Whether you need to do a reevaluation of your finances in the face of new obstacles or you’re just looking to get rid of unnecessary and excessive spending, actually coming to the decision that you need a budget is only half the job. The rest of the work deals with creating a reasonable budget that you can actually stick to.
I’m not even sure how many times in my life I’ve put myself on a budget only to completely ignore it after a few weeks. Luckily, I’ve grown out of the habit. Partly due to the maturity that comes with being responsible for another life, and partly because I learned how to make budgets that are realistic and as close to foolproof as possible. In theory, these tips are super simple but they take a lot of determination to follow through with, which makes them perfect for budget planning.
1. Have An Understanding Of Why You’re Budgeting
People decide to budget for tons of different reasons. Maybe you’re adjusting to life as a one income household, maybe you’re trying to get out of debt, maybe you’re just saving up an awesome summer vacation. Whatever your reasons are, it is important to fully understand them.
You should create an endgame for yourself and your budget, a goal that you can work towards. Having reasons that are more tangible than just simply wanting to save a bit of money will make your plan a thousand times easier to stick to.
2. Figure Out How Much You Make
You can’t create a budget if you don’t know how much money you have to budget with in the first place. Figuring out how much money you make takes a lot more than just knowing your salary. You need to know how much cash you bring in with each one of your paychecks or, on average, how much you make a week/month.
This information will be the basis by which you create your budget. Having an accurate understanding of your personal cash flow will let you know how much money you need to save to meet whatever goals you have.
3. Keep A Close Watch On Your Spending Habits
The same way you can’t create a budget without knowing how much you make, you can’t stick to one without knowing how much money you spend. Your spending habits aren’t just restricted to how much money you spend at the mall or out to dinner. They include your monthly bills, savings, and recreational buys as well.
Take some time before you actually put your budget together and keep a close eye on your buying habits. Spend money as you normally would, then, when you’ve collected enough information figure out which areas need to be trimmed or cut altogether. This could mean finding ways to spend on groceries, staying away from your favorite online stores, or spending more nights in instead of eating out. If you have a good grasp on what areas you need to improve, your budget planning is already looking up.
4. Be As Realistic As Possible
No matter how great a plan is, especially one that involves saving your money, you’re bound to have a few slip-ups. That’s okay, though, you don’t have to be ashamed of a normal human being. While the tightness of your budget definitely depends on your own circumstances, you should try your hardest to give yourself a little wiggle room. For some people, that means a little cash set aside for takeout and a nice bottle of wine, and for others that means a whole new recreation budget within the one they already have.
It is important not to stretch yourself too thin. Mistakes and disasters happen often, so try not to feel too discouraged if you need to go over budget to buy new tires for the car. However small, give yourself a safety net, and don’t be afraid to use it if necessary.
5. Review Your Budget Frequently
The more your life changes, the more your budget needs to adjust to those changes. If you get a promotion at work with higher pay or you add a new baby to the family, your budget should definitely come under review. As your family grows in different ways, your needs, spending habits, and goals may change shape. This means that the old budget plan may not be of much use to you anymore.
Even if you aren’t going through any particularly large changes, reviewing your budget once every six months or so is a great way to stay on track, keep control of your finance, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.