Sticking to a budget is the hardest thing we’ve had to do in paying off our £16k debt.
Most people know how to draw up a budget (but if you don’t, here’s my guide), which is the easy part; figuring out how much your bills are and how much you think you’ll spend is more of a challenge. And really, this pales in comparison to actually having to stick to your plan. Budget life can be tough, but here are my five best tips to help you stick to your budget.
1.Budget to treat yo’self
Let’s start on a positive note! I’m a real believer in treating yourself- life can be tough and we all work hard to take care of our responsibilities, so little treats are a necessity in keeping you motivated through the drudgery.
In your first few months on a budget, you will realise what you really want to spend your money on (for a while, I worked overtime for an amazing pair of heels because they were so worth it). When you figure out which purchases truly make you happy, plot them into your budget and make a point of enjoying your purchase. You need this- because budget life sometimes feels like The Hunger Games and you’re going to feel deprived from time to time, so this will stop you from quitting. Which leads me to…
2. Be realistic when you plan your budget
How we paid off £16k of debt- we started sloooowly. As much as I wanted to go full throttle at it, live off rice and beans and sell our car, I knew we would give up really quickly. Instead, we spent a few months adjusting our budget, because in some areas we could cut down and others we needed to spend more.
Be honest with yourself when you compile your budget- can you really slash your grocery budget in half this month, and can you really get through to Christmas without spending anything on going out? Because if you are in doubt, you might find yourself overspending in these areas out of necessity, without a contingency plan. So be realistic about what you can afford to live on, and how much you can afford to pay off debt or save each month, and if needed, give yourself a little more time to hit your repayment or saving goals so that your budget can actually breathe.
3. If you go over budget, shake it off and start again
An inevitability in this day and age! We are constantly enticed to buy products, social commitments always crop up and unexpected bills are a fact of life. And some days, you just have a meltdown and put a shopping spree on credit card- been then, done that. These times, if infrequent, are unimportant but the key to success is how you react when overspending happens. If the idea of one blip on an otherwise perfect No Spend Month triggers more spending, be mindful that you have to stop, reset and start again.
4. If you come in under budget, don’t squander the surplus
Previously, on the miraculous occasions where we had money in our account on Payday Eve (back before we paid off our debt) we blew all of the remainder on random impulse buys- to this day, I cannot pinpoint a single item that I bought with that money because they were usually things I didn’t even want or need. We usually rationalised this as a reward for not spending everything in our account!
On those rare occasions when you come in under budget, transfer your money to savings account and use it when you need it, or save it up for something you really, really want. You worked really hard for this money, don’t squander it.
5. Build a buffer in your budget
And finally, when I’m compiling my budget for the month, I always leave a buffer to make sure that those little expenses are covered. I have never, ever stuck to a budget 100% because there are things you just can’t plan for that crop up, and overspending is inevitable. I find £50 covers it, but you might want to leave more or less, depending on your circumstances (if you are in the £20 or less crew, I salute you).
Hope these helped! I’d love to know how you stick to your budget so share you tips below 🙂