If fitness resolutions are among the top five when it comes to things people plan to take on in the New Year, money resolutions are right up there with them.
Everyone wants to get out of debt, save more, give more. So, why is it that instead of controlling their money, people often feel like their money is controlling them?
There are certainly things your income can limit, like travel and where you are able to rent an apartment. However, even if you’re in debt or struggling to make ends meet, it shouldn’t feel like your money is a looming, uncontrollable monster.
That’s why you need a budget. Better yet, that’s why you actually need to STICK to your budget. Creating one is half the battle – utilizing it is the other.
Here’s three tips to help you stick to a budget and control your money:
Make. It. SIMPLE.
It never fails to amaze me that people (including myself all too often) equate complexity with effectiveness. You know what budget is the best type of budget? The one that works for YOU. Maybe plugging all the numbers and percentages into an app like Mint really seems simple to you – great.
If I try to budget in Mint, I lose control in the complexity, and I’m sure that several of you are with me. Therefore, keep it SIMPLE. Need an example? Here’s a template of the budget I use:
Amount you make from job here: $XXXX
Amount from side gig here: $XXX
Amount you plan on donating: $XXX
EXPENSES (this is where monthly, pre-planned expenses go)
Gym Membership: $XXX
Emergency Account: $XXX
Savings Account: $XXX
SPENDING + OPTIONAL EXPENSES (this where unplanned/irregular expenses go)
Birthday Present: $XXX
Concert Ticket: $XXX
Car Repair: $XXX
LEFT IN ACCOUNT AFTER BUDGET: $XXX
Keep it where you’ll use it
If you’re a pen and paper type of person, maybe your budget needs to be kept in a small notebook in your purse or written into your planner. If you’re a digital person, it probably needs to be kept on your phone. I’m a blend of the two, but for me, my budget only works if I keep it on my phone.
I made a ‘Budget’ notebook on Evernote. At the beginning of the year, I create all the budget notes for each month, and that way I can update them as the year goes on. (Wedding in July? You better believe purchasing a gift will already be part of my budget before I get anywhere close to the actual date.)
Update as you go
Finally, you can create a user friendly budget, but it’s worthless if you don’t keep it up-to-date. If you’re using a digital program like Mint it will track running totals for you. If you’re not using an automated program, you’ll need to do it yourself.
What works best for me is to enter transactions as soon (or as soon as possible) after they’re made. Stop to fill up my car? While I’m waiting for the receipt to print, I’ll be tapping into Evernote and updating the “fuel” section to show me how much I have left.
Here’s an example of how I keep running totals:
Groceries: $XXX (all spent)
Fuel: $XXX ($52 remaining)
Maybe you’ve never kept a budget because you’re afraid of it being to restrictive, or you don’t think you’re capable of tracking where your money goes. It wasn’t until I learned that my budget is a tool designed by me for my own benefit that I was able to be self-controlled enough to actually stick to it. It also helped to realize that it’s only a spending and saving PLAN – you can adjust the numbers if you need to do so.
You CAN keep a budget. You CAN bring some order to financial chaos. You CAN be the controller of your money, not the one controlled.
I believe in you. Now, get to budgeting!