For thousands of people across the United States, sticking to a budget is a very difficult task. Part of this reason is because there is no accountability aside from the effects of failure. It takes a great deal of dedication, willpower and persistence in order to make a home budget work. It’s all too easy to spend your own money on what you want rather than what you need.
A detailed budget can be laid out by the most professional of financial advisers. If the individual doesn’t succumb to working the plan, it may be doomed to fail. Short of signing over power of attorney, there is nothing more a person can do without the determination to succeed. As this task can be difficult for many, what are some ways that can help you succeed in maintaining a budget?
1. Realistic – When you are writing down your budget on paper, you need to have a realistic path to follow. You are the best judge of your own character and know you weaknesses – even if you don’t want to admit them. If you try to set your budget beyond what you know will work, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Once this happens, it is easy to fall into the mindset that you’re going to fail anyway and could give up.
2. Goals – Set your goals low and frequently increase them over time. If you set an achievable goal once per month, you begin to develop a confidence that you can stick to your budget. There is a sense of pride that comes with the success of a task and meeting a goal can make you feel wondrous inside. Each month, set a goal that surpasses the last. This could be anything from as small as reducing your spending on fast food to reducing the amount of money you spend on cigarettes. You could go so far as to calculating your net worth in a program like Quickbooks and working to reduce the total amount every month.
3. Pay Bills First – As soon as your paycheck is in your hand, pay your bills. This will help you from accidentally spending money you don’t have on other diversions. Get in the habit of payday being bill day and it’ll become second nature over time. Digital and debit payments work the best as checks could take several days to process. You could get into the age old game of “beat the checks” and wind up driving your bank accounts into the negative.
4. Charts and Graphs – It is one thing to see the numbers on paper, but charts and graphs could put more of a visualization to your accomplishments. Programs such as Excel and Open Office can help you develop these graphs to monitor your spending habits. This isn’t saying that you should print out a large four-foot tall display of your achievements in order to show it off to the family. However, it could be pleasing to watch as your goal of maintaining a budget for your household is being realized. There is more of an impact when showing data in a chart – which is why nearly all companies use them.
5. Daily Focus – For those who have difficulties maintaining a budget plan, you need to find a way to keep your focus on the rewards that are to follow. You need to keep your momentum to succeed. This can be done depending on what drives you. Some will play specific music first thing in the morning to help build their drive for the day. Others practice self-help techniques such as convincing themselves in the mirror that success is possible. Some may focus on providing a better life for their children. Only you can find what drives you to succeed. Once this is established, you need to exploit it at all costs. Every day needs to be a new chapter in maintaining your integrity and focus.
6. “Helpers” - Unfortunately, you may come across someone close to you who “thinks” they have the answer. They may promise you a quick fix if you follow his or her way of thinking and allow them to control your money. You need to be careful of those who wish to help. This is especially true if they are in a position that is similar or worse than your own. While they may have the best intentions, it could cause a great amount of strain on yourself – which could be detrimental to building confidence.
7. Review Every Purchase – If you need to, scrutinize every dime that comes out of your pocket. If the item isn’t within your budget’s capabilities, then you need to move on. This is regardless if the item is on sale or not. Every time you are tempted to make a purchase, ask yourself: “Do I absolutely need this item?” Cable TV and video games do not qualify as necessities in order for your survival. Once you’re in a more favorable position, then you may be able to purchase those items.
8. Improvement – Maintaining a budget is one thing, but you should always strive for improvement. This can be in the form of raises from your current career or looking elsewhere that will bring in more money. If you can’t obtain some kind of monetary improvement inside of a year, it may be time to look for work elsewhere. Of course, keep your job while you’re looking. If you current employer sees that you are actively looking for a job and perform your tasks well, he or she may increase your pay in order to keep you from leaving.
For some, maintaining a budget is quite simple. For others, it’s a difficult chore to make sure there is enough money to pay the bills. Like all things in life, your success is measured by your effort. You are the one who can make it happen.
Madoline Hatter is a freelance writer and blog junkie from ChangeOfAddressForm.com. You can reach her at: m.hatter12 @ gmail. com.