First of all, I think it’s really important to have a family or personal budget so that you know where your money is coming from and where it is going. However, once you create a budget, you also have to make a point to stick with it!
Maybe your budget is nicely outlined and detailed but sits unused on your computer or in your desk drawer. It’s time to bust it out of its hiding spot, dust it off, and put it to work for you and the whole family!
Formulating a budget can be a challenge, but once you have it done, it doesn’t do any good unless you stick with it. Of course, sometimes you do need to compromise, and your budget does need to be somewhat flexible.
You can periodically tweak and adjust your budget as your situation and seasons of life change because there is an ebb and flow to life so your budget should reflect that.
Here are some creative and even fun tips for sticking with your budget.
1. Review your budget regularly
Maybe your budget hasn’t been working out because it isn’t fitting your needs. Take a fresh look at your budget and ask some of the following questions:
Is it too detailed? You might find it exhausting trying to keep a budget that has dozens of categories.
Is it too simple? If your budget is too general, you may have let it slide because there just weren’t enough details to get a true grasp on your finances.
Does your budget include alternatives? If your family is not the creative type, you may have had trouble coming up with alternatives to the budget cutbacks. For instance, if your budget revealed that you needed to cut back on eating out, and you didn’t have an alternative plan for what you were going to do instead of eating out, you might have slipped up and deviated from your budget. For some people, this is natural; others need to write in alternatives.
Are you realistic about your income? A budget may fail if your income section is more about goals and ideals than reality. Also, if your expenses are larger than your income, you will need to reduce the expenses or increase the income.
There are many ways to do this, and it may not be easy, but when you find a solution that swings the pendulum the other way you will likely find sticking to the budget quite rewarding.
Are there rewards? A budget should have some rewards worked into it – a vacation, a movie out, or a new pair of shoes. It doesn’t even have to be reward that means spending money. You can take a time off to go for a countryside walk or visit your favourite part of your town or do something different that you don’t normally do. It will feel special and a true reward, whether it’s bought with money or not.
2. Track your daily spending
This is absolutely non-negotiable! The only way you are going to know that you are on track with your budget is if you track every purchase you made. Even the smallest one!
By putting down all your daily expenses, you’ll soon identify if you are spending on something that you don’t need to or actually underspending and you are on track. There is no point waiting until the end of the month and then look at your bank statements in disbelieve!
3. Include Fun Alternatives
As I mentioned above, having alternatives to fill the void created by cutbacks is helpful to stick to your budget. Here are some ideas.
* Instead of eating lunch out, pack a picnic lunch and some healthy budget friendly snacks.
* If you fancy trying something completely new with food, you can try forage for wild food. It won’t replace your weekly supermarket shop, but it’s a lovely way to add fresh fruit, herbs and mushrooms to your diet. It might save you few pennies, but more importantly, it will get you out of the house with a purpose (and you save money on attractions or entrance fees if you suggest this as an alternative to a weekend family outing).
* Staying home for dinner or an afternoon tea can be as great as going out to a restaurant. Buy your favourite foods, treat yourself to a nice bottle of wine and pick a recipe that you are comfortable making. Get everyone to help with the preparation.
* Cutting back by getting rid of tv subscription channels and cable tv need not be too painful – high-speed internet access is generally a whole lot cheaper than cable television, and the family can have fun gathering around the computer for movie night online.
* Instead of going to the movies, make your own. Have a family make-a-movie night and put on plays, puppet shows, or what-have-you. Capture the fun using your digital camera or webcam.
* Look up how to make your own skin cleansers, handmade soap, household cleaners, and even shampoo online. Learn how you can make these things for pennies, saving by shunning store-bought versions and having fun in the process.
I’ve been making my own soap for a while and it’s great to be able to make my own fragrances. You can find our how to get started with soap making and my favourite soap recipes on my blog.
Sometimes, just getting creative and customizing your budget to fit your family can go a long way toward encouraging everyone to stick with it.
4. Plan ahead
It sounds obvious, but if you buy only what you need (and have allocated money for) you will keep on track. Before you go shopping, write a list of what you really need, crossing out what’s not necessary or luxury. Then stick to your shopping list.
5. Do your food shopping online
I don’t know about you, but every time I go to supermarket I always end up with something that I didn’t plan to buy. It might be a small thing, but over the month, I’m sure it adds up.
By doing your shopping online, you are taking away the impulse buying, because you have to first find the product, click on it and ad it to your basket. Your basket will automatically update, so that you can see your total spend the second you add something in. This usually prevents me from getting random stuff, that’s on offer, reduced or wasn’t on my list.