Last Updated April 9, 2020
Why is sticking to a budget so hard? Budgeting can be tough, and you may feel so discouraged if you always have trouble sticking to yours. Find out how to stick to your budget once and for all with these 10 easy tips you didn’t know.
How To Stick To A Budget?
Always Track Your Spending
It’s hard to stick to a budget if you don’t know how much your spending. If you draft up your budget, but then forget about it, it’s not going to work. So make sure you’re always tracking your spending.
Tip #1 To Stick To Your Budget
You need to regularly track your spending and revisit your budget several times during the month to see how you’re doing. It’s essential to know how much you have left in an expense category so you can know when to stop spending.
For example, if you spent more than half of your food budget before half of the month is over, you know it’s time to slow down on your spending for the rest of the month. If you want to stick to the plan, make sure you’re tracking your spending regularly.
If you want to stay on top of your spending habits, use this FREE Daily Expense Tracker. I also highly recommend using Personal Capital to help you if you don’t like to manually track your spending.
Personal Capital is a FREE wealth management tool to help you get a better understanding of your finances. After you link all your accounts, you can see all your accounts in one place to have better money oversight.
If you sign up today and link at least one of your investment accounts (with a balance of more than $1,000), we’ll each get $50. That’s FREE money for keeping track and staying on top of your finances (something you should be doing anyway)!
- Related Article: How To Track Your Monthly Spending
Plan For Emergencies
Another reason why sticking to a budget is so hard is because you don’t plan for emergencies. If an emergency happens, and you don’t have an emergency fund, it will throw your budget off. An emergency fund is a separate savings account that helps you prepare for unexpected expenses.
Preparing for the unexpected is necessary if you want to stick to your budget. Not having an emergency fund makes it very hard to stick to a budget because if an emergency happens, your entire budget will get thrown off.
Tip #2 To Stick To Your Budget
If you don’t have an emergency fund, I suggest you start saving towards building one. There will ALWAYS be an emergency—that’s just life. You (or someone you love) may get sick, injured, or laid off. Or maybe your car dies, you need a new roof on your house, or you have to fix an appliance.
I recommend you have an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of necessary expenses. Since an emergency can come at any time, it’s very important to have quick access to your money. Therefore, I recommend you open a high yield savings account to an online bank account.
You get two benefits of banking online:
- They usually pay higher interest on your money than a brick and mortar bank; and
- It reduces impulse purchases because your money is a little harder to access. With online banks, it usually takes a few business days for the money to be transferred to a physical bank where you can withdraw cash.
A good online bank I like is Radius Bank. They offer competitive interest rates, has no monthly maintenance fees, and no minimum balance requirement after $100 to open. Also, their checking account has free ATMs worldwide.
Read my detailed article “How To Build An Emergency Fund” if you want to learn more about emergency funds. This article will help you figure out how much you need to save for your particular situation and where to store your emergency fund money.
Practice A Little More Self-Control
A big part of sticking to a budget is practicing willpower and self-control. Having a budget will require you to say “no” sometimes. You cannot give into impulse purchases. If you don’t have self-control, you will always have a hard time sticking to a budget.
Tip #3 To Stick To Your Budget
Avoid putting yourself in a position that’s going to tempt you to blow your budget. Don’t go to the mall “just to see what they have” and unsubscribe from websites you love to shop at. Make it so you don’t even know what sales they have going on! A major sale may tempt you to buy something you don’t even need but bought it only because the sale was too good to pass up.
Another tactic I recommend is to wait at least 24 hours before you make an unplanned purchase. If it’s a more expensive purchase, wait 30 days.
A lot of spending we do is very emotional. By waiting, it helps you get past the emotions. When you step away from making a purchase, use that time (24hrs up to 30 days) to do some research to look for cheaper prices online.
If it’s a more expensive purchase, you can also use that time to save money for the item. If the urge to buy an item doesn’t go away after waiting at least 24 hours, then purchase it. But I’m sure 9 times out of 10 that urge DOES go away.
The point is you should avoid going to places that will trigger you to spend. Also, learn to say “no” or at the very least, delay some purchases. You can take this 31 Day Savings Challenge to help you save some money while you wait to purchase your item.
