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Simple Tricks and Tips for Sticking to a Personal Budget

Updated on October 1, 2010

People who are concerned about personal finance (and even many people who aren’t too concerned about it) know that the first thing that you need to do to deal with your own finances is to create a personal budget. This is a multi-step process which involves taking a close look at your income and expenses, determining your financial goals (such as saving a certain amount of money each year) and then allotting a spending plan for yourself.

There are a lot of great articles out there to assist you in learning how to create a personal budget if that’s what you’re looking to do. (MSN Money has a good basic example here.) But this is not one of those articles. This article is for those people who have already tried (probably more than once) to stick to a personal budget. They’ve already done the groundwork and figured out what their budget should be. The problem is that they can never quite stick to that budget.

If you’re like me, you’ll stick to your personal budget for a month or two but then you’ll slip up. You’ll splurge on a trip or an expensive item that you don’t really need. You’ll stop keeping track of the money that’s going to things like groceries and entertainment. Your savings will start dwindling and eventually you’ll realize that you fell off track and maybe you’ll start over with a budget yet again.

Don’t worry about it; you’re not the only one who has this type of problem. The great thing is that you can always start over with saving money and sticking to a budget. And the even better news is that you can arm yourself with an arsenal of tools to assist you in keeping to that budget over time. You may not find all of these tools to be useful but the more that you use at least some of them, the more likely it is that you’ll stick to your personal budget and keep your financial goals.

So, consider these following tools to be things that you can use as needed to assist you in sticking to your personal budget:

• Make sure it’s a reasonable budget and that you’ve set reasonable financial goals. If you don’t actually believe that you can maintain your budget and reach your goals then you’re going to be inclined to stop sticking to your budget before you get too far at all.

• Learn to barter with yourself. You are inevitably going to have times when you want to break your budget. Accept that and learn to work with it. For example, let’s say that you’ve allotted $300 per month for food and $200 for entertainment. You find that you really want to splurge on concert tickets that bring your monthly total for entertainment to $250. Agree with yourself to take $50 out of the food budget and live on beans and rice for awhile. A simpler way of looking at this is when you agree to let yourself have the $5 coffee if you skip drinks with your friends later in the week. This way, you don’t feel like you’re missing out but you do keep to your budget.

• Find a good online budget tool to use. Keeping track of your budget online through an Internet tool that you really like will assist you in sticking to that budget over time. You may have to do some trial and error to find the best tools for you but it’s worth the time it takes if it helps you stick to your financial goals. You can review ten options here.

• Form a weekly money meeting. If you have a few friends that are also interested in sticking to a budget, you can hold each other accountable while having a good time. Plan to meet once a week over coffee to discuss how well you’ve stuck to your budget and trade tips on getting better at budgeting. This keeps you on task, gives you support when you’re feeling weak about spending and adds a new dimension of socializing to your life at the same time.

• Make a list of at least 100 things you enjoy doing that don’t cost any money or are very inexpensive. Keep it where you can see it. This will help remind you of all of the things that you can do without spending a lot of money. Many of us break our budgets because we get bored and that boredom causes us to waste our money. Whenever you get bored, turn to your list for ideas.

• Create an RSS feed of money saving blogs and read the posts daily. Take just five or ten minutes per day to read money-saving tips online. This will give you new ideas for sticking to your budget and will also help you to feel committed to your financial goals.

• Be open with your kids, your parents, your spouse and your friends about your plans to stick to a budget. They’ll help you stick to your goals … or you’ll at least think twice about breaking your budget because you know that they’ll notice.

• Set aside a specific day every week or two to review your budget and spending. Put it on your calendar and commit to taking the time to catch up with yourself financially.

• Make up for it when you mess up. If you can see that you’re going over budget for the month, ask yourself if there’s any way that you can get some of that money back. Do you have some books or clothes or used furniture that you can sell to get a bit of income? Can you pick up a temporary job for a few weeks to offset your expenses? This lets you keep the same amount of money going towards your goal even though you’re spending more than you intended.

• Use affirmations to remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Be clear about your goal whether it’s saving for retirement or for a vacation or for the peace of mind that comes with having money in the bank. When you feel weak about your spending, take yourself to a quiet space and focus on this goal. Say or write out affirmations like, “I am wealthy when I don’t spend money” and “I am committed to my goal of saving” so that you can regain your strength to stick to a budget.

These are just some of the tools that you might want to try in order to stick to a budget. Any other suggestions that have worked for you? 


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