How To Create A Budget That Works For You
Looking for a new way to budget? There are tons of how-to articles online, and just as many apps available on your phone’s app store. Budgeting does not have to be difficult, dull, or dramatic; you no longer have to cry over your coffee bill, or that extra trip to the movies. In this day and age, budgeting is as modern (or archaic) as you want it to be, so let’s get started and see how you can create the budget that works best for you.
1. Make it realistic.
A budget is only good if it actually works with (and for) your lifestyle. So trying to make your finances fit around a specific template, even if that template looks really good on paper, is just not going to work. Student loans, car payments, medical bills; some of us have some tricky finances to budget around. And some of us have habits we just can’t kick, like that daily latte or the expensive ballet barre class we just can’t miss. So instead of setting lofty savings goals, try figuring out where you spend the most money, and seeing how you can make your budget work around your goals.
2. Make it personal.
Again, a budget will only work for you if you make it your own. Templates are a great start, but if you are trying to stick to some arbitrary goal for spending – like only buying $25 worth of coffee a month with a Starbucks addiction – it just won’t happen for you. And failing in any area of your budget regularly won’t make you want to stick to the plan, either. Instead, work around your needs and wants, and make your budget something to strive for; it has to be personal, not perfect.
3. Make it something you want to stick to.
There should always be some gold at the end of the rainbow. Maybe your budget includes some savings for your next vacation. Or an upgrade to your home. Maybe your budget allows for your caffeine fix, or your blockbuster habit. Maybe your budget changes depending on what you have planned for the month. Regardless, when you make your budget realistic and personal, remember to work in a reward somewhere too. “No pain no gain” should not be the motto for your budget.
4. Make it feel good.
Not only should you try and work a reward into your budget, you should also make the process rewarding, too. If it feels like homework, or too much work, you aren’t likely to keep up with it. Make the process feel as good (or as painless) as the budget itself. Seeing your savings account rack up is a good way to reward yourself for sticking with the plan. So however you are tracking your budget, make sure you can see the benefits stacking up, whether that’s a vacation fund or more dollars in your bank account (or shoes, those work too).
5. Make yourself accountable.
So many budgets fail because we don’t keep ourselves accountable. In reality, we know that setting some spending limits here and there (or everywhere) will be good for our bank account, but in practice? It’s so easy to forget the budget and swipe that card. So find a way to make yourself accountable. Whether it’s telling your partner that you’ve created a budget (and asking them to hold you to it), or setting notifications on your phone that alert you to spending or budget goals, it’s important that you not only make the budget but you stick to it too.
6. Make it easy to follow.
I have a friend who uses spreadsheets (yes, multiple) to help her work out her monthly budget. If you’re sharing with a partner, you could use Google Docs (they also have a spreadsheet format). There are also so many apps that help you budget these days. Most ask you to link your credit and bank cards so they can check your spending against whatever you’ve plotted out, which can be handy if you want real-time notifications. Other apps allow you to pull money out of your account on a regular basis and send it straight into a savings account, so you don’t have to monitor money yourself or try and figure out how much you should shave off your check month-to-month. Knowing that whatever happens, you have a lump sum coming out of your account on a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly basis, whether you like it or not, is a really good incentive for behaving when it comes to spending.