Sticking to my budget was by far the hardest part of gaining control of my finances. I was spending so much money outside of my budget that I’d end up carrying balances on my credit cards, and paying them off using next month’s paycheck. There were a few times where I took money out of my savings account to pay off the balance. I paid bar tabs, bought gifts for my loved ones, bought clothes, and even things I didn’t need at all. Then I pulled the money from my savings to pay for it all without another thought.
Not having any debt is a good thing, but I drained thousands of dollars from my savings. I don’t regret the trips I went on or that I was able to get a loved one something really amazing, but I do regret how I paid for them. The problem? I was not sticking to my budget. I was not trusting my past self, who created that budget months ago, and justifying expenses I could afford if I had just waited.
Everyone has their own reason for creating a budget. Maybe you are looking to pay off your debt sooner, or you’re looking at your credit card bill and wondering how on earth you spent that much money.
Your budget is not going to stop you from eating out one too many times, or be the one to keep you from buying that expensive dress you’ve had your eye on. You have to be the one to motivate yourself to stick to your budget.
Although you have created your budget, which is an amazing start, a budget is only a piece of paper. The hard work hasn’t even started yet. While you are trying to stick to your budget, you’ll be reminded of the temptations and driven by your old habits that led you to this point. There will be times when you’ll spend more than you budgeted for, and hopefully you’ll feel bad about it, because that’s how you learn.
I have been living on a budget since June 2015, and guess what? I overspent this month. You read that last sentence correctly. I was sitting on my couch a week ago crying because I did my best to stick to my budget and we were still over. These months are going to happen. Unexpected situations occur, and frequently bring unexpected expenses. If it was out of your control, you couldn’t help it and you don’t need to feel bad.
How am I able to stick to my budget?
I learned to say no. That’s the secret, it’s saying no. No to yourself, your spouse, your kids, maybe even friends and family. Everyone’s financial situation is different, and we’re all at different points in our lives. I am terrible about caving for family and friends, which ends with me going outside of my budget to do things for them.
One of my best friends invited me to go on a ski trip with her. I’ve never been skiing or snowboarding, and I REALLY want to go. I was so disappointed to tell her no, that I couldn’t afford the trip because we didn’t have the money go. Our money had already been budgeted (and pretty thin) towards our bills and other upcoming trips for the year. Guess what? She understood. Instead we made plans for her to come visit and have a girl’s night in later on. It was hard to say no to her, especially since I don’t get to see her often, but I knew it was the best thing for our budget and for me.
Sticking to your budget will be an extremely difficult journey. You may have to completely change your lifestyle just to stick with it. But when you reach your end goal, it will be worth it.
Check back next Friday for How to gain control of your finances: Building your savings.
What do you do to stick to your budget? Do you have a difficult time?