Budgeting seems to be one of those activities we all do with best intentions but after a week of managing receipts, cutting corners, attempting to change habits, and having a few curveballs thrown at us (car troubles, anyone?) it starts to go off the rails.
A budget is easy to create, no doubt. It’s sticking to it that’s the problem.
The following is straightforward. It’s four fundamental pieces of financial advice you can put into practice that will guarantee that you stay on budget.
1. Get real about your finances
All the great budgeting tools and strategies in World can’t help you take control of your finances until you are prepared to make the commitment. You have to affirm yourself that you’re ready to make the (sometimes hard) changes to your lifestyle. It may involve personal finance courses, removing your credit card addiction, or taking on a secondary part-time job. Once you’re real about your finances you can then put all other strategies into effect with precision and logic.
2. Automate what you can
A small slip up in bill payments can lead to big financial headaches. To alleviate the stress of bill pay it’s recommended that you automate the process. Using a bill paying service gives you full access to combine your bills into a centralized location, view them, and pay them without having to micro manage multiple accounts (like utility, cable, rent, insurances, etc.). By automating bill payments and controlling everything from one location you’ll avoid costly fees (or service disruptions) from paying late.
3. Communication is everything
In a relationship? Communication is the key if you plan to adhere to your budget. This means sitting down with your significant other to detail the how and why of the budget. It’s your job to get them on board because you’re essentially asking them to make a big change to their lifestyle. You should keep open communication for items like planning for retirement, setting aside funds for an emergency, or finding inexpensive alternatives to activities, entertainment, dining, and the like. When both parties are onboard with the budget it will be easier to maintain.
4. Changing your lifestyle
Lifestyle is a repeated item in this post but for good reason. It’s well known that many of us live outside our means, which has slowly been creating debt and stress. It’s difficult to tone down your lifestyle after you've seen and experienced all its wonders and opportunities … but it has to be done if you plan to keep to a budget. Accepting that you must make sacrifices and be willing to stretch your budget is what will eventually develop new, good habits. It doesn’t mean you have to go off the deep end and begin dumpster diving to save on food. What it means is that you change your lifestyle, even just for a while as you work through your budget, to sacrifice the instant gratification for the big wins.
A budget is merely a tool to keep track of your finances. It can be a spreadsheet on your computer, done through a robust budgeting program, or simply managed through a pen & paper. The real challenge comes when you’re putting it to practice. You will feel as if you’re missing out but ultimately – keeping to the budget will provide you with the bigger, long-term wins that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy if you’re too keen to making brash & quick decisions with your money.
Put these pieces of information to the test. Get real about your finances and “own up” to your faults in order to keep a level head about your money. Use tools and automation to pay those regular bills and get them out of the way so you’re tempted to “dip” into that money. Sit down and communicate with yourself and your significant other – it can be tough but it needs to be done – in order to adjust to the new budget (or find better ways to accommodate it). And finally, make the hard decision to change your lifestyle to live within your budget.
What are your pieces of advice for sticking to a budget? Share your thoughts and experience with a comment.