Most people know that they need to stick to a budget in order to stay out of debt, save money, and achieve other financial goals. But actually doing it is another story.
Sticking to a budget can be difficult, especially if you’re used to spending without thinking about it.
Here are 25 super easy tips for how to stick to a budget.
1. Make a budget that reflects your priorities
The most important thing when it comes to creating a budget you can keep is to make sure it reflects your priorities.
What’s important to you? What do you want to spend your money on?
Your budget should be based on your values, not what someone else thinks is important.
If you love to travel, you’ll probably want to allocate more of your budget to travel expenses.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to pay off debt, you may want to make debt repayment a priority.
Sticking to your budget will be a lot easier if it reflects your values.
2. Set realistic goals
Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. If your budget is too restrictive, you’re not going to be able to stick to it.
For example, if you’re currently spending $500 per month on entertainment, it’s not realistic to cut that down to $0 overnight.
Set a more realistic goal if you want to give yourself a chance to reach it.
In this example, you could shoot to reduce your spending by a couple of hundred dollars. Setting a more realistic goal will help you stick to your budget.
3. Automate your finances
One of the best ways to stick to your budget is to automate your finances as much as possible.
Set up automatic payments for your bills and have your paycheck deposited directly into your savings or checking account.
This way, you’ll never have to think about whether or not you’ve paid a bill on time or if you have enough money in your account to cover a purchase.
You can also make budgeting easier by setting up automatic deposits into your savings categories like your emergency fund and sinking funds.
4. Track your spending
If you’re not tracking your spending, it’s going to be tough to stick to a budget.
You need to know where your money is going in order to make informed decisions about where to cut back.
There are a number of ways to track your spending, including using personal finance software, creating a budget spreadsheet, or simply writing everything down in a notebook.
5. Make adjustments as needed
No budget is perfect, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget.
And just because you write something down doesn’t mean you can’t change it.
Learning to pivot and make adjustments to your budget as your situation changes is imperative.
Whether you have income changes, expense changes, or maybe your priorities have simply changed, you’ll want to adjust your budget accordingly.
6. Be flexible
Flexibility is key when it comes to sticking to a budget.
Life happens, and there will be times when you have to spend money that you hadn’t planned on.
When this happens, don’t beat yourself up. Just tweak your budget where you can so that you can still stay on track.
7. Have a plan for when you go over budget
The best way to deal with overspending is to actually plan for it.
Instead of relying on your credit card and adding to your debt, commit to cutting back on other expenses until you can get back on track.
If you have a habit of overspending, consider creating a separate budget category that can help you build a buffer for those occasions.
Or, if you overspend consistently in a specific area, try a cash diet for those expenses and eliminate the problem entirely.
8. Stick to cash
If you’re struggling to stick to your budget, one of the best things you can do is switch to using cash.
When you use cash, you’re much more aware of your spending because you can see exactly how much money you have.
Plus, it’s harder to overspend when you’re using cash because once the money is gone, it’s gone.
9. Give yourself some fun money
If you’re too restrictive with your budget, you’re not going to be able to stick to it.
Make sure to give yourself permission to splurge a little by setting aside a small amount of money each month for fun expenses.
This way, you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your budget.
10. Start an emergency fund for unexpected expenses
Even if you’re being flexible, it’s still a good idea to have a plan for unexpected expenses.
Set aside some money each month in an emergency fund so that you’ll be prepared when unexpected costs come up.
11. Budget your true expenses with sinking funds
When you first start crafting your budget, you’re likely going to focus on the immediate and monthly recurring expenses.
But don’t forget about the less frequent expenses that often catch you by surprise.
Annual renewals, quarterly bills, holidays, and birthdays are all examples of true expenses that you might forget to budget for.
By setting up sinking funds and gradually saving for these expenses throughout the year, you can avoid being caught off guard and going into debt.
12. Avoid impulsive spending triggers
We all have triggers that lead to impulsive spending.
It could be something as innocuous as seeing a sale sign or getting a coupon in the mail.
Whatever your triggers are, try to avoid them.
Unsubscribe from emails from your favorite stores and delete any useless apps that tempt you to make purchases you don’t need.
13. Give yourself some wiggle room
No matter how well you stick to your budget, there will still be times when you overspend.
When this happens, don’t give up on your budget entirely.