Finally, have an accountability partner or someone you can call when you’re tempted to buy when you should be saving. This person can be a friend, family, mentor, or financial coach.
Set Financial Goals
It’s hard to stick to your budget if you don’t have any financial goals. You need to know why you’re budgeting. What is the purpose or the end goal? Maybe it’s to save more money or get out of debt. Whatever the reason, you need to make clear financial goals so you have a reason to keep going.
Those with goals are 10x more likely to succeed. People who identify their goals and work towards them usually accomplish their goals, and accomplish them quicker. So if you don’t have any goals or plans for your money, you will most likely do nothing.
Tip #4 To Stick To Your Budget
It’s important to have a clear goal in mind so that you know exactly what you are working for and what you need to do to get there. Ask yourself what do you want out of life? Where do you want to be next year, five years, ten years or thirty years from now? Make goals and prioritize them.
To achieve your goals, they need to be written out and planned for. Make your financial goals clear and use the acronym SMART. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
- You want to make your goals as specific as possible;
- Measurable so that you can track your progress and know when you’ve achieved your goal;
- You want to make your goals realistic and achievable;
- Your goals should be relevant to your overall plans in life; and
- Finally, you want your goal to have a time limit where you set an end date to achieve your goal.
Using the SMART method brings more structure and clarity to your goals. Once you know what you want to accomplish, break those goals down into smaller milestones. Achieving these smaller goals will help you stay motivated to stick to your budget.
- Related Article: How To Set Realistic Financial Goals You Can Actually Accomplish
Make Sure You’re Choosing The Right Budgeting Method For Your Personality
Another reason why sticking to a budget is so hard is because you haven’t found the right system for you yet. There’s a lot of trial and error involved when it comes to budgeting. Sometimes it takes a few tries before you can find a system that works well for you.
When I first started my personal finance journey, it took me THREE tries before I could find a budgeting system that worked well for me. So you might have a hard time sticking to a budget because you haven’t found the right system for you yet.
Maybe you’re using cash envelopes, when you would do better with an Excel spreadsheet. Or maybe you’re using an excel spreadsheet when you would work better with a printable budget worksheet. There are so many options and methods of budgeting that you need to find what works best for you.
Tip #5 To Stick To Your Budget
If you find you’re having a hard time sticking to your budget, consider trying a new method. You can read my detailed article “How To Choose The Right Budgeting Method” to give you an idea of some other budgeting methods you can use.
Remember that you should also make changes in your budget when necessary. Your income, expenses, and priorities will change over time; therefore your budget is constantly evolving as life changes. So it’s okay to adjust your budget accordingly—but always make sure you have a budget and review it regularly to see if this method is still working for you.
I would also recommend hiring a financial coach if you’re tired of doing things on your own. Find someone who’s an expert in their field and has experience working with other people in similar financial situations as yours.
Hiring a financial coach can save you money and help you avoid mistakes you may make by trying to do things on your own. I have mentored dozens of people to help them reach their financial goals. I can help guide you and make a tailored financial plan for your specific situation.
So, if you would like to work together contact me for a FREE 15-minute consultation to see how I work with my clients.
Make Sure Your Budget Is Realistic
The first reason why sticking to a budget is so hard is because your budget is probably unrealistic. Sometimes we cut back so much on certain things in our budget that it becomes unrealistic. It’s easy to underestimate in categories where the expense isn’t fixed (like groceries and gas).
Tip #6 To Stick To Your Budget
If you see that you’re constantly overspending in certain areas that means your budget wasn’t realistic and you need to increase your budget in those areas. However, keep in mind if you’re going to increase your spending in one area, it means you have to cut spending in other areas too.
Don’t Let Other People Influence You
Keeping up with the Joneses can be a serious problem for some. The term “Keeping up with the Joneses” means always wanting to own expensive objects and do the same things as your neighbors and friends because you are worried you will not appear to be on the same social status as they are. Keeping up with the Joneses is detrimental to achieving your financial dreams.
