Making plans is easy. How often have you drawn up a new diet or exercise plan or made a resolution to spend less money? Regularly, right? But how many times have you actually followed through and stuck with those plans?
Part of the reason why it is so hard to stick to your budget is because living within your means is just not very much fun. But, going into your overdraft every month or being unable to make your credit card payments is certainly no fun either.
Another reason why most people can’t adhere to the budget plan they make is because it just isn’t very realistic. In order for you to follow through with a plan, it must be doable.
Here are a few tips on how to curb your spending and create a budget plan that you can actually live with.
Organize Your Budget Into Categories
Don’t lump everything into two or three categories of spending; this makes it harder to keep track of how well you are doing. In order to stick to your budget you need to have clear categories for everything. This includes groceries, eating out, travel expenses, car payments, rent, utilities, credit card payments, “fun” money and anything else you can think of that deserves its own category.
There’s no point pretending you aren’t going to spend money on extras like eating out or seeing an occasional movie. It’s better to look at your budget realistically and see how much you can actually afford to spend on those things each month, rather than just taking things as they come.
Be Prepared to Review and Revise Your Budget
When you first making your budget, you won’t have a clear enough picture of what your monthly expenses are, and you’ll pretty much have to guestimate how much should go into each category. Of course fixed expenses like rent or car payments are pretty easy to budget for, but other categories like groceries or travel expenses are a bit harder to work with. To get a clear picture of your actual expenses, keep track of everything you spend for one month. At the end of that month, you can look at your expenses and at your budget plan and see if there are any changes that need to be made. Because prices fluctuate and situations change, you should be prepared to review your budget this way at least a few times a year.
Set a Goal (or Goals)
Okay, so your main goal is obviously…start living within your means, but something concrete to work towards will help keep you motivated. Ask yourself what you want most at this point in your life. Do you want to be debt-free, own your own car or make a down payment on your dream house? Or maybe you want to take a trip around the world, but just haven’t been able to put money aside yet. Write down your goals and pin them somewhere where you can see them throughout the day…above your bed, next to your bathroom mirror or on the refrigerator. Every time you feel tempted to spend money on something you know you can’t afford, think about your goal. Once you start living within your means, you will actually be able to start setting money aside for the future.
Plan To Do Your Grocery Shopping on a Weekly Basis
Heading to the store when you are hungry or find your kitchen cabinets empty is the surest way to go over your budget. If you plan to shop once a week, you can divide your monthly shopping budget into four. That way, you know how much you are allowed to spend each week. It’s also important to make a shopping list with everything you need for the coming week before you head to the store. This prevents you from spending too much on extras. Plan out all your meals beforehand and buy in a few staples in bulk, such as rice, pasta, canned corn, beans and whatever else you know you will need.
Cash is Your Friend
If you are a compulsive spender, the best way to kick the habit is to simply stop carrying credit cards. Before you head out for the day, think about how much money you will need for regular things like snacks, fuel for the car and money for whatever it is you are doing that day. By bringing exactly the amount of money you need, you will be unable to spend money on extras, even if you want to. Of course, you may want to carry your debit card just in case of emergencies, but leave the credit cards at home.
About the Author:
Aileen Pablo is part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading providers of Distance learning. When not working, Aileen blogs about education and career.She is often invited as a speaker in Personality Development Seminars in the Philippines. You can find her on Google+.