Creating a household budget for your family to live by can be tough. However, making sure that you actually stick to the rules and restrictions that you lay out for yourself is even more challenging. While you and your loved ones could spend hours carefully adding everything up and assigning a purpose to every penny, one mistake could bring your entire budget tumbling down.
The difficulty of actually sticking to a budget is one of the most common reasons that people end up believing that budget tracking doesn’t work. However, the truth is that you just need to start with the right approach. These quick tips will help you to stick to your budget – no matter what.
First, you need to actually get organised if you want your budget to successful. Ultimately, the last thing you want is to think that you’ve accounted for everything, then discover that you’ve missed out one important expense or another at the end of the month. Grab at least three months’ worth of bank statements to get you started and use them to figure out what kind of regular expenses you need to deal with each month, including your loans and loan repayments.
Try to keep irregular expenses in mind too. For instance, are you putting any money aside for festive holiday presents or gifts for birthdays? What are you doing to prepare for water bills and television licensing costs?
While you do need to account for everything you buy when you’re making a budget, you don’t necessarily have to guilt yourself into giving up all the things you enjoy. When you see your weekly coffee written down, taking up money in your monthly expenses, then you might tell yourself that you need to get rid of it. However, if that coffee helps you get through each week, it might be worth the extra expense.
Look for things that you can afford to cut back on, but don’t try to force yourself to give up everything straight away. For instance, maybe you can cut down to one coffee every two weeks, instead of a coffee every Friday.
There are plenty of templates, spreadsheets, and apps out there that can claim to help you to put together a great budget. However, most of the time, you won’t need some kind of special formula to succeed. Simply knowing how much money you spend on the necessities and the luxuries in your life is a good starting point, as it will help you to figure out where you can begin to cut down.
To get started, often the best option is to grab a pen, a piece of paper, and work everything out manually. You’ll be able to get a basic idea of your expenses this way. You can always try using an app later if you think that the traditional budgeting option doesn’t work.
Remember that changing any habit – even a spending habit, isn’t an easy process. There’s a good chance that you’re going to make a few mistakes with your budget before you get into a better rhythm with your spending. If you do end up spending more than you expected on something one month, or you make a mistake when you’re adding up how much “luxury cash” you have to spend, don’t take that as a sign that budgeting isn’t right for you.
Remind yourself that you’re allowed to make mistakes as you learn how to change your spending, as long as you use them as an opportunity to grow. Once you’ve made a mistake once, try not to make the same one again.
Finally, if you decide that you want to give up a luxury item in your budget, think about how you can replace it with something cheaper instead. Rather than telling yourself that you can’t go to the gym anymore, try figuring out a workout routine that you can do with friends at home instead. If you decide that you need to give up on your regular takeaways, learn how to make some of your favourite meals in your own kitchen.
Replacing the things that you enjoy with equally fun, but less expensive options will make it less likely that you’re going to feel like you’re missing out. That means that you’re not going to be as inclined to fall off the wagon.