The best way to achieve financial milestones is through a budget. But creating a budget and sticking to it are two entirely different things. While on paper, you may have the perfect plan to meet your monthly expenses and grow your savings, in reality, life happens.
Sometimes it’s challenging just to find the time to review and keep up with your budget. Then, pack on the stress of work and unplanned expenses that always find a way to pop up, and your financial plan can quickly become an afterthought.
The trick to reaching your financial goals involves being prepared, knowing how to deal with setbacks, and finding ways to hold yourself accountable. Here are several tips to help you stick to your budget and achieve financial success.
When creating a budget on paper, it’s easy to map out the perfect plan. However, if your budget doesn’t match your spending habits, it’s doomed from the start.
Begin by reviewing your expenses over the past few months. Be honest with yourself and identify the areas where you spend frivolously. Then, find places you can cut back, but do so minimally. Making drastic cuts to your spending sets you up for failure, just like a very strict diet. Instead, limit some spending categories at first and then build on those cuts in the coming months.
Know Your Triggers
To control your finances, you need to identify your spending triggers. Perhaps you find it challenging to balance time between your work and your kids’ afterschool activities, leading to fast food or meal deliveries. Maybe you’re stressed, and online shopping is your go-to stress reliever.
Once you identify your triggers, you can create a plan to stop them before they start. For example, avoid paying for fast food by preparing home-cooked meals in advance. Or bring snacks in the car to hold the kids over until you can cook later in the evening.
Pay Yourself First
Most people map out their budgets, and any leftover money is earmarked for savings. However, expenses often come up during the month, and those funds meant for savings are quickly spent. Instead, transfer money into your savings right away. It helps to think of this transfer the same as any other bill you need to pay.
Build an Emergency Fund
An emergency fund is money you put aside for unplanned expenses, such as car or home repairs, medical bills, or reduced hours at work. Having money set aside in a separate savings account to cover these costs is convenient and serves a greater purpose – it alleviates the need to borrow money to cover these expenses.
People often turn to high-interest credit cards or payday loans when faced with unforeseen expenses. Both options can be extremely costly and lead to even more financial challenges. To avoid these expensive alternatives, work to save three to six months of living expenses in an emergency fund.
Budget With Your Partner
People rarely have the same financial habits. Some people are spenders while others insist on saving every penny possible. When working on your budget, sit down with your partner and create it together. Doing so will help keep you both on the same page regarding savings and expenses – and it’s a great way to hold each other accountable.
Try No-Spend Days
Have you ever tried to go an entire day without spending any money? It’s more challenging than you may think. Try incorporating one no-spend day each month into your financial plan. As you get comfortable, work to add a no-spend day each week.
While this tactic is designed to help you save money, it serves a greater purpose. The goal is to shed light on just how often you do spend money daily. Use this insight to find ways to limit your spending and boost your savings.
Sleep on Big Purchases
Spending money is too easy today. Thanks to credit cards and Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) options, you can purchase just about anything online in a few quick taps. Instead, set a rule to wait 24 hours before making purchases, especially big-ticket items.
Oftentimes, you’ll find you no longer want the item the next day. Or you found a better way to spend your money. Placing a gap of 24 hours between purchases is a great way to avoid spending your hard-earned money frivolously.
Automate Your Finances
Automating your finances can help you meet your long-term goals while avoiding the temptation to deviate from your budget.
Payroll deduction is the perfect tool to automate your savings. You can set a pre-determined amount to come out of your paycheck and automatically deposit it into your savings account.
You can also use direct deposit to have your full paycheck deposited into your account, then leverage the tools within online banking to automate the distribution of funds. Leave what is needed in your checking account to pay bills each month and automatically have funds transferred on a scheduled basis to a special savings account before you have the chance to spend it.
Then use online bill pay to automate your bills. Doing so guarantees your bills are paid on time, helping you avoid potential late fees or dings to your credit.
Balance Your Monthly Budget
The greatest challenge to budgeting is the follow through. You have to hold yourself accountable and review your budget each month. It helps to schedule a specific time on your calendar monthly to complete this task.
Remember, your goal is progress – not perfection. If you make mistakes, that’s ok. Take some time to identify what happened and learn from it. Then keep pushing yourself forward.
We’re Here to Help!
Budgeting is one of the best ways to make your money go further and help you achieve your financial goals. It can seem tedious at times but stick with it, and you’ll learn to limit frivolous spending and alleviate financial stress.
If you’re interested in automating your savings or opening an emergency fund, we’re ready to help. You can easily open a new or additional savings account online, visit us in-branch, or call us at 410-584-7474.