Creating a budget is no easy task – organizing your monthly bills, figuring out your total debt, tracking each and every penny, deciding what categories are fixed and which ones you can reduce spending in. Once your budget is all set up, you’ll be able to see your entire financial life written out, and armed with this information; you can take steps to ensure your financial health for the future.
But it’s one thing to become motivated about following a budget, and another thing to actually stick to a budget each and every month.
Here are some easy ways to keep you on track with your spending and savings goals as you begin to follow a budgeting plan:
1. Keep it simple and in front of you. Put your budget plan somewhere prominent, such as an app on the home screen of your smartphone, or a big paper sheet on your fridge. (I always suggest your refrigerator door because it’s the door that you open the most in your everyday life!)
2. Be realistic. If you need to cut expenses across your life and it seems overwhelming, try one area at a time so you can see progress immediately, giving you more motivation to continue to reduce your spending. Or cut back your spending slowly, such as reducing your grocery budget $20 every couple of weeks until you’ve reached the amount you ultimately want to budget for that area of your life. Budgeting is like an overall healthy lifestyle – you want the extra weight to come off slowly but surely and be a long-term change.
3. Revisit your budget in detail at least once a month – or even better, every payday. This will confirm that you are following your outlined plan and staying within your spending limits. It will also allow you to see any patterns that might be throwing your budget off, or any expenses that you might have originally forgotten to account for. Though this may feel tedious at first, once you get into the habit, you’ll probably only need to spend a few minutes on this… a few minutes that will change your financial life in the long run.
4. Lastly, the most fun part – and best kind of incentive for following a budget – is to watch your savings grow! The best part about sticking to a budget is seeing the fruits of your efforts, in the form of more money staying in instead of going out! You’ll be able to watch your savings add up, from smaller funds like Christmas savings and emergency funds, to long-term savings like "college funds and retirement accounts.
To learn more about setting up a budget, check out this online budgeting tool.