I remember when I first started budgeting, I found it extremely easy to stick to my budget. I followed it very closely, tracked my spending, and worked hard to ensure I was keeping my spending within the limits of the categories. As a result, I always knew where I stood financially, and had detailed budgets and spending reports should anything go awry.
This is because I couldn’t afford to stray from my budget. I was a broke student, living paycheck to paycheck, and I knew that if I went over my budget in one area for one month, it would derail my spending plan for the whole year.
Now that I make more money and can afford to indulge once in awhile, one of the most difficult parts of budgeting is actually adhering to it, when it’s not imperative for your financial survival.
I struggled with adhering to my budget for the first year or so after I graduated from school. I was over-spending in some areas, and under-spending in others. My spending reports weren’t reconciling with my budget and I was losing track of where I spent my cash. Essentially, it was a financial mess until I finally figured out how to ensure that I was sticking to the budget that I worked so hard to set.
Review Your Budget Frequently
One of my biggest blunders when I was struggling to stick to my budget was that I wasn’t even reviewing my budget on a regular basis. I would set my budget at the beginning of the month and then carry on with my day to day life, not stopping to figure out whether or not my budget was even realistic for that month, considering what would happen during the course of it.
The totals were always in the back of my mind; I had worked so hard to set my budget as a student that I would have found it hard to forget that I was supposed to be spending $200/month on groceries, but without reviewing my budget, I wasn’t able to determine whether or not it was realistic.
Ensure Your Budget is Realistic
Another common budget blunder that prevents many people from being able to stick to their budgets is setting an unrealistic budget.
You aren’t going to be able to adhere to a budget of $40/month on groceries in North America, so if you set one of your budget items unrealistically low, you are setting yourself up for failure.
When I first graduated, I set my entertainment budget at the same amount as my pre-graduation entertainment budget. This was unrealistic for me, as I soon realized, because when I was in school I was able to see some friends on campus, and most of my time that I’d normally be out was spent in the library studying. When I graduated, I was able to have a social life and my entertainment budget should have reflected that.
Work Some Fun Into Your Budget
If you are strict with yourself and don’t work a little bit of enjoyment into your budget, the budget will quickly turn into something that you dread and resent.
Just as people get can debt repayment burnout, you can get budget burnout, too. Sticking to a budget is important, but ensure that you budget in some fun as well. You’ll go nuts if you are only allowed to spend money on necessities!
This is probably also why I was failing after graduation when it came to sticking to my budget. I budgeted very little for enjoying life, even though I’d just spent years sticking to a bare bones budget while working my way through school.
How do you ensure that you stick to your budget? Which areas of your budget do you struggle with sticking to the most?