Budgeting can be done rather simply, but sticking to a budget? Now that’s where the difficulty lies for many. Budgeting can be done in just one evening, but sticking to that budget is a life long (though always evolving) commitment.
So, how can you be sure you stick to the budget you’ve created? Here are 9 budget hacks that will be sure to help you keep your budget on the right track.
9 Budgeting Hacks to Keep You on Budget
1. Make sure it’s accurate
The best way to be sure you stick to your budget is to be sure your budget is realistic. If you haven’t accurately calculated how much you truly spend on things, you may be substantially off each month.
For example, if you estimate your hydro, gas, and cable to be a total of $300, but the actual numbers are $386, that’s $86 you are spending each and every month that isn’t accounted for.
2. Review frequently – it should be constantly changing and evolving
When it comes to a budget, you can’t just “set it and forget it”. Your budget needs to constantly be evolving and changing. Perhaps you’ll be driving farther for work – if so, you’ll need to update your gas use in your budget.
Maybe your wee one no longer needs diapers (hooray!) – make sure you take the money you were spending on diapers and allocate it otherwise (to a debt, savings, or perhaps to an area that you had found was too tight).
3. Track your spending
It’s important to write down what you spend so you have records to use when you review your budget. You need to be able to see what you’re spending on everything in your life. This also helps to hold you accountable.
It might be a bit harder to eat McDonald’s for lunch (when you already have a packed lunch!) knowing you have to write it down when you get home.
4. Live on cash (or credit card, depending on your personal habits)
Some people take Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s advice and live on cash, while others would rather put it on credit card because they always blow through that cash really fast. It really just depends on your personality.
Whatever is harder for you to spend, do that! Just make sure you track your money spent, no matter how you spend it.
5. Make extra money
If you want something that’s not in your budget, you may still be able to have it. You only live once – and it’s important that you don’t sacrifice to the point of not enjoying any of the extras in life.
You just have to work more to buy those extras. I’m sure you have hidden talents or hobbies. Use these to make extra money that you can spend carefree.
6. Use daily deal sites
Now, this is only for specific purchases, of course. I suggest you make a list of things you are definitely going to purchase in the next year (oil changes, groceries, perhaps dinner out for a celebration, hair cuts, etc.) and watch these daily deal sites closely.
Before making a purchase, read the fine print and all the details very closely. Sometimes what seems like a good deal, is not. I purchased an air duct cleaning groupon, which I thought was a steal, but it was only for 8 vents – so I had to pay for the others at full (incredibly high) prices and spent likely more than I would have from another company.
Done carefully and mindfully, these sites can save you money.
7. Choose your friends wisely
Friends who are careful with their money and who are budgeting as well, make excellent friends to hang out with. It’s very hard going out with friends that have spending problems, as they make it seem so easy and so fun to spend!
If you have trouble sticking to your budget, avoid shopping with these friends.
8. Remind yourself of why you are budgeting
This is the best hack to keep me on budget. If I’m about to spend money on something that I hadn’t planned on purchasing, I stop and remind myself why I have set the budget. What are my big financial goals. For you, perhaps it’s so you can stay home with your kids, or so you can retire early.
Maybe it’s for an amazing trip you have planned, or to finally live debt-free. Whatever it is, remember that reason and think hard about it. All of a sudden, those gorgeous throw pillows may seem like a waste of money.
9. Save your extra cash
If you’re under budget on a purchase, save the difference. I heard on “Til Debt do us Part” once, “if you don’t tell your money where to go, it will just leave you”. I have thought of this saying hundreds of times since.
When we cut back our cable, it freed up $100 dollars in our budget each month. We never have $100 unplanned at the end of the month – so where did it go? It was never accounted for, so it just got spent a little here and a little there. If you have budgeted $150 for groceries, and you only spend $120 – immediately put the $30 difference aside.
Whether it be into your savings account, or a special account for extra things. Put it somewhere that it will not vanish and you can actually use it!
Sticking to a budget is certainly a challenge some days, but keeping your eye on the big picture, and trying to turn it into a challenge or a game, can really help.
Budgeting and goal setting are an important part of financial freedom. If you don’t want to have to worry about your money – then take care of it.