This post is sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are my own.
When it comes to having a budget, creating the actual budget isn’t the hardest battle. Yes, taking the time to research and create a budget ist time-consuming. And, I do have a post on how to create a successful budget. But, I find the HARDEST part of having a budget ist actually sticking to it.
Like with a new workout routine, we often start strong and then slowly lose momentum. So, today I want to tackle some of my tips for how to *FINALLY* stick to your budget
Kick-Off with a Spending Reset
Sometimes we just need to reset our spending habits. Challenge yourself to a month of NO spending (besides the bare essentials like groceries and gas.) No clothing, no cosmetics, no happy hours, no home items, nothing. Just like with Whole 30, the first week is the hardest but by the end of the 30 days, you’re managing it pretty well. And, just like a diet, it resets your habit of what feels “normal.”
It can also create new good habits. Usually, when you have a no spend month you’ll find you saved a ton of money. Maybe you use it to pay off debt or put away for savings. I find in the months after a no spend month I am more conscious about my spending because I am motivated by how good it felt to save during the month I didn’t spend.
Check-in EVERY SINGLE Week
This is sort of like calorie counting or weight watchers, but for your money. With 1-2 different credit cards and debit cards, it can be easy to lose track of how much you’ve spent. One of the first things I suggest people do when getting started in following a budget is write down every dollar that’s spent and what it was spent on and evaluate it EVERY week – NOT every month.
Essentially, the idea is to check in on progress, so you can identify issues before it’s too late. If your monthly budget for groceries is $750 but you spent $250 in the first week, you’re not on track. If you’re eating out budget for the month is $250 and you only spent $30 the first week, you’re doing great. It’s a quick check in to see where you’re at risk of not hitting your budget and adjust. Waiting until the end of the month is too late.
It also just creates more of a sense of accountability. When you know you’re going to have to check in on Sunday on what you spent, you might be more likely not to buy unnecessary things.
I think a big reason so many of us overspend on our budgets is because plastic cards can make it really easy to spend more than you intended without realizing it. Even if we check in every week, we could still easily be going over. A good trick is to use actual cash. Obviously, you won’t do this for every line item but maybe things like groceries and your “going out” fund. Have them in a specific spot in your wallet and only use that cash for those items. You’ll quickly see how fast it dwindles and it helps you keep a more visible and concrete grasp on how much you spend and how much is left.
Don’t Spend Hours Saving Cents
I love this idea from Allstate’s post on Bad Financial Habits to Avoid. The idea is, sometimes we get caught up on small things that only save a small amount of money but take considerable time on our part. It’s not worth it to spend 2 hours cutting coupons if you’re only going to save $10 on your groceries that week. I don’t know about you, but my time is worth more than $5 an hour.
Another example of this from the Allstate post has to do with shopping around. “Let’s imagine that you spend Saturday afternoon driving from store to store because bread is cheaper at one store, milk is cheaper at the other store and bananas are cheaper at the next. You save a few dollars on your grocery bill, but it comes at the cost of several hours of your time (not to mention the cost of the gas you used).”
The point is…yes, every dollar matters, but so does every hour. You could use that time better by doing a weekly check-in, meal planning, etc.
Accept You Might Have to Adjust Your Lifestyle
I think this is one reason everyone avoids budgets. We don’t want to accept we need to cut back and we’re not ready to adjust our lifestyle to do so. Spending less might also mean doing less, traveling less, attending less, etc. Our lifestyles have become accustomed to a certain level of “go, go, go.” We pack our weekends and our nights. We travel as if it’s a requirement and not a luxury. We eat out for meals like that’s the norm. We buy new outfits like it’s a necessity. But the truth is if you’re overspending it’s probably because you’ve over-obligating yourself
The hard truth remains, you’re going to need to look out for places you can cut back and then commit to doing it. This does involve saying “no” to things. At first, giving up these things WILL be hard. You will feel like you’re missing out. But trust me, as you stick with it, it will become your new normal. And, you’ll probably find you start to appreciate the things you do more because you do them less often.
Once again, just like with a diet or new workout plan – having a buddy for accountability makes it easier. If you’re in a relationship, this is a no-brainer because you and your spouse can keep each other accountable. But, if not, find a good friend you’re OK talking money with and be each other’s money buddies. Check-in with each other each week. Acknowledge places that you overspent. Talk about ways you can do better next week and any goals.
IMPORTANT: This is NOT a blame game of saying who spent more. It’s super important you don’t let it become that or you’ll lose the transparency necessary for this to work.
Re-Evaluate and Set new Goals
Typically, our budgets are part of a bigger goal such as paying off debt, saving for a house, etc. These goals are the motivation to our budget. So, every few months, you’ll want to revisit your goals and acknowledge how far you’ve come. And, set new goals if necessary. Or, use this tip Allstate’s post on Creating a Money Management System That Works: “For extra motivation, choose rewards for yourself once you meet those goals.”
This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day.