Updated: May 23
So you've created your weekly, biweekly or monthly budget. Now that you know what's coming in, what's going out, have your direct debits and/or standing orders all in place and know exactly what you're going to be spending cash on; comes the hard part, actually sticking to your budget.
If you are like me (2 years ago) who used to create a budget and never takes a second glance as soon as payday comes.
I believe that budgeting is key to your financial success. It's the gateway to your financial future. As dull as you might think budgeting is, it's just one of those things we do because of the benefits and not necessarily because it's fun. Saying that if you add a glass of wine, with a bowl of popcorn to the mix, you will experience budgeting in a whole new level. I'm giving away my secret here!
So here 10 tips and tricks to help you stick to your budget this month.
1. Identify why you haven't stuck to your budget in the past
So the saying goes that you can't really progress successfully into your future without understanding the past. I believe this, to be true. Identify the challenges you face with sticking to a monthly budget. Is it?:
Not having enough or irregular income
Emotional or impulse spending
Not tracking your expenses
Pleasing others/keeping up with the jones
Children wanting things
Your budget challenge may not be on the list, and that's fine-it really is a personal thing, so there is no right or wrong answer. The most important thing here is for you to Identify your common stumbling block.
Mine was 'emotional and impulse spending' when I felt stressed- Or felt like I didn't have enough money. I would then go and spend it all to make me feel like I did have money, and then hate myself for it weeks later.
2. Remember your WHY
Write down your goals for budgeting, why do you want to take control of your finances, why do you want to pay off debts, why do you want to save, what goals do you have for your children, what will investing help you achieve, where do you want to be in 2,3,5,10,15 years from today. Do you have plans to retire early, or do you have a legacy you want to leave for your family or the world? There has to be a connection between your goals and your budget, others wise, when the going gets tough, you will throw in the towel and fall flat on your face. This is where you create your own definition of what being Boss Of My money' means to you.
3. Find a budgeting method that works well for you
If you don't like using apps for budgeting, change it, try excel, envelope system, pen and paper, 20/30/50 (save, invest, live) or 20/80 (save/pay debts and live) method. While I build my emergency fund, I prefer using the 30/70 method or even create your own way of budgeting. Whichever method you choose it has to be right for you. Anything complicated will not motivate you to go back to the tool you have created. It has to be an easy system to use and one that doesn't cost a fortune. I found loads of budgeting apps in the beginning -YNAB, every dollar, Expense IQ, Money manager desktop etc. I found some to be very restrictive because the tool was designed for the USA market. Some worked better by linking your bank account- which is only being introduced to the UK market recently, so not many choices out there. I signed up for the free trial for YNAB but decided to cancel it as I could not justify being broke and spending $83.99 on a budgeting app. I enjoyed using every Dollar app for a while but seeing the $ symbol irritated me for some time. But if I were able to get over the $ symbol- I would definitely use this app again. After trying a few- I resolved to a hardcover A4 book, using a two-page spread, pencil, ruler and highlight pens to create my monthly budget. Now I use my own BOMM no-nonsense Monthly budgeting sheet.
4. Create a realistic budget
Sometimes we can be overzealous and over-budget to save £500 every month, while under-budgeting on our gas and electricity or mobile phone bill. After a while, this can be frustrating. Because as much as you get excited transferring £500 to a savings account- you're only going to have to move it back to your current account to cover your bills. Set yourself realistic goals and be true to yourself. Remember it's baby steps. Saving £1 every week will make you £52 better off by the end of the year, than trying to save £20 every month and end up spending it all. Additionally having a realistic budget will also make room to treat yourself every now and then.
5. Having a positive mindset and an environment for success is everything
How you feel and think about money is what you will become. It really is that simple. Fill your mind with positivity. Read books about managing personal finances, talk to people who are managing their finances well and ask for tips. In this day and age, access to information is not our problem- it's implementing what we learn. Listen to podcasts about managing finances, youtube videos, listen to audiobooks every day about managing personal finances and at a minimum take 3 things from what you have learned and implement immediately.
If you haven't already ready 'Go public- break the silence' blog. There I share how I came clean to my friends and family about struggling to manage my finances. If becoming debt-free, having savings, living below your means but within your needs and securing your future is essential to you, having cheerleaders and people that will call you out and discourage you from spending is what will make you win in this race. Stay away from spendaholic friends. Don't engage in conversations about spending, holidays and clothes if they are things you are struggling with.
6. Review your budget regularly
Reviewing your budget regularly will help you stay on track, identify pitfalls and catch overspending quicker. Have a system in place for how you will go back and review your budget. Will this be each time an item of expenditure takes place or a bill is paid? Will you do this every day, twice a week or once a week? Have you set a reminder on your phone or calendar as to when this will be? Have you checked in with your partner and agreed on a mutually convenient time to review your budget. If you manage the finances, decide on how regularly you will update the other spouse. Periodically reviewing your budget will also help you create a realistic budget that you can actually stick to.
7.What to do if you have more going out than is coming in
This is way too close to home for me. When your income doesn't cover all your priority expenses, you have a few options: do overtime in your current job, get a second job, sell stuff- your car, clothes, the furniture you don't need, start a side hustle such as DIY, gardening, babysitting for family, friends and coworkers. Use your skills and expertise and start charging for it. You may even have to consider downsizing while paying off debts and reducing your expenses by negotiating with your service providers, switching to cheaper services, cancelling subscriptions such as gym, movies or magazines to prioritise your needs over your wants. The truth is you will have to make temporary and painful sacrifices to achieve your goals. For me, my most significant sacrifice was not being able to help and give to others- but I have realised that I first need to get my house in order. Before I can be true to others, I first have to be true to myself.
8. Automate your finances:
Now, I say this with caution. I don't believe automating alone will work. A Lot of people automate without budgeting, which can become a disaster because as much as you are paying your bills and credit card bills, you are also wasting money in other areas. Just because you pay a bill doesn't mean you haven't wasted money. Budgeting is the strategy, and automation is the tool. Automation takes the thinking out of the equation. So, after you've created your budget and made key decisions (budgeted) relating to your financial goals now review your banking strategy (automate) and ensure your direct debits, standing orders and money are in the correct accounts.
9. Use the cash envelope budgeting method to reduce overspending on food shopping
Food budget is one of the most challenging categories in a budget to stick to. That being said, you need to establish a plan to overcome this. Every household is different, therefore, review your past behaviour and look for clues on when you are most likely to go over your food budget. Is it on the days when you finish work late, is it when you don't meal prep? Is it when you delay weekly food shopping? Is it when you are around a certain group of people, and you don't know how to say NO, to another expensive lunch or work do? Is it not knowing how to say NO to the kids? Whatever it is, don't ignore it, pay attention to it and see that you have a strategy in place to stay within your budget.
10. Stay accountable
Imagine having to justify every purchase you make outside of your budget to a trusted friend or family member who will give it to you like a true copper! Well, as annoying as that sounds, that might be just what you need to stick to your budget. If you are tempted to make a purchase that is outside of your budget, talking it out with a trusted individual who understands your goals, can save your money and regrets. Ideally, you want to get to a place where you become accountable to yourself, but until then call a friend!
Let's recap: 10 ways to help you stick to your monthly budget
Identify why haven't you stuck to your budget in the past.
Remember your WHY
Find a budgeting method that works well for you
Create a realistic budget
Having a positive mindset and an environment for success is everything
Review your budget regularly
What to do if you have more going out than is coming in
Automate your finances
Use the cash envelope budgeting method
Budgeting Tools for you
My favourite is the Legend Planner as it allows you to write in your own categories