As we mentioned in the last installment of our budgeting series, the final step to making a budget that works is doing everything you can to make it stick. Here are a few tips.
Sticking to a budget is a never-ending commitment, one that requires some pushing and pulling as the months stack up and lives change.
In your first few months, you’re probably going to be checking in on your budget often, fine-tuning it as necessary. But, as with most obligations, it can be easy to start shirking your duties.
Keep checking on progress
So, while you may feel that you do not need to check in on your budget two or three times a month after a few months have passed, you absolutely should–especially because, if you maintain your budget regularly, it won’t take long to repair anything that’s off.
I’ve found it’s helpful if I make reminders in my phone on the days I should be checking in on my budget. Or use good ‘ol sticky notes and post them everywhere. This way, you can’t tell yourself you forgot.
Another way that helps me stick to my budget is to continually change my goals. If I make a new goal for my budget each month–say, this month I want to set aside $75 for my emergency fund–I’m forcing myself to not only check in on my budget, but slightly adjust it. I find that shorter term goals are also easier to hammer away at than ones that will take months or years to actualize.
Plan for splurges
If you’ve been meeting your budgeting goals for multiple months but you feel yourself starting to cave, allow yourself to do so every few months. This could mean eating out once or twice more that month, going on a trip, splurging on a gift for someone else, etc. Just as you should allow yourself a little wiggle room each month, so should you on a yearly basis.
A budget is supposed to help you–not hurt you.
Work harder than ever
My last bit of advice is simple: If you want to make your budget stick, you’re going to have to work harder at it than you have in the past. You may not want to hear that, but making a budget represents a financial change and a financial commitment. To really make your budget stick, sometimes you’ve just gotta do everything you can to make it stick.
Get over it and start over
If you get totally off track or give up, don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all been there. Forgive yourself and start again. No doubt, you’ll have more success this time around. Persistence always pays off.