It can feel impossible to stick to a budget.
That’s why I’m giving you 9 strategies that will trick you into sticking to your budget.
And in case you don’t already know… I’m a spender at heart (big time!). So, if I can use these tricks to stick to a budget, anyone can. Seriously.
So, here’s what I’m doing, and what you can do to stick to your budget, too.
1. Use Budget Spreadsheets
Your budget is only as good as your plan for your money every month. In order to plan where your money goes, use budget spreadsheets (these are the templates I use) to create your money plan every month. These are the blueprints you should use to create your monthly budget. This is how you can stay on track month after month. But they only work if you use them!
2. Take A Budgeting Course
Budgeting For Budget Haters is an online course that teaches you how to budget. The premise is that everyone hates budgeting, but it’s a necessary evil so you need to learn how to do it. There are 5 modules in the course that show you how to create an annual budget, monthly budget, and how you can actually succeed at budgeting without making it painful. The course will help you stop living paycheck to paycheck and give you a foundation for achieving your financial goals. It’s super thorough and an excellent place to start budgeting!
3. Avoid your spending triggers
Seriously avoid your spending triggers at all costs. Your spending triggers are anything that you can’t help yourself but buy if you’re around it. You know what your spending triggers are – and no one else can tell you what they are.
For me, it’s shopping (specifically clothes!). In fact, it’s best I don’t go shopping alone – ever. ☺ Whatever you can’t help yourself but spend money on, avoid it at all costs.
4. Focus on being creative instead of consuming
Instead of focusing on cutting back and not spending, focus your energy on creating. I do this by blogging. Starting a blog changed me from a spender to a creative (more on that story here). I don’t think about not spending anymore — I just don’t do it because I’m not thinking about consuming. Instead, I’m completely focused on creating on my blog. So, if you’re a spender, I highly recommend using a creative outlet — anything, including starting a blog will work. Just remember to focus on creating instead of consuming. This alone will help you stick to your budget.
5. Talk about money openly with your family and friends
Talk about money openly with your family and friends. By being open about your finances, you will be perceived as authentic, and you will feel more relief than you realize. People are generally more understanding that you may think. And if they’re not, then that’s not your problem. Letting people know what you’re going through and how your finances are affecting your choices, will help them understand you better.
I do this all the time with family and friends. By letting them know I’m on a budget and repaying my student loan debt, they are aware of my priorities and understand when I can’t do something because of money. Not only that though – people enjoy talking about their budgets with me, too. It’s amazing to hear other people’s stories and inspire each other. All through a little openness and honesty!
6. Plan a written budget before the month starts
If money is tight and you are feeling stressed, you may be tempted not to budget at all. This would be a mistake! There is comfort in knowing the facts, so you need to budget even if it seems like you know you know you’ll be over budget. By knowing exactly how much money you’re bringing in and spending, you’ll be able to focus on the gap and how you can improve next month. You won’t be able to make a change if you don’t keep track of your spending through a budget.
- Related: 21 Days to a Better Budget
7. Surround yourself with people who are budget-conscious
The best way I know how to curb spending and stay within a budget is to get myself around other budget-friendly people. Why? Because it’s a widely held belief that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So, if you are spending your time with people who are sticking to their budgets and making good financial decisions, their habits will rub off on you, and it will be easier for you to stay on your own budget. This is just science! ☺
8. Set a budget for items above your actual budget
Try setting your budget for items above what your real budget is. For example, if your grocery budget is really $500 / month, set it for $600 instead. See if this helps you spend less than the $500. It sounds weird but Rosemarie Groner swears by it!
9. Read budget books
Start reading a budgeting book. The more you focus on budgeting and making good financial choices, the more engrained it will become for you.
Three budgeting books I recommend are:
- The Recovering Spender by Lauren Gruetman
- The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and & Broke by Suze Orman
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
10. Listen to money podcasts
In addition to reading budgeting books, start listening to money podcasts. This will have the same effect as reading – it will get you in the mindset of budgeting and help you stay motivated to stick to your budget. Unlike reading a book, with podcasts, you can be doing other things, like driving. Try listening to a budgeting podcast during your commute.
There are two money podcasts I recommend:
- The Dave Ramsey Show
- Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn
11. Use cash instead of credit
Instead of charging your stuff, use cash. This is the age-old trick of helping you curb your spending by actually forcing you to see the dollars leave your hands. This one is worth trying, because if it works for you, then it will probably be worth it to stick to cash as much as possible. Everyone is different, so give it a try and see if it’s for you.
A Final Note!
Sticking to your budget can be a big challenge, especially if you’re naturally a spender (like me).
I use and recommend the following strategies to help me stay on track:
- Use budget spreadsheets
- Take a budgeting course
- Avoid your spending triggers
- Talk openly about money with family and friends
- Plan a written budget before the month starts
- Surround yourself with people who are budget-conscious
- Set a budget for items above your actual budget
- Read budget books
- Listen to money podcasts
- Use cash instead of credit
A common theme in this list is getting you to focus on your budget. By surrounding yourself with like-minded people, planning ahead, avoiding the bad stuff, and diving into some good reading or podcasts, you will find yourself sticking to your budget through your habits.
If I can do it, you can, too!