Making a monthly budget presents its own challenge, but sometimes sticking to it can prove even harder. If you’re having trouble honoring your budget, you’re probably making at least one of a few common (and correctable!) mistakes.
If your monthly spending is exceeding the budget you’ve set for yourself but you’re not sure how that’s happening, there’s a good chance you need to buckle down and start taking more thorough records of your spending. Usually, it’s the stuff we buy with cash that eludes our archives, so make sure that anything you buy with paper instead of plastic is notated in your personal record. This will give you the chance you need to make a more accurate assessment of your spending habits and figure out how you can meet your own financial goals.
Limit Your Purchases
When shopping online or at the store, it’s easy to be enticed by items you didn’t anticipate yourself needing, especially when those items are on sale. Signs screaming words like “50% OFF!” or “Buy 1, Get 1 Free!” are meant to trick us into thinking that we’re saving money by spending it. Now, this solution might seem obvious, but it’s no less essential: making a shopping list before you go to the store and promising that you will only buy what is on the list is one of the most effective ways to avoid financial booby-traps and limit your discretionary spending. And be sure not to spend any more time in the store than you need to–get what’s on your list, and then head straight to checkout. Any extra time you spend browsing could end up sinking your budget. Make sure these rules apply to shopping trips made both in person and online–it’s even easier to give into sales when they’re just a click away.
Account for Incidentals
When you made your budget, there’s a good chance you didn’t account for expenses that roll around only once a year, like holiday gifts for your family or an annual magazine subscription. While these expenses are less regular, they’re not impossible to anticipate. Try to leave some wiggle room in the discretionary spending section of your budget so that expenses like these don’t break the bank. This extra-budgetary space will also soften the blow of any purchases that might be harder to see coming, like a replacement phone or wedding gifts for your friends.
Cut the Excess (or Trim the Fat)
If your monthly expenses are consistently exceeding your income, it’s probably worth taking a long, hard look at your budget and figuring out what can go. Perhaps you’re eating out too much, or your energy bill has been high because you keep turning the AC all the way up–try and identify some of the indulgences that you can do away with and take action. This is the quickest and easiest way to make sure you’re living within your means.
Having a budget is a step in the right direction, but it only means something if its guidelines are followed. Take some time to figure out what you need and what you can do away with so that you’ll have the spending power to lead your best life–a little bit of discipline and foresight can go a long way.
If you’re looking for more clever ways to stick to your budget, we recommend checking out one of these great financial blogs. Their nuggets of everyday wisdom can help you make each dollar go a whole lot further. For a shorter read, Fabric provides a list of ten simple Money Moves that can help you seize control of your finances.