It can be very difficult trying to stick to a budget while being around family and friends that have no interest in saving money.
I get it, I was the same way! I bought all types of material things to impress people and to show my clients I was a successful lawyer. And in a way, sometimes it’s necessary (no one wants to hire a lawyer that looks homeless…that must mean you’re not very good at your job, right?); but I was taking it too far.
Don’t get pressured into doing things just because your peers are doing it too.
Tip #7 To Stick To Your Budget
If you feel like peer pressure is getting the best of you, take a break from social media and everyone around you that’s putting you in this mindset. Give yourself a break from those things that make you feel like you just HAVE to have that new bag or take that exotic trip.
Also, stop caring about what other people think of you. A lot of the time, we find it hard to tell people “no” because we don’t want them to think we’re cheap, or worse broke. If you’re constantly trying to keep up with everyone because you want to appear rich, you’re killing your financial future. You will always BE broke if you don’t get your financial priorities in order.
Finally, start hanging around friends with similar financial goals as you. If you hang out with like-minded friends that are trying to save money too, you will almost always spend less. So hang out with people who respect your financial goals.
- Related Article: Don’t Let “Keeping Up With The Joneses” Make You Broke
Make Sure You’re Still Having Fun
A lot of people’s budget fail because it’s just too restrictive. The first place we look to cut out expenses is our hobbies and entertainment because it’s not what you would consider a “need.” The problem with that is if you don’t allocate money to some things you enjoy doing, it’s simply not going to work.
It’s like having a strict diet and not allowing yourself to have a cheat meal. Cutting out all the fun things is going to make you hate budgeting. If you hate budgeting, you’re simply not going to do it and quit.
Tip #8 To Stick To Your Budget
Make sure you include fun things in your budget. Decide ahead of time how much you’re going to spend on things you enjoy doing—but keep it reasonable. You can still have fun and stay on budget.
- Related Article: How To Still Have A Social Life While Living On A Budget
Don’t Give Up
Sticking to a budget is hard if you feel like you’re not making any progress. It’s easy to get discouraged if you’ve been working on your finances for a while and haven’t seen any significant results.
But remember, if you’ve been putting in the hard work and not seeing any immediate results, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your efforts have been in vain.
Tip #9 To Stick To Your Budget
If you tried to budget in the past and failed, don’t give up! Take some time to figure out what went wrong. Once you see what mistakes you made, take the time to make any corrections and start the next month with a fresh start. Keep working on it and adjust the numbers up and down as you need to.
If you feel like you’ve been on the right track, but don’t see any significant results, it might be time to speak to a professional. Maybe you’re making a few mistakes you’re not even aware of.
A financial coach can help you assess your situation and come up with a custom plan to help you accomplish your financial goals faster.
Sign up for a FREE 15-minute consultation to see how I can help you achieve your financial goals faster.
Keep Testing Until You Find A Budgeting Method That’s Perfect For You
Some of us are not the most organized or have great impulse control. So because of that, we don’t all need to budget the same. Methods that work for me, might not work for you.
I personally like budget spreadsheets, but the sight of a budget spreadsheet might turn you off. If this describes you, explore other methods of managing your money without spreadsheets—such as cash envelopes or printable budget worksheets.
Tip #10 To Stick To Your Budget
If you need help figuring out what budgeting method is best for you, read my article “How To Choose The Right Budgeting Method.”
Test out a few budgeting systems to see what works for you. If you have trouble with impulse purchases, I suggest you have an accountability partner that you can call in times of weakness.
Again, this is an area where hiring a financial coach can be very beneficial. Your coach can serve as your accountability partner and help you come up with a budgeting method that works best for your personality.
Sticking to a budget can be incredibly hard, but I hope with some of these solutions now have some ideas of how to stick to a budget. It takes time to build up these healthy financial habits, so you just have to constantly work at it. Over time, it will get easier and you will become more disciplined.
Finally, if you still have a hard time sticking to a budget, don’t struggle alone. If you think your situation is just too overwhelming and you need some help figuring out where to start, consider hiring a financial coach. With 1-on-1 coaching, you will get a customized plan for your particular situation.
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