it, James has really discovered some easy ways for us to sell stuff or make sacrifices (together) so that it was a team effort to get the job done.
Choose To Be Content Today
In addition to telling myself no, it’s important to learn how to be content with the season of life your in.
Since this is one area you have control over, you can choose to be content with what you have.
I say “choose” instead of “learn” because I constantly have to remind myself that I am content, I am choosing it.
Kinda like when your husband leaves his clothes on the floor and you choose to pick them up and put them in the hamper for him, for the umpteenth time this week. It’s a choice not to get mad.
Every time you go to spend money, you are essentially making a small decision to stay on budget (or not). You can decide if you want to cook at home or eat out instead. It’s up to you to look at your budget and make the decision accordingly.
There have been times when I was unable to eat out because the money wasn’t there. I had to learn to be content with my meal plan and cooking at home because there was no other option. If I ate out, we would go over budget (or more realistically, not have money to pay our necessary bills). If we stayed in and ate what we had (sometimes that was cereal for dinner), we’d be fine.
I am embarrassed to tell you that it really was that cut and dry. But that’s the truth of it.
Being content with the choices we made when we were in our right mind and formulating our budget will not only help you accomplish your financial goals, but it will alleviate the guilt of overspending and feeling bad about it later.
Sticking to your budget will be an extremely difficult journey. You have to get creative in order to learn new tricks so that you don’t completely change your lifestyle in order to be successful. But when you finally get consistent and it becomes second nature to stick with your budget automatically, it will be worth it!
YOUR TURN: What is your biggest struggle with trying to stay on budget? Let me know in the comments below!
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