Sticking To Your Budget In 7 Easy Steps
Sticking to your budget falls into the same category as following a healthy eating plan and fitness program – easy to start, but difficult to follow. Temptation is rife and once you fall off the wagon it’s so much harder to get back up again. We all get into a mindset of enviously looking at disciplined spenders, and thinking that they somehow have innate characteristics that we lack. That’s just a trick that our minds play on us, so you have to fool your mind right back and pull the spending reigns in.
The truth is, nobody likes budgeting. In the same way that nobody (normal) likes giving up fast food and putting in gruelling hours at the gym. So why do it you ask? Well, because the benefits are huge and you’re guaranteed to feel fantastic, and that’s something that everybody loves – hence the smug, self-satisfied expression that the do-gooders always have.
Visualize it. Fitness freaks and health food addicts have a clear mental image of how they want their bodies to look, so visualise how you want your financial future to look. Remember why you’re budgeting in the first place (saving to go on holiday, beefing up your rainy day savings, or investing in your pension), and paint a mental image of how happy you’ll be once you get there. You could even take it one step further and create a ‘visualization board’ of cut out images and positive affirmations that will keep you focused on the big picture.
Carry cash. Work out what you need to spend on a weekly basis (groceries, petrol/transport, airtime etc), withdraw the cash, and give the credit and store cards to someone you can trust who will save you from yourself. If you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.
Oh, and while you’re at it, you can de-activate any online accounts (e.g. Xclusive books, Musica) that you have, so that buying with a click of a mouse becomes a thing of the past.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry, sad, mad or in any such state. When you’re feeling emotional, it’s harder to resist temptation because our natural inclination is to eat/buy something that brings comfort and makes us feel better. To thine own self be true: Acknowledge your emotions, visit step 1, and stay focused.
Sleep on it. If you’ve decided to skip step 2 (for shame!), and find yourself falling for an out-of-budget expense, remind yourself that there’s nothing you want today that you can’t buy tomorrow... so go home and sleep on it. This will automatically take you back to step 1, and once you’ve revisited your vision board (the mental or actual one), you’ll realise that needs trump wants every time!
Reward yourself. Even the health bunnies know the value of treating themselves (once in a while) to a pizza, a day off from exercising, or a double fudge chocolate cake. Depriving yourself only makes it easier to fall off the wagon because keeping the defenses up all the time is hard work. Give yourself small milestones to aim towards, and once you reach them, reward yourself. If you’re saving up for next year’s holiday, buy yourself a cute new bikini; or if you’re putting money away for your retirement, get yourself a spa treatment. Rewarding yourself will once again take you back to step 1 and help reinforce your vision.
Sharing is caring. Having someone to share your budgeting woes with will keep you motivated because you won’t be in it alone. It stands to reason that if alcoholics have a support network, people on a budget should too.
Be analytical. Keep your receipts and reconcile them against your budget regularly. You’ll soon start seeing trends of where you’re still spending too much, and this will motivate you into cutting more costs by doing simple things like joining a carpool, or taking packed lunches to work. The more educated you become, the more empowered you’ll feel, and the motivation which may have been weak to begin with, will only get stronger.
Following these steps, especially step 1, will help you stick to your budget and realise that the best investment you will ever make, is in your future. Even if that future is a short term one that only has a new car in it, achievable successes will show you how much more you can do in the long run, and push you into aiming higher. And remember...if you can think it, you can do it!