Money is a layered and complex topic. We need support and a safe place to successfully navigate its various elements. Budgeting is one of those things that bode well when there’s insight, reflection, customization, and cheers along the way.
Developing a budgeting process that is in alignment with the motivations, values, goals and plans of each individual is paramount. If you are wondering, “why can’t I stick to a budget” - you are not alone. Finding the right support and having an accountability partner are some key ingredients that will help you stick to your budget. So let’s get introduced to some life-altering hacks and processes on how to make a budget and stick to it!
If the question is - To be or not to be on a budget? The answer is certainly “yes”! To be on a budget first means creating one. Budgeting is essential to help you explore what happens to your money overtime and shows how to bring your goals to fruition. We sometimes neglect the process of budgeting and instead rely on our internal system of mental math to account for our income and expenses. At other times, we create a budget but find it difficult to stay on budget. There’s a process and pattern to stay on a budget.
To set a budget, begins with an awareness of what your numbers are.
You will need to have some key information to create a budget and help account for your financial activities. To make a budget also means defining your life goals and putting plans in place to achieve them. Here is a simple process to make a budget.
Where does your money come from?
Your budget is fueled by your income. Income may come from an employer, self-employment, government benefits, etc. Are you paid weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly, etc? How many pay periods is that per year? Armed with this information, you can now move to the second part to make a budget.
Where does your money go?
Account for where to do this by tracking your expenses. What happens in our past can affect our present life and future. So you will need to write down where your past income has gone. Match each spending activity with an expense category to understand what goes where each month.
What are your expenses?
Think of the where, when and how you are required to use money and list your expenses. Include fixed expenses that occur on a predictable pattern and the ones that are variable or shift. Account for your debt payments as well.
Create your budget with your goals in mind
Congratulations on those beginning steps to help you set a budget! You have noted what comes in, what goes out, and understand where it all goes. Keep observing each of these areas. Ask these questions; How much of your income goes to bills and expenses? What’s left over? Are there bills and expenses that you would like to reduce or eliminate? How can you increase your savings and meet your other goals? What else do you notice? These are all crucial elements to create a budget.
Budgeting can help you sort out parts of your money mystery. It can lead you towards solutions and solving your budget frustrations. Whether you have a surplus every month, or are barely breaking even or even have a deficit - it is important to know how to stick to a budget.
1. Find inspiration: Some tasks and errands in life may require a bit more inspiration than others. If you find yourself uninspired to deal with your money situation, you may need to tap into both internal and external support. First, know that it is ok to experience such feelings. Think of old and new places to find inspiration. What can you do to help ground yourself to the financial task ahead and eliminate some of the background noise you may be experiencing? What will keep you anchored to your goals and dreams? What values are most important to you as you step inside of your financial reality and take action? Think of what motivates you, what gives you that second wind and how to access it. After you have identified some inspirational resources, put them to work so that you can get to work on your budget. This is your beginning framework for how to keep a budget.
2. Set An Intention. Now that you have identified what inspires you and the internal and external factors that help support your inspiration, you can focus on an intention next. An intention is what you intend to do or bring about. What is your intention for your budget? You can keep this simple; “I want to understand where my money is going and create a short and long term plan on how to best use it”. Write out the intentions that come to mind for your budget. It is a key strategy as you find ways to stay on budget.
3. Take Action: Begin the physical process. This is where the physical part of making a budget comes into play. You’ve done the heavy lifting of sorting through inspiration, intentions and feelings. Now it’s time to fiure out how to keep a budget. It is important to keep doing the mental exercise of getting your budget out of your head and onto paper/screen. One by one, flush out your sources of income and their frequency. Income fluctuations can cause budget upsets so it is important to have a baseline level of income that you can build your budget from. History often repeats itself, your budget is no different.
4. Categorize income and expenses: You can use a budget tool to help break down this process. The Ideal Budget can be a guide for matching your income and expenses by category. You can create averages for expenses that can fluctuate but your goal should be to try and stabilize your expenses as much as possible. As an example; paying a set amount for your electric bill through the year can help with the wild swings that can happen as the seasons change. Accounting for your income and expenses is the best way to stay on a budget
5. Be ready for periodical expenses: These are the irregular expenses that occur; insurance premiums, taxes, vehicle maintenance, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, summer activities, travel, etc. They can create budget havoc if not included in your primary budget plan outline. Account for these expenses by coming up with an annual number, then divide that by twelve to determine the monthly expense you should add to your budget. Accounting for periodic expenses is one of the best ways to stay on a budget.
6. Identify savings opportunities and prioritize them: Create a sense of urgency for saving money and make it fun. Simple strategies such as naming your accounts to align with your goals and plans can create the mental shift needed to make savings a priority. A vacation fund could be renamed “My once in a lifetime opportunity to visit Italy” fund. An emergency fund could be renamed “My financial peace and security fund”. This can help make savings feel less burdensome and more in alignment with the values you wrote down earlier.
7. Nix expenses where you can: Identify any frivolous spending in your transaction history. These must be areas that you can part with. As you add them up and come up with a total, determine what that amount could be used for in the future.
8. Have a new money rule: As pay increases, bonuses, monetary gifts from others are received - create an upfront rule about how that will be handled. A split 50/50 between spending and saving, a 50/30/20 split between wants, needs and savings and so on. New money will evaporate if a plan on how to handle it is not considered and put in place.
9. Have a plan in place for spending leaks. Online shopping accounts that store your payment history and offer one click transaction options make it easy to overspend. Consider deleting a saved credit card from your account to create an additional barrier to completing an online transaction. Using a pre-paid card will require that you have the funds available in your account for the transaction to be successful.
11. Have allies and accountability partners. Identify an encourager in your life. If you budget with a spouse or partner, help them understand what your goals are.
This journey of determining how to stick to a budget will be different for everyone. As no two people are exactly alike, no budget will be alike. However, employing a framework that aligns with your values, goals and builds on your strengths will help shuffle you to a place of better financial security and stability.