Just adjust your budget for the next month so that you have a little bit of wiggle room.
Whether you add a little extra to the budget categories you tend to overspend in or create a new category specifically designed for overages, setting aside a little extra will help you stay on track in the long run.
14. Dealing with credit cards in your budget
If you have credit card debt, you’re not alone. In fact, the average American household has over $6,000 in credit card debt.
If you’re trying to get out of debt, it’s important to include your credit cards in your budget.
Here are a few tips for dealing with credit cards in your budget:
Pay off your credit card debt
The first step to dealing with credit cards in your budget is to pay off your debts.
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to make a plan for how you’re going to do it.
Whether you want to focus on paying off the card with the highest interest rate first or the card with the smallest balance, make sure you have a method for attacking your debt.
Don’t close unused credit cards
It may seem like a good idea to close your unused credit cards to avoid temptation, but it can actually hurt your credit score.
Instead of closing the account, just cut up the card and put it away, so you’re not tempted to use it.
Limit your credit card use
If you’re trying to get out of debt, it’s important to limit your credit card use.
One way to do this is only to use your credit cards for necessary expenses.
Another way to limit your credit card use is only to charge what you can afford to pay off immediately.
Make a budget for your credit card expenses
Include your credit card payments in your monthly budget so you know exactly how much you need to pay.
This will help you stay on track and avoid going into further debt.
The key to success with credit cards is discipline.
If you’re not disciplined, it’s easy to overspend and end up in debt.
But if you’re diligent about sticking to your budget and only using your credit cards for necessary expenses, you can successfully take advantage of credit cards and still get out of debt.
15. Keep it
Don’t make your budget so complicated that you can’t stick to it.
The simpler your budget is, the easier it will be to follow.
16. Get everyone on board
If you’re married or have a partner, it’s important to get them on board with your budget.
You’ll be much more likely to stick to your budget if you’re both working towards the same financial goals.
17. Find an accountability partner
If you find it difficult to stick to your budget on your own, consider finding an accountability partner.
This could be a friend, family member, or financial coach who you check in with on a regular basis.
Your accountability partner can help you stay on track and make adjustments to your budget as needed.
18. Use technology to your advantage
There are a number of budgeting apps and software programs that can make it easier to stick to a budget.
These tools can help you track your spending, set up a budget, and find areas where you can save money.
19. Reward yourself
When you reach your financial goals, make sure to reward yourself.
This will help you stay motivated to stick to your budget and continue working towards your goals.
Remember, the goal is not to deprive yourself but to make smart financial decisions that will help you reach your long-term goals.
20. Find ways to save money
If you’re struggling to stick to your budget, try to find ways to save money.
Look for ways to cut costs on your regular expenses, such as by negotiating with your cable company or switching to a cheaper cell phone plan.
You can also save money by making changes in your lifestyle, such as eating out less often or cutting back on shopping.
21. Set reminders
Have you ever signed up for a free trial and forgot to cancel it? Or forgotten to pay a bill because it got lost in your inbox?
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably experienced both of these situations.
To avoid them in the future, set up reminders for yourself.
You can set up reminders on your phone, computer, or even in a physical planner to make sure you don’t get hit with unexpected expenses or late fees.
22. Get organized
To be truly successful with your budget, you need to be at least somewhat organized.
Create a system or find an app that will make it easier to set up your budget, track your spending, and reach your financial goals.
23. Make it a habit
A lot of people approach budgeting as a once-a-month chore, but making a habit of checking in with your budget more frequently will help you stick to it.
One of the best budget habits you can start is to check your budget before you spend.
You may not always have enough money in the categories you need, but instead of spending first and trying to figure things out later, find the money first.
Look through your other budget categories and see where you can re-assign dollars to match your new priorities.
24. Experiment to find what works for you
There’s no perfect budget method for everyone.
If you find that you’re struggling to stick to your budget, try something else.
Experiment until you find a system that works for you.
25. Get support and guidance with financial coaching
If you’re struggling to stick to a budget, it might be time to ask for help.
A financial coach can help you figure out where you’re spending too much money and how to make adjustments to your budget.
If you’re struggling to stick to your budget, there are a number of things you can do to make the process easier.
Try to be patient and don’t give up on your budget.
With a little time and effort, you can learn how to stick to a budget and achieve your financial goals.