Most adults tend to learn their good or bad savings/spending habits by observing their parents, friends or from their own childhood experiences. As a result, these experiences often dictate how they will either emotionally, or strategically, manage their own relationship with money. Will they be confident, fearful, frugal or thrifty?
When one has an unhealthy emotional relationship with money, budgeting for their savings and spending can often feel like going to the Dentist or the Gym; NOT FUN! If this sounds like you, it is imperative that you get out of your negative comfort zone and begin developing a normal and healthy ‘strategic’ relationship with money.
These 10 Tips Will Help You Stick to Your Budget:
- Accept Responsibility – No one other than yourself got you into your current negative financial situation. To solve your financial problems, you will need to make real efforts to get out of your own negative comfort zone. This challenge involves doing the necessary work to improve your financial situations, or even better, understand how to avoid financial problems altogether.
- Protecting Yourself from Yourself – If you are someone who suffers from what I like to call financial obesity; one’s obsessive and self-sabotaging need to constantly overspend and remain financially unhealthy, I would suggest the following: stop using credit cards and only use cash. Credit cards make it too easy to make negative emotional spending decisions, which not only leads to unnecessary debt, but possibly hefty late fees and interest rate fees. If you must use credit cards, only use secured credit cards with low spending limits ($300).
- Spend Wisely – It’s amazing how lazy folks are when it comes to spending wisely. The internet has made it easy for you to do your research and competitively shop around. With this in mind, consider cutting out, reducing or substitute expensive bad habits such as drinking and smoking and put your beer/cigarette money toward paying down your other expenses. Think up creative ways you can replace or reduce your bad spending habits and you will see your expenses come down.
- Living within Your Financial Means – If you are constantly looking for quarters in the cushions of your sofa; you have a problem! The only way you are going to get yourself to stick to a budget and live within your financial means is by making this process easy. There are several websites/apps such as Mint.com by Intuit that will allow you to budget and track expenses online without much effort. Not only will you be able to finally pinpoint the true origin of your negative financial spending, but you will also come to the realization through budgeting that your debt is not so much a shortage of income, but rather a lack of awareness in terms of where your income is going.
- Learn to Pay Yourself First – Most people are so busy taking care of others, or their jobs that they completely neglect themselves; both emotionally and financially. As part of your new commitment toward improving your overall financial life, make sure you commit to putting aside at least 10% of your income into a savings or money market account. Make this part of your on-going budget strategy, and each time you make a deposit, take yourself out for ice cream. Create a positive association for sticking to your budget.
- Setting the Proper Expectations – It did not take you a week to get financially obese, so don’t expect to repair your financial life in a week either. Motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar was absolutely correct when he said, ‘You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.’ The main reason why so many people seem to fail and never achieve their financial goals is that they either lack the necessary information that provides the important ingredients and tools to succeed, or they simply succumb to their fears and never make any real efforts to ever get out of their own way. Change your mindset and you will change your life.
- Setting Priorities and goals – The most important step toward achieving any goal is to TAKE ACTION! Nothing kills a goal or desire faster than caving in to your own, or to others’, fears and negativity. As you begin to embark on your new financial future, I would like to suggest the following when it comes to your budget:
- Prioritize your financial goals (Decide where you want to begin)
- Plan your actions (what changes will you choose to make to help you live within your financial means)
- Implement your plans (Take Action on your plans!)
- Evaluate your actions and desired outcomes (review your budget and expenses weekly/monthly so you can continue to modify and see the results you desire)
- For example, choose to organize your credit card debt by highest interest rates to lowest, and pay off as much as you can on the highest interest bearing credit card each month. Continue paying the minimum balance on the others until you have paid off the first card. Next, choose the next highest interest card to pay off. You will be amazed how much you could put toward your own savings account by reducing the high interest fees each month.
- Learn from Your Mistakes – As young adults, many of us were taught to conform and stop challenging the norm. As a result we developed a fear of mistakes, or we just became programmed to avoid them altogether. However, mistakes help people foster new and creative ways to overcome or circumvent prior negative experiences in order to find new or improved ways to produce their desired outcomes (without letting fear get the best of them). I hope this revelation, as my mother used to say, falling into the same hole, will wake you up to the fact that you need to start reexamining your overall financial decision-making process.
- Find a coach or partner – Don’t be afraid to share the budgeting responsibilities. Make sure you are not the only person in your household concerned about your budget. Sit down with your loved ones or significant other and decide how you will work together toward sharing the responsibility for the household budget. One person should not have to shoulder the entire financial burden alone. You will be amazed how quickly things will change if everyone agrees to simply cut back on their spending and help manage the budget.
- Stay Committed – Unlike dieting, budgeting needs to be something you continue to commit to for the rest of your life. Once you commit to taking complete financial ownership of your life, you will empower yourself to stop making excuses, stop blaming others for your own bad financial decisions and you will finally own your personal financial choices and actions. As American author and management expert, Kenneth Blachard says, ‘There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re COMMITED to something, you accept no excuses; only results.’