Credit, Debt, Personal Finance 

7 Strategies To Help You Stick To Your Budget

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Keeping to a budget is like keeping to a diet, it sucks. It’s a nuisance and a pain to keep track of every last penny you spend, it takes so much time to track everything, and eventually what happens is you loathe spending money because it will only make your monthly/weekly/daily spend on your budget bigger. However, it’s a necessary evil because if you don’t you’re only setting yourself up for failure financially. So, I’ve come up with 7 little tricks that will help you stay on track and not give up budgeting.

Strategy #1: Make it a game (by setting goals) – Did you spend $200 on eating out last month (~$6.67/day)? How about if you tried to get that number under $150 (~$5/day)? by doing this, you’ll see your budgeting as you working towards something (the goal of < $150 per month) instead of working away from something (spending in general). There are a lot of metrics you can try to achieve such as zero-days (days without spending any money), sub-$10 days (days under $10), so be creative and try to set mini-goals.

Strategy #2: Treat yourself – Once a week or once a month, treat yourself to something reasonable. You’ve brought the same ham and cheese sandwich in for lunch because it saves you a ton of money compared to eating out, so why not put some of those savings towards something you can enjoy like a movie or a new DVD?

Strategy #3: Track to the dollar – Does it really matter if lunch was $5.67 or $5.89? No, just round your spend to the nearest dollar and it should likely work itself out in the long run.

Strategy #4: Use credit cards – The beauty of credit cards is that they record everything you’ve spent your money on, so let that be your record instead of little slips of paper every day.

Strategy #5: Focus on Different Spend Categories – If you sum up your spending in categories, try devoting different days to different categories. On Monday and Tuesday, try to restrict spending on eating out. On Wednesdays, avoid spending on clothing, shoes, etc. Again, it’s somewhat like making it a game but with a different part of the budget.

Strategy #6: Review your budget with someone – Maybe your budget is too restrictive! It’s unreasonable to set your monthly food spending (groceries and eating out combined) at $10 and while that’s obvious for food, it might not be obvious for other categories. If your budget is unrealistic then you stand no chance of sticking with it.

Strategy #7: Set a big goal – Playing games is great but the ultimate strategy is to set a big goal for yourself. Why are you budgeting and saving money? Perhaps it’s for a vacation at the end of the year or maybe a down payment on a house or a new car? If you’re budgeting to make ends meet, set your goal to be debt free or to fund your emergency accounts. Get a piece of tape and tape that goal on every credit card you have, on your wallet or purse, on everything. Let is be a constant reminder as to why your pockets are brimming with receipts. 🙂

Good luck!

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “7 Strategies To Help You Stick To Your Budget”

  1. mfred says:

    Some good ideas… I would just ammend #4… use a debit card. You’ll get all the beneifits of an electronic record of all your transactions and you don’t have to work out the timing of those credit card payments. i.e. your paying in September for groceries you bought in August and your checking account never really gives you the bottom line. I also find that if I open that spreadsheet every day and key in yesterdays spending that its pretty easy to maintain. I also put my goal in a separate column and have it be the result of my income less the sum of budgeted items and spent money for the month. Then I keep tweeking the budgeted items to get what I need, or want the most, and still hit my goal.

  2. rachel says:

    I’ve helped many broke friends with budgets and found all of them underestimated the amount of money they spend on little things. On average, twenty dollars a month went to debit card fees including ATM transactions but also many grocery store/gas station purchases add fees, depending on your bank or where you shop. I advise if you are going to use your debit for purchases, tell the cashier it’s a credit card, it seems to circumvent these hidden fees. Also, those daily coffees/candy bars and monthly magazine/manicure/so-called health supplements can really add up and many people pay cash for these small things, so they don’t even realize the total cost by the end of the month. I find some people buying beer (for home parties or bar nights) and fast food again frequently pay cash, don’t realize how much they spend in a month and in this category trimming the fat financially also helps trim the literal fat.

  3. Weekly Roundup – 08/25/06

  4. mapgirl says:

    Ah #4. The debate over debit vs. credit. Truth is that debit cards generally have LESS fraud protection than credit cards. Of course, I’ve been spending more and more on debit card lately to try and move away from using credit and pay my cards down, but there is some concern about the fewer protections on debit cards.

  5. Donna says:

    I love the idea of no spend days — I’m thinking of making it a regular feature of our lives: no spending on Thursdays, for example. I’m not sure everyone will follow in my house, but the idea is such a great one. I also think that tracking each penny is a drag, but I have gotten us in the habit of getting a receipt for everything we spend from a dollar to any amount. Then, we have a little (nice-looking) box that we put it in and I go through it and put it on the software. My husband and I have become very aware of our spending through this method and, we’re a bit competitive, so we try to spend a bit less all the time. Great suggestions. Thanks for the tips.

  6. Mona says:

    mapgirl, I don’t think your statement about debit cards having less fraud protection is true. Most debit cards are part of Visa or Master Card thus having the same protection as a credit card.

    I don’t think anyone should use credit cards, period. Using borrowed money is never the way to go. Everyone always thinks they will pay it off at the end of the month but what if some emergency happens. I think it is always safe to use cash or debit. Don’t use credit cards- I have learned this lesson the hard way.

    I think our society is being fed that credit scores, loan amounts and credit limits some how establishes our worth. What if you had no payments at all. No house payment, no car payment or credit card payment. Can you imagine the amount wealth you could be building?
    This is my goal. To get rid of the payments once and for all, save and then invest.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ve found that leaving me credit and debit cards at home an only paying cash for things has helped. That way if there is a major purchase I need, I can get my card, but I’m forced to think about whether I really need it. Taking out the budgeted amount of cash for the week, and then knowing that that is all you have has helped me. Watching my wallet size shrink keeps me conscious of how much I am spending rather than just swiping a card.

  8. natasha says:


    Im getting 1000euro a month for salary.

    325 goes for rent
    75 for bus and metro pass
    50 for cel
    200 for visa (no choice)

    so thats already 650. So i have 450 and i would like to put 150 aside for a possible trip to morocco this winter…
    so that leaves me with 300euro for the month. can i survive? i tend to buy wine often, redbull and tend to go out to eat. i want to stop but i feel its impossible.
    tips please!!!!

  9. natasha says:

    oups thats 350.. and i would like to put 150 aside.. can i survive with 200 euro for 1 month..

  10. marginsgirl says:

    If you truly do pay off the card each week, it is better to use credit cards that have rewards. Between my husband’s business Amex and our personal cards, we typically make between $50-100 a month in rewards. We don’t spend the rewards until Christmas, and it feels so great to have hundreds of dollars of free money to spend. Again, though, this only works if you actually pay the cards before any interest is charged. Otherwise, obviously, that would be very counterproductive.

  11. Mike says:

    I make more, you can survive with me 🙂

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