Budgeting is simple, easy, basic, and basically a cinch. All you do is track your spending and spend within a set of pre-determined parameters set up by YOU. Easy peasy. Okay, okay… so not so much. From the outside, budgeting seems like the easiest, most simple thing in the world. From the inside, when you’re tracking your spending day in and day out and trying to make the numbers you project match up with your reality, it’s not simple at all. Even after being on the budgeting horse for years, Johnny and I get bucked off from time to time, and we constantly find ourselves revisiting and revising our budget. So today we wanted to share some of our favorite tips to help you (and you, and you, and also us) stay on budget. When you’re down in the budgeting dumps, you can whip out these handy tips and be back on track in no time.
Nothing will get you back in budgeting shape faster than the envelope system. And it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. First, compile your budget. Then take your budgeting categories and set aside an envelope for each. Finally, put the cash allotted to each category into its corresponding envelope. You spend cash through the month, and when your envelope(s) run out, you stop spending for that category. This is a great method for getting back on track because it’s so tangible. You can actually see your money for the month, which makes you completely conscious of each purchasing decision. Any bad spending habits that have creeped their way back into your budget will be gone in a flash with this One word of warning for this method is to only use it for your discretionary spending so it doesn’t become overly complicated.
Accountability is a beast. But it can be the very best beast when it comes to your budget. Here’s how it works. Find a close friend/sister/cousin/dog who’s also trying to stick to a budget, and make them your budgeting accountability partner. Knowing someone else is also working to keep a budget can be motivational. But having nightly or weekly check-ins with each other can be just what it takes to keep that motivation going. You don’t need to share details of your budget, but just hold each other accountable for tracking your expenses and staying within your budget — a status update of sorts. We’d recommend doing the buddy system with someone who you’re not currently sharing expenses with to help keep it a bit more official.
One of our biggest budgeting pitfalls is simply forgetting to track spending. Life is busy. And some days are so busy that you barely have a chance to grab a bite to eat, let alone track the money you spend on that bite. Enter calendar reminders. With the hectic rush of the day-to-day, Johnny and I use the calendar on our phones to remind us of everything. From doctors’ appointments to meetings to birthdays, it’s all there, in our calendar. And we set up little alerts that remind us of calendar items. These alerts can also be used to remind you to budget! At the end of each day, you can have an alert go off telling you to enter that day’s expenses into your budget. I have mine set for 8:00 p.m. each evening because by that point we’ve spent all we’re going to spend for the day, and our girls are in bed, which means I have a second to think through that day’s expenditures. This helps to streamline the budgeting process and ensure you can’t forget about your budget even if you wanted to (sorry!).
Those are our three favorite ways to stay on track when the budgeting blues come our way. Budgeting doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s not going to be. It just needs to be consistent. And with little tips like these, you’re sure to get back on track with budgeting in no time.