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8 Tips To Help You Stick To Your Budget

Written by
Andrew Tavin, CFEI
Andrew Tavin is a personal finance writer who covered budgeting with expertise in building credit and saving for OppU. His work has been cited by Wikipedia, Crunchbase, and Hacker News, and he is a Certified Financial Education Instructor through the National Financial Educators Council.
Read time: 4 min
Updated on July 27, 2023
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Creating a budget is one thing, but actually sticking to that budget is another thing entirely. Here's what you need to do!

We’ve been writing quite a few articles to help you make a budget for the new year. We've been doing this because budgets are an incredibly important tool to get your finances in order.

But, as we’re also fond of saying, a budget is no good if you don’t stick to it. Hence these tips to help you actually keep to the budget you’ve made. Read on, and learn how you can commit and put a ring on the budget you’ve chosen.

1. Create your budget in advance.

While this may seem obvious, making a budget as you go along isn’t that much better than making no budget at all. It’s good to have some flexibility so you can adjust if any surprises come up, but if it’s too flexible then you won’t really have anything to keep to.

“Complete the budget before the month begins, in agreement with your spouse, and make it specific for what’s happening in the upcoming month,” advised money coach Beverly Miller.  “Make a plan for every dollar, including ‘blow money’ and ‘miscellaneous.’”

2. Keep it realistic.

You can’t stick to a budget that you literally can not keep. Ambition is good, but not if it leads to worse results.

“When making a budget it's important to set realistic goals,”, advised Money Elevation Coach Roslyn Lash. “For example, if your goal is to save $600 in six months, it would be unrealistic to expect to contribute $100 monthly to a savings fund if you only have $75 in discretionary income. In this case, a more realistic goal would be to save $75 for six months for a total of $450.”

3. Work on your cooking.

While making your own food is more time-consuming and rarely as fun as eating out, it also gets pricey very quickly.

“Whether you’re single or have a family, cooking and eating at home is probably going to be better for your wallet,” advises insurance advisor Willie Anderson in a blog post he shared with us. “No one could deny that eating out can be expensive, and the cost can quickly add up. Prep meals ahead of time and pack your lunches and snacks.”

You could also try batch cooking and meal planning for extra convenience and savings.

4. Consider dropping the gym.

It’s important to keep your body and your budget fit. But one doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other.

“Exercise at home,” recommended Danielle Kunkle Roberts, co-founder of Boomer Benefits. “Dropping your $50/month gym membership and going for a walk or run at home is an easy way to free up $600/year in your budget. If you are a senior on Medicare, you can also look into $0 premium Medicare Advantage plans that offer free gym memberships like SilverSneakers or Silver and Fit.”

5. Let the robots handle it.

Technology can be very helpful when it comes to keeping to your budget. Aside from the many apps that can help you craft and keep to your budget, automating your savings will help you stick to them.

“It can be easy to forget to manually move money around from your accounts," said Holly Peterson, owner of Elite Retirement Strategies. "But if you automate retirement contributions or other savings, you won’t have to think twice about it. If the money is directed into these accounts from your paychecks, you might not even miss it.”

6. Keep the credit card in your wallet.

While proper credit card use can be vital to building up your credit score, reckless credit card use can be fatal to maintaining a proper budget.

“Minimize credit card usage,” advised Lash. “Studies show that people spend up to 100% more money when using their credit cards. Psychologically, we think that we're not using ‘real’ money when we swipe a card. However, we know that's not true when we receive the monthly statement. Therefore, you should leave the card at home!”

7. Factor in some little joys.

Budgets aren’t particularly fun, but if they’re without any fun at all, they’ll be even more difficult to keep to.

“Celebrate the small things,” Peterson told us. “All saving and no spending can make anyone grumpy, and if you’re building responsible spending habits, you’ll still need to be able to have fun now and again.

"Budget for the small victories, like treating yourself to a reasonably priced gift after completing a goal like paying off a loan or reaching a milestone in your retirement savings account.

"If you’ve been using your credit card responsibly, your treat can be spending your reward points on something you’ve had your eye on.”

8. Be sure to check in.

Remember how we said earlier that it’s good to have some flexibility? That’s why it’s important to regularly check in on your budget so you can make adjustments if need be.

Robert Morlot, managing partner of Clearwater Business Advisers, gave us advice on business budgets, but it also applies to personal budgeting:

“Managing a budget is not a once a year exercise. If you’re waiting for the end of the year or quarter to look at budget details, you’ve lost the opportunity to change course and make improvements that can affect your results. Expense management should include a monthly review detailing actual versus budget results."

Stick these tips in your belt and you’ll have most of the tools you need to be a budget hero. Time to go and save the financial day!

Article contributors
Willie Anderson

Willie Anderson is a private client insurance and financial advisor helping families to be prepared financially for all walks of life, be it college planning, estate building, protecting their homes, and retirement planning. He believes nothing beats helping families maintain a sense of security and protection.

Roslyn Lash (@CoachRosLash), the Money Elevation Coach, is an Accredited Financial Counselor®, Real Estate Investor, and the Author of The 7 Fruits of Budgeting. She works virtually with single women helping them to gain clarity around their finances, reduce debt, and increase their net worth so that they can live a more abundant life. Her advice has been featured in national publications such as USA Today, Forbes, TIME, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, and a host of other media outlets.

Beverly Miller

Beverly Miller (@moneycoachbev) is a personal finance coach in the Pittsburgh, PA area.  As a Ramsey Preferred Coach, she has completed Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coach Training, and has been helping couples and individuals since 2011 to learn how to budget, get out of debt, save and invest for the future, and give generously. She and her husband have lived by the principles she teaches for many decades and are living proof that they do indeed work.

Robert Morlot

Robert Morlot is an experienced operating executive with significant management consulting and market development experience across multiple business environments – large company, boutique, start-up, and turn around. During his career he has held individual contributor and senior leadership roles in several large consulting firms amassing a consistent track record of building businesses and teams, and exceeding financial targets. He is the Managing Partner ofClearwater Business Advisers LLC. The firm helps senior leaders of early stage and mid-market companies build (or recover) operating performance by providing deep expertise in finance, corporate governance, sales, organization effectiveness and talent management.

Holly Peterson

Holly Peterson is the owner of Elite Retirement Strategies in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Danielle Roberts

Danielle K. Roberts is a founding partner and senior executive at Boomer Benefits (@BoomerBenefits), a national agency specializing in Medicare-related insurance products since 2005. Serving thousands of Medigap policyholders in 47 states, Boomer Benefits helps baby boomers learn the ropes regarding Medicare.

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