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7 Tips for sticking to a Budget

You’ve changed your mindset, identified your income and expenses, and prepared a budget plan. You’ve enlisted your family’s help, and even started an emergency fund. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t stick to your budget. Sound familiar? Well, you’re not alone. Many people struggle, give up when they’ve had a few bad days, and get discouraged when they don’t see results quickly enough. But budgeting is about a lot more than just fixing your financial problems. The power of budgeting lies in the hope and possibility it gives your future, and it’s worth sticking to for that reason.

While making a budget work requires a lot of consistency and determination, there are guidelines that can help you stick to budgeting, and successfully build the life you want through it. Some useful tips include:

Change what you call it. For many people, the word budget evokes the same negative response that the word diet does – along with a sense of deprivation and suffering. By referring to your budget as a spending plan instead, you will start seeing it as being more positive than a budget in some subtle but significant ways.

Focus on your goals. When you set a positive outcome – something that you really want to achieve – it becomes the motivation for creating and sticking to a spending plan, and gaining control over your finances. When budgeting gets tough, just picture yourself achieving that goal, and it should be enough motivation to keep going.

Create a flexible budget. People often struggle to stick to a budget when they earn an irregular income or have a lot of variable expenses. But it is both possible and important to have a flexible budget that will give you a stable base to work from. It will give you confidence to make better financial decisions for your life, and ensure that you have money to pay your bills every month – not just in the income-earning ones.

Get on the same page as your partner. For some people, not being able to maintain a budget has a lot to do with the attitude of their spouse or partner. If you are trying to get control of your finances, you should be able to rely on your partner to encourage and support you. And if you share expenses with a spouse, it’s critical for both of you to share similar financial goals, to be on the same financial page with the budget and to help keep each other on track.

Set realistic goals. We cannot emphasise enough how important setting realistic goals is, and how it will affect good spending decisions. Yet, one common reason for people not sticking to their budgets, is because their big, inspiring goals are too big and inspiring to be achievable. SMART financial goals always make a budget work best – they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Be consistent. Another common reason people find their budgets run away from them, is because they are not consistent with tracking expenses as soon as they make a purchase or pay a bill. Logging your expenses every day and keeping track of your daily spending, will give you immediate control of your budget again, and put you back on the right path.

Reward yourself! Science proves how rewards for achieving even small goals triggers the release of dopamine in your brain, which then encourages more of the same behaviour. So reward yourself and it will help you stick to your budget – but without overspending and derailing it. Ensure that your rewards are small and measurable, but still make you happy.

While sticking to a budget can be difficult and challenging, by setting realistic goals, following the right steps, adopting the right mindset and approaching your budget with discipline and consistency, you will be on the way to building the financial life you have always envisioned. Watch our video, with tools and tips on budgets or contact one of our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS.

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