As noted in previous posts, budgeting has become a near obsession for me. Adam and I working to not change our lifestyle too much, but cut back on the excess. WAY easier said than done but I have found that the following 4 tips help me stay on track. I would love to hear how you budget! Add your thoughts in the comments below.
Know Where My Money Is Going
I have been categorizing my spending for years. This really helps me determine where the majority of my money goes, where I can make cuts, and alerts me to “unusual spending” periods. I have created very specific categories within Mint, which does take time to create and stay on top of but really helps me to understand my situation. I use the following categories: Bills, groceries, pets, career, gifts & donations, health & fitness, shopping, Adam & I food/bars (when I pick up the bill), Liesl food/bars (when I eat out alone), entertainment, auto & transport, travel, and personal care. I make sure all of my spending falls into one of these categories. Nothing is “other”. That way I can really see month to month where the changes are and where I can adjust if needed.
Set Money Goals & Talk About Them
Honestly, just posting on my blog about my budget goals has helped me stay on track. I also talk to Adam a lot about my goals and our goals as a couple, as well as how our budgets and priorities differ. Being honest with each other has really helped us to understand each other and work together to meet the goals.
Make It A Daily Habit
This tip might sound obsessive. But I check Mint and my Bank of America account at least once a day, sometimes more frequently if I am expecting a charge to go through. By keeping my budget goals and tracking my costs every day, I stay focused on my goals and can visually see my progress. I find that by knowing how much I have spent already in a month, and how much I have left to spend in a budget category, I don’t stray from the plan. Making my budget goal a daily habit doesn’t stress me out, it makes me feel more in control.
Set No Spend Days
This is a new one for me and something I plan to better track in February. I have heard that people have a lot of success with “no spend days”. I will likely adjust this goal to not include monthly bills, as I have no control over when they process. But to go into a day knowing that it is a “no spend day”, you don’t feel tempted to go get a coffee with a coworker, or treat yourself to lunch out, or buy the on-sale sweater off Amazon. When you set a very tangible goal for yourself, you are way more likely to achieve it!
These are the tricks and tips that work for me! As we are closing out January, I have done a pretty good job sticking to my goals. I have adjusted my budgets as unexpected costs over the month came up, for example I budgeted fewer dollars to eating out so I could pay off membership dues for Junior League. With one week left, I need to keep my spending to a minimum, but I should be able to stick to my budgets and goals!
Now it is your turn:
- How do you budget?
- What is your biggest budgeting challenge?