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. 🙂