Five tips to help you with sticking to a budget and spending money on the things you really want in life, even if you are “bad with money.”
I’m not great with money. I never have been. In college I used to check my bank balance daily because I never had any idea how much money I had. And it always felt like my account was empty! Fast-forward to a few years later and I found myself married to an accountant. We had A LOT of disagreements about money. I always wanted to go out to dinner. He wanted to save our money for things like a down-payment on a house and student loans (lame!) Now, a decade later, I’d say that I’m still not really great with money. BUT I do understand how important budgeting is. I’ve mastered sticking to a budget so that we can accomplish our goals!
5 Tips for Sticking to a Budget (Even if You’re “Terrible with Money”)
A budget isn’t a punishment. It’s a tool to help you have money for the things you really want in life. Things beyond takeout every night and random Target purchases. These tips are things that helped me finally get on board with budgeting and, more importantly, stick with it.
1. Have A Clear Goal in Mind
Saving money is nearly impossible when you don’t know why you are doing it. Setting a clear goal will help you be more disciplined. Plus you won’t feel like you are constantly depriving yourself. So, what is it you want? A new car? A vacation? Paying off student loan debt? Whatever it is, set a monetary goal and then establish your budget. A budget will give you the freedom to save for those big purchases. This guide to creating a budget walks you through the exact budget we use.
2. Make Room for Emergencies
Budgeting doesn’t mean allocating every single dime that comes into your bank account. It’s important to have extra money without a “purpose.” Life happens and you need to have a little money set aside. It can help pay for that unexpected car repair or emergency vet visit. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a big, expensive issue with our house pop up. Our emergency fund helps relief a lot of the stress in those situations.
3. It’s Not a Punishment
I repeat, A BUDGET IS NOT A PUNISHMENT. It’s totally unrealistic to think that being smarter with your money means that you’re going to sit at home every weekend. You still need to go out and have fun! During our first year of marriage my husband and I had a pretty tight budget. We were paying student loan payments and saving for a down payment on a house. But we still went out almost every weekend. We would come home after work and eat dinner. Then go out to meet our friends. We’d each have one or two drinks and maybe share an appetizer. We still got to have a great time with our friends, indulge a little bit, and save money for our bigger picture goals.
4. Use Cash If You Can’t Be Trusted With Your Credit Card
Cash is an excellent way to visually see the money you have budgeted and know that once it’s been spent, it’s gone. Sometimes credit, or debit, cards present too much temptation because you know that you HAVE money, even if you don’t have money in your budget.
Once again, I’m the example here. After we bought our house, we had a little bit of “extra” money in our going out budget. I always wanted to go out. So, we’d go out. And my husband would warn me that our entertainment budget was getting low. I’d ignore him. Until the budget was spent. I was always frustrated and confused when that would happen because the money would go so quickly! A meal out here, drinks there, and next thing I knew the money was gone. After many arguments about this, my husband put me in charge of the entertainment budget.
The money in the budget didn’t change. I was just in charge now. And guess what, we overspent 3 times in a row. So we decided that using cash for that particular budget was the best way to help me stay on budget. The visual of the cash in my wallet helped me to see what we had available and really consider what I wanted to spend that money on. I’d choose lunch at home on the weekends and cooking dinner at home most weeknights. Then, we had all of our budget left for hanging out with friends on the weekend.
5. Have a Friend Hold You Accountable
It’s really hard to stick to a budget if you’ve never done it before. There are so many ways to justify extra purchases here and there or to reason yourself into buying things. It really helps to have a sounding board to help you keep your end goal in mind. Find a friend, coworker or sibling with similar goals to you and have them help you be accountable.
I’m terrible at keeping long-term goals in mind in the moment. I constantly buy things that I don’t really need, or even want. In the past, I’d buy things and then after some time went by I’d regret it and wish I still had that money for something else. Now, I talk through a lot of purchases with Jesse. We don’t always agree on what is a good purchase or not, but just running it by someone helps me to pause and really think about whether or not I need it.
The purpose of a budget is to provide you with financial freedom.
It may seem silly to think that rules give you freedom, but it’s true! By building a budget and sticking to it, you can save money for large purchases (like a new sofa or mattress), travel, or pay down some debt to give you more peace of mind. No budget works exactly the same. We all have different priorities and hobbies. For example, we budget out for home repairs or improvement projects (like our kitchen). Your budget may need a monthly cosmetics allowance, or shoes, or fitness classes outside of a gym membership. Budgeting isn’t a punishment, it’s just a means to gaining more in the long run. Don’t let being terrible with money stop you from trying to be better and living the life you truly want!
Additional Budgeting Resources
Every budget is different, but if you’re having a hard time getting started here are a few budgeting posts Jesse wrote based on how we budget our money.