Seven Ways to Stick to Your Budget

Yeah… we know. Budgets are not exciting. But, creating and sticking to a well-designed budget is the most important financial skill you will ever develop.

Your budget is the foundation for your financial success in life. Your budget will help you get your credit on track and create the future you are dreaming of.

Why is your budget so important?

When you have a budget to guide your spending, you’ll avoid expensive overdraft fees… be able to stash money away into a savings account or invest for later… you create financial stability that gives you incredible peace of mind… you’ll be more confident about your future and the future of the people who count on you to provide for them…  you can prepare for home ownership or starting a business of your own…

Yes, having a good budget is VERY important.

Before we go into the 7 ways to stick to a budget, you have to answer one very critical question.

Why?

Why do you want a budget?

What do you want to change?

Are you just tired of life as it currently is?

Do you want to get your finances straight before getting married to the love of your life?

Do you want to buy a house and move to a better school district for your kids?

Do you want to improve your quality of life and invest in your future?

Whatever your WHY turns out to be… hold on to it tight! Burn it into your brain. Imprint it on your heart. Let your WHY be your guiding light for all your financial decisions from here on out.

What is a budget?

Ok… so you probably know that to create a budget, you first list all your income. Then you make a list of all your necessary expenses (rent, food, insurance, gas, car payments, childcare, etc.)

After that, take a look at your optional expenses (cell phone plans, subscriptions, eating out, memberships, etc.)

Trim back everything you can so there is actually MONEY LEFT OVER after all your expenses are paid.

This money left over is what you have to pay attention to. You can either let it slip through your fingers each month or be proactive and have a plan for each and every one of those dollars.

Remember your WHY! Make a commitment NOW to choose spending behaviors with that money left over after your expenses to bring you closer and closer to your WHY every month.

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And now, without further delay… Here are 7 ideas that will help you maintain your budget and bring you closer to your WHY.

#1 Shop with a list

This sounds silly, but it is amazing what an impact this can make. Not just on the groceries, either – although that is one of the ways a list has the most benefit. When you go the store with a set list (and make a conscious decision to buy ONLY what is on the list), you’ll spend less and stick to your budget. Impulse purchases are the #1 budget killer!

#2 Stop stealing from yourself.

Every overdraft fee, impulse purchase, high interest emergency loan, or unplanned splurge on your credit card is really just you stealing from your future self.

Think about it… You already have 12 nice shirts hanging in your closet. Do you really need the one you just found on sale? Sure, $28 for a $55 designer shirt is a great deal, but if you don’t need the shirt, you’re not saving the $27 dollars compared to the full price. You are wasting $28 you could be putting into savings… or in an investment account… or put towards paying off one of your credit card balances.

OK, so $28 doesn’t sound like a big deal. But what if you are faced with one of these $28 decisions every week? If you bank that $28 a week…. You’re looking at $1456 over the course of the year – with no interest. In a moderate investment account, that $1456 investment per year will be worth over $22,000 in just 10 years! And the more you put into the account early on, the faster more it will grow.

#3 Get a budget app on your phone… and use it!

Tracking your daily expenses is the most important part of sticking to a budget. If you just swipe, swipe, swipe, you have no idea where you really stand. And when you don’t know exactly how much money you have to spend, you run the risk of overdrawing yourself.

Overdraft fees run $35 to $40 per item. And it could be double that for every item if the transaction bounces and the payee charges you too.

Did you know that the banks have a sneaky little secret that sets you up for always losing when it comes to overdrafts? Let’s say you have four items that trigger an overdraft right before you get paid: your rent of $750, a dinner out for $30, a quick fast food run for $8, and a pack of gum for $1.25. That adds up to $780.25. You have $751 in your account.

That’s enough to cover the dinner, fast food, and gum with no problem. So you’ll only have the one overdraft fee on the rent, right?

Nope…

The bank pays the largest transaction first – your rent for $750. That means the dinner, the fast food, and the gum will all be considered overdrafts. THREE overdrafts. That’s between $105 and $120 in overdraft fees for $39.25 in transactions. Ouch…

Good Budget = No Overdraft Fees. Period.

#4 Reward your success

One of the biggest mistakes people make when budgeting is being too restrictive. If your budget is too tight, you’ll resent it and have a hard time sticking to it. The key is to remember to reward yourself every once in a while. If you’ve been really good with your budget for 3 months, go ahead and take a little weekend trip with your honey. Or, go out to that great new restaurant with your friends. Pay in cash and then get back to work living according to your budget. Enjoy your success, but don’t forget your WHY.

#5 Stash cash away for emergencies

Emergencies happen all the time. Pipes break, cars break down, and kids fall and break their arms. When you don’t have cash on hand to cover these emergencies, you have no choice but to dip into credit or take out one of those super-high interest payday loans. That just starts a vicious cycle of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul – making it nearly impossible to get ahead again.

It’s far better to stash away some cash for emergencies. Start with a goal of $500. That will often cover most small emergencies. Then over time build your “emergency fund” up to one full month’s worth of living expenses. That way, if you lose your job or are unable to work, your family has a full 30 days to figure out plan B.

To learn more about emergency funds, take a look at this article.

#6 Set priorities

Far too many people in America are concerned with outward appearances. They try to “look” like the have it all together even though they are still living check to check. All the designer clothes and slick cars in the world are not going to make a bit of difference in your life if you need to take out a payday loan just to make your rent this month!

Quit focusing on the external game and turn your mind inwards. It’s the inside game that really counts. Get your priorities straight in your mind and your heart and all those external things will matter a whole lot less.

Ever wonder why so many rich folks drive Hondas? Because they have their priorities straight! How do you think they got rich? By having a budget, saving for the future, and keeping their eyes on the real prize – a secure, well planned financial future!

#7 Educate yourself

When you think about it, the real key to all of this is education. Learn all you can about money and credit. Learn how compound interest works. Learn how the FICO credit scoring method is used by creditors. Learn how to get a free copy of your credit report… and how to read what is on it.

And if your credit is less than perfect because of collections, judgments, tax liens, late payments, or delinquencies, learn all you can about NCES Credit Restoration. We can help you rehabilitate your credit and build up your score so you can start living the life you deserve!

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Other articles that may interest you:
Inspiration From NCES Founder George Cole
How To Erase a Tax Lien Fro Your Credit Report
Why Do I Have 3 Different Credit Scores?

This information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not as legal advice. If you have concerns about your credit report, harassment, identity theft, illegal collections activity, garnishments, or property liens, you should consult an attorney who specializes in consumer rights and defense.

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