Budgeting 101.5 – Staying on Track

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Stick to your new budget for success.
The hardest thing about starting a new budget is sticking to it.

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.

Set reminders

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.

Change goals

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.

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Tom S.

Tom is a 2006 graduate of UW Madison, currently residing in Verona with his wife and 2 girls. He has been passionate about writing ever since he was 15 years old, and displays that same enthusiasm in his work today. When he’s not sharing insightful financial wisdom, you can find Tom chilling on the Union Terrace, enjoying craft beer at the Great Dane, or hiking at Governor Nelson State Park. In the Fall he loves to take his family to Badger Football games!