So, you’ve planned a monthly budget based on your income and expenses—that’s awesome! But creating a budget is really only the beginning. Now comes the really hard part: sticking to that monthly budget.
If you don’t, you could spend more money than you earn (leaving you with a big credit card bill) or fail to meet savings goals (guess you won’t get that new car after all). Fortunately, you can stay on track using a few helpful and easy strategies. Check them out:
1. Record Your Spending
If you know how much money you have and how much you spend, you’re less likely to overdraft. The budgeting process showed you how much you make each month, so just be sure you don’t spend more than that.
Write down the dollar amount you pay when you send money for rent and utility checks, go grocery shopping or get drinks with friends. Keep a running total so you know where you’re at for the month.
Don’t just rely on your online banking balance to tell you how much money you have—sometimes payments don’t go through right away and you may not have as much money as you think. Additionally, writing things down makes your money-handling process hands-on and keeps you involved in your finances.
2. Set Spending Limits
If you want to save money (who doesn’t?), you have to set limits on how much you spend. You should have done this in your monthly budget planning session, but it’s always smart to reevaluate your spending.
For example, are groceries proving to cost more than you initially thought? If so, you’ll have to increase your budget for food and limit spending elsewhere (say, in your manicure pot). You can keep track by deciding to cap your dining out budget at $100 a month, for instance, or limit entertainment (such as movies, plays, etc.) to $50 a month.
Really, limiting spending comes down to priorities. If you’d rather spend money on clothing than going to restaurants, give that category more money.
3. Use Automatic Features
Many banks now offer their customers automatic options, such as deposits. You can set up your account to pay bills and transfer money into a savings account all on its own. These features are super helpful, especially if you have a hard time remembering to move your money around. You won’t be late on your bill payments and you’ll always put money away for the future.
4. Stay Disciplined
Sometimes you just want to blow the whole budget to shop with your friends, buy that new phone or avoid cooking for a bit, but doing so will throw you off for months to come. Be disciplined and uphold your budget as best you can.
If you don’t have the money to get drinks, invite your friends over for a low-key wine night. You can still have fun without blowing your money management plans.