Put Your Budget Plan into Daily Practice (Easy Tips)
The word “budget” is not exactly the most exciting term when it comes to personal finance.
Many people view a budget as a restraint, preventing them from doing what they want. But this couldn’t be more wrong.
A budget is basically a plan you make for your money. It puts you in control of your finances, allowing you to spend it with a purpose and intent.
What can a budget do for you?
- Give you a clear picture of where your money is going
- Help you get out of debt
- Save for a car, vacation, or retirement
- Track your spending so your bills don’t get out of control
What are your short-term or long-term financial goals? Know your budget and put it into daily practice. Then you’ll be able to spend your money with confidence and freedom, not feeling guilty.
Whether you’re budgeting for the first time, or have struggled to keep a budget in the past, these easy tips will help you with your plan and stick to it.
Make a Goal for Motivation
You’ve made your budget plan, and it’s time to take action on it.
You’ve taken a look at your income expenses, and it all feels overwhelming. Sound familiar? Have you been in this situation before?
Seeing your budget numbers can certainly be surprising, but sometimes not be enough to get you started. This is where you need a goal. Treat your budget as you would any other aspect of life you want to be successful in.
- Have a debt you need to pay off? Set a time frame to eliminate that debt by.
- Want to buy a new car? Write down the dollar amount you need to save and keep it someplace visible so it’s fresh in your mind
- Planning a vacation? Mark the date on your calendar as if you’d already booked it.
You need a reason to stick with your budget. Motivation is an important key.
Make a clear and simple goal.
There’s no better feeling than when you accomplish that goal and can pat yourself on the back with a smile, saying “I did it.”
Use Budget Tools and Software
Pen and paper can be time consuming.
Creating categories, tracking expenses, balancing spreadsheets…It’s difficult to find the free time, or have a regular routine to keep track of it all. Thankfully, we live in a world of computers and cell phones which make it so much easier.
Use a budget or personal finance software or app, and let it do the work for you. Plus, if it’s on your phone (and we all carry our phones everywhere), then you’ll have access to your budget, and stay on top of it, everywhere you go.
There’s quite a few budget software choices, so we’ve listed a few of our favorites. Each will track your budget, along with offering other advantages, depending on your personal style or preference.
- Mint brings all of your accounts together so you can conveniently manage your finances from one dashboard. Easily create a budget and see all your bills and money at a glance. Mint also gives unlimited access to check your credit scores.
- You Need a Budget (YNAB) gives you total control over your money. YNAB teaches you their budget method step-by-step, provides real-time information, graphs and charts, and tracks your goals until you reach them.
- Personal Capital lets you see all of your banking and investment accounts in one secure and convenient place. You can not only set up and track your budget, but also keep an eye on your investments, plan for retirement, or speak with one of their fiduciary advisors.
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Start with Necessities
If you are just starting your budget, identify your basic necessities expenses.
These are what you need to live and survive: food, housing, utilities, transportation, basic clothing. Start with these, see how much of your budget income is left over, then you can start tackling the remaining categories.
Some things you consider as necessities may not be necessary after all. Find areas you can live without, or keep but lower your monthly bill.
If you need ideas or ways to get started, read our article on 10 Easy Ways to Save Money Today.
Pay off Your Debt
One of your budget goals for motivation may be to pay off debt. If you do have debt, then paying it off should be a top priority!
You may not be able to pay it all off today or tomorrow, but you can put it into daily practice by picking a single debt to pay off first.
You might choose your smallest debt and focus on that. Take pride in your small successes and move on to the next bigger debt.
The important thing is to do what you can to get rid of your debt as fast as possible.
The longer you have debt, the more it robs you of your money and income.
You need money to grow your budget, and you can’t do that if you keep yourself under the slavery of debt.
Pay with Cash to Keep Yourself Accountable
It’s easy to overspend by swiping a card or waving a phone.
This is especially true with certain budget categories like groceries, or your miscellaneous fun money.
If you find yourself using your credit or debit cards too often, use cash instead.
Go to the bank and withdraw only the amount you’ve specified for your budget in that category.
You can use the envelope system by putting the cash in an envelope to keep yourself accountable. Once the cash from the envelope runs out, stop spending money.
Hide Your Credit Cards
If you are serious about sticking to a budget, you need to ditch your credit cards, hide them, cut them up, whatever you need to do, just keep them away and stop using them.
Credit cards typically have the highest interest rate of any debt you may currently have. By not having a credit card on your person, you won’t be tempted to use it when you’re out shopping.
Having no credit card debt means you have less monthly payments to worry about, and will free up additional money to add to your budget or accomplish a goal.
See our guide to get out of credit card debt fast to eliminate this burden from your life once and for all.
**Disclaimer** If you don’t have any credit card debt, while it is risky, it may be beneficial for you to use a credit card. People with good credit can take advantage cash back or other rewards their card may offer. This can help you have additional money for other areas of your budget. Only do this if you are completely confident that you will pay off your credit card balance each month and not accrue any interest.
Create Room for Surprises or Unexpected Expenses
Not every month is going to be perfect, or go as exactly as you planned. Surprises will happen, and other non-recurring expenses like a simple oil change or a house repair.
Be prepared by putting a small amount of money aside for these unexpected expenses.
This way when something comes up, you’ll be able to cover it without scrounging for money or taking it away from another part of your budget. The last thing you’d want is to have to take out a loan or add debt to a credit card.
Make a miscellaneous fund or emergency fund for that occasion.
Set up a Payment Schedule
You’ve made budgeting part of your routine, and made it easier to track using software, so why make paying your monthly expenses a regularly scheduled routine too?
Pick specific dates for expenses, such as your pay day. Set up auto drafts out of your checking account to pay bills.
Buy your groceries on a set day of the week.
Be consistent. When you know what to expect, budgeting becomes less of a chore, and more a part of daily life. You’ll reduce financial stress and avoid making mistakes.
Do Your Budget with a Friend or Family
You don’t have to do your budget alone. As they say, many hands make for light work, and it’s always more fun when you do things with others. Grab some snacks, put on some music, and make it fun.
If you’re married, have a family budgeting night. You should both be on the same page when it comes to your money. When you’re married, it’s no longer your money alone. Your budget should be looked at as “our” money and not “my” money. Discuss your goals together and what your financial future will be.
If you’re single, find a friend or someone you trust. Plan to do a budget together, and check in with each other monthly or quarterly. You can keep each other accountable to meeting your budget plan, ensuring you stick to it.
Focus on Yourself and Not on Others
We often compare our success to others. They have a bigger house. They have a newer car. They wear expensive clothes. They take extravagant vacations.
Maybe they do all these, but that doesn’t mean they’re not racking up debt while doing so.
Don’t compare your situation to anyone else. The only things we can know for sure are where our own finances lie.
Chances are, you have more than you realize. Comparison takes away your happiness and makes you feel like you are less. Focus on yourself, picture where you want to be, and do what’s right for your finances, taking the next steps and always moving forward.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
We are all human. Nobody is perfect, and that means your budget can’t always be perfect either.
It can take a few months or more to get settled into the budgeting routine.
Sometimes we splurge on our spending, whether it’s for ourselves, or holiday spending. Sometimes we just don’t feel like cooking, and spend extra money on dining out instead.
Whatever it might be, don’t beat yourself up or let it get you down. Use it as a learning opportunity, and turn it into a positive by changing your mindset, and sticking to your budget in the future.
The purpose of budgeting isn’t to limit your financial freedom, but to give you the freedom that comes with having ultimate control of your money.
Make your budget plan part of your daily practice. You’ll not only improve your bank account, but also your quality of life.