How to Avoid Budgeting BurnoutJune 21, 2021
We’ve all experienced trying to write a monthly budget and failing after a few months — and let’s be honest, possibly weeks or even days. According to a survey conducted by popular budgeting app Mint, 65% of Americans don’t know what they spent in the last month.
Trying to force yourself to stick to a budget may work for a short time, but there’s a lot more than just willpower involved when it comes to spending money. Here are some steps you can take to help you figure out how to stick to a budget.
7 Tips for Sticking to a Budget
Giving budgeting advice can be difficult because each financial situation is different. There are also other factors that come into play that don’t seem directly related to money, such as your emotions and family spending habits.
That said, as you look for ways to better stick to your budget, here are seven steps you can take.
1. Delay Large Purchases
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of making a big purchase or planning a vacation. But unless it’s something you absolutely need, consider sleeping on it. Taking at least 48 hours to mull over a large purchase can help you determine whether or not you really want to spend that money.
Think about the cost of the purchase and compare it to the potential benefits you’d enjoy. If you find that your excitement has waned over the time you’ve allotted to think about it, that’s a good sign that it might not be worth it.
2. Reduce Your Credit Card Limit
Using credit cards can be beneficial because they can help you build a credit history, and some cards also offer rewards and other perks. But if you’ve had issues with overspending in the past, consider asking your credit card company to lower your credit limit, so massive credit card debt becomes less of a threat.
That said, if you do lower your credit limit, it’s important to note that how much of your available credit that you use will impact your credit score. As a result, it’s best to avoid racking up a large balance relative to your credit limit every month.
3. Use a Zero-Sum Budget
A zero-sum budget means that your income minus your expenses equals exactly zero. The idea behind this kind of budgeting is to give every dollar a job. It involves budgeting things that you might not usually think to budget, such as saving and making additional debt payments.
With this approach, it’s easier to leverage your budget to achieve your financial goals because you’re not just hoping you’ll have money at the end of the month to save and pay down debt.
It also means that if you overspend in one category, you’ll need to take money from another category because there’s no buffer.
4. Plan Meals
For many people, grocery shopping can be a prime source of overspending. You see something and think it might be good to have in your fridge or pantry, but then it ends up going bad because you forget about it.
But if you plan your meals instead, you’ll know exactly what you need, and you have a plan for everything you purchase, so it doesn’t go bad.
Of course, for meal planning to save you money on groceries, you’ll also have to stick to your plan. Otherwise, this approach may not work well.
5. Shop for Groceries Online
Another way to reduce spending on groceries is to shop online instead of at the store. Not only can this save you time, but it can also prevent you from buying unnecessary things that seem appetizing when you see them in the store.
Many grocery stores and supermarkets offer curbside pickup at little or no extra cost. Other retailers and third-party apps will even deliver your groceries to your doorstep. The latter option is typically more expensive because it generally involves a delivery fee and tip. But even that can save you money if you’re prone to buying things that aren’t on your original shopping list.
6. Think About Spending in Terms of Your Labor
One easy way to determine if something is worth the money it costs is to think about it in terms of how long you had to work to get it.
For example, if you earn $20 per hour and you’re looking at something that costs $100, you’ll need to work at least six or seven hours to make enough money to buy it — taking taxes and other payroll deductions into account.
This approach is a good way to reframe how you view your spending habits and to decide whether you really want to make the purchase.
7. Try a No-Spend Challenge
If you’re dealing with financial stress, one solution is to cut your spending with a no-spend challenge.
Among the many tips for sticking to a budget, this one may require the most willpower to get through. No-spend challenges can last for a few days, a week, a month or even longer. The idea is that you don’t spend money on anything that isn’t a necessity, such as rent, utilities and groceries.
That means no entertainment, travel or any other spending that you don’t absolutely need to live.
A no-spend challenge isn’t a sustainable approach for many people because if you go too long living a Spartan lifestyle, you could end up splurging to compensate.
That said, a no-spend challenge can help you stick to your budget by helping you see which things you don’t miss. For example, if you pay for multiple streaming services, you may notice that you don’t use one often enough to justify re-subscribing.
The Bottom Line
Learning how to stick to a budget can be challenging, and what works for friends and family members may not work for you. As such, it’s a good idea to consider these and other tips for sticking to a budget so that you can find what works best for you, your financial situation and your goals.
As you take meaningful steps to stick to your budget, you’ll be on a better path toward obtaining financial security.