Budgeting for your expenses is great in theory, but many people struggle with sticking to their plan. If you’re finding that your bank account doesn’t align with your budget each month, there are several things you can do to tighten up your spending and get back on track. These strategies will help you tackle common barriers to successful budgeting.
Adjusting Your Allowances
It’s almost impossible to stick to a budget that doesn’t include proper allowances for the things you need. If you’re exceeding the limits of your budget every month, it’s time to reevaluate your spending. If you leave yourself a little cash for extras such as your morning coffee or a weekly lunch date, you might find it much easier to stay within your restrictions. It’s important to tighten up your budget if you’re living outside your means, but sometimes it’s better to leave a little fun money than to try going cold turkey — only to binge on spending later.
Addressing Emotional Spending
Do you know why you’re spending beyond your budget? Many people who have trouble sticking to their budget slip up because of emotional spending. There are many ways that emotions can drive your spending. You might make these purchases for the temporary high of getting something new, as a way to distract yourself from other problems, or for the confident image that you perceive accompanying your latest buy. Think about how you’re feeling when you spend money so you can identify and overcome your emotional triggers.
Remembering Your Savings
A good budget should include a set amount for savings every month. You should build up a sizable savings account that you can use for emergencies and unexpected expenses. If you’re carrying a large balance on your credit cards, you might want to stick with just $500 or $1,000 in savings while you funnel everything else into your credit card payments. Ultimately, you should have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in your savings account to protect you in the event of job loss or a period of disability.
Simplifying Your Plan
If your budget is too complicated, it will be nearly impossible to monitor, adjust, and maintain. Stick with something neat and simple. There are many apps you can use to create a budget and track your spending. Many, such as Mint, link directly to your bank and credit card accounts for seamless integration. Using a powerful smartphone and a budgeting app keeps all the money management tools you need in the palm of your hand, letting you access them quickly when you’re on the go. The Galaxy S7, with its large Quad HD Super AMOLED screen, paired with T-Mobile’s fast, reliable 4G LTE network, is perfect for real-time updating of your budgeting app.
Identifying Your Money Drains
If your budget is failing each month, it’s important to understand where the money is going. If you’re not acutely aware of where you’re spending those extra dollars, fixing your budget will be almost impossible. This is another instance in which a money management app can come in handy. Mint populates pie charts and graphs that help you easily visualize your spending habits. You can also approach your budget in old-school fashion with a highlighter and bank statement. What’s important is tracking down the missing money so you can identify the exact areas where you’re spending too much.
Switching to Cash
Many people have trouble sticking to a budget because they simply can’t remember what they’ve spent and how much is left while they’re in the store filling up a cart. A simple solution to this problem is to switch to cash.
Visit a bank or ATM and take out your total allotted amount for groceries, gas, toiletries, and other necessities that you purchase regularly. Divide this into labeled envelopes, noting both the type of expense, such as groceries, and the time frame to which the budget applies. When you force yourself to stick to a cash-only spending strategy, it’s impossible to go beyond your budget. You’ll have a very clear visualization of how much is left, and when the envelope is empty, you’ll notice it!
Once you’ve mastered the art of accurately maintaining a budget, you’ll find that this is a powerful tool for controlling your finances and building up your savings.
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