This Simple Checklist Can Help You Actually Enjoy Budgeting
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Sticking to a budget is fun. Well, with the right approach, it most definitely can be! And it starts in our heads.
Like the word "diet," the notion of a budget typically reminds us only of what we can't do, can't have, can't enjoy. But what if we reframe the way we think about budgeting? So, rather than associate a budget with limitations, we start thinking of it as an instrument that enables us to stay on course to reach an important goal. If we could only train ourselves to focus on the possibilities a budget can help realize instead of the "penalties" it imposes, a budget suddenly becomes empowering - and, in turn, a source of further motivation to stick to it.
"If we could only train ourselves to focus on the possibilities a budget can help realize... [it] suddenly becomes empowering."
How do we get there? Start with this easy-to-follow checklist of tips.
- Define your goals. Write them down. Post them up. Look at them often. These could include where you want to go on vacation next year, an amount you want to save towards your child's college education, and how much income you want in retirement income.
- Monetize those goals. Translate the purchases and milestones you identified into a target sum. A financial professional can help you so you know what you need to save.
- Understand how your money flows in and out. Review how you historically have spent, saved, and given money. Determine a sustainable balance between these influences on your financial position. Granted, this is never easy - you may wear out several erasers before arriving at the optimal numbers. Again, a financial professional can be helpful in running "what if" scenarios to help you figure this out.
- Document conscientiously. It's crucial to track all of your financial transactions, large or small, made with cash, check, credit, or debit. Consider using a spreadsheet or one of the several expense management apps that offer this function. What's important is getting it down in writing, because this allows you to...
- Spot trends. Over time, you will see - or, apps will point out - patterns in how and where you use your money, which can help you make even smarter decisions going forward.
- Celebrate success. Reward yourself when you reach certain achievements. For example, if you stay on track for 30 days, then treat yourself to a fancy dinner. When you reach the 90-day mark, go for a massage. As with most things, carrots often achieve more than sticks.
- Be stern but compassionate. Succumbing to financial temptation happens, even to the most disciplined budgeters. When you falter with a frivolous unplanned expense, acknowledge it and then resolve to steer clear of that pitfall in the future. But don't beat yourself up! Remember, your intent should be to maintain a happy relationship with your budget. After all, it's helping to make your dreams come true.
As you strive to embrace the power of budgeting, small oversights are bound to happen.
If you happen to go over your credit limit, we understand. Which is why we don’t charge you a fee. We help you stay on track with features like this to keep things simple.