How to Stay Within A Budget

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Every dollar counts when you're sticking to a budget.
Every dollar counts when you're sticking to a budget. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

If you can stick to a budget you'll be more likely to meet your financial goals, whether you're saving for retirement or buying a new car. Setting the budget is the easy part. However, sticking to a budget is a little more difficult. It's tempting to stray off your budget for a treat or new piece of clothing. Setting clear goals and understanding your cash flow and expenses can help set you on the right path. Ultimately, having some determination and self-discipline is the only way to stick to your budget over the long-term.

Things You'll Need

  • Spreadsheet software
  • Envelope

Focus on a goal. Having a reason for your budget helps to motivate you. For example, if you're saving for a deposit on a house, visualize walking into your new home every time you're tempted to buy a new piece of clothing.

Determine the exact total of your monthly expenses and your total incoming cash. You can't stick to a budget without knowing what you have to spend. Include all expenses, such as food, clothing and medical insurance, and allow for some unexpected costs.

Create a monthly budget planner. Use computer spreadsheet software to notate every time you spend anything. Fill the planner out each day.

Review your budget planner at the end of each month. Look for areas where you're spending more than you need. Everyone usually has a weak point when it comes to spending. Find out where you're falling short and focus on spending less in that area.

Calculate your weekly food and entertainment money and put it in an envelope. When the envelope is empty, don't allow yourself to spend any more money until the next week. Leave your credit cards at home when you go out.

Treat yourself occasionally. If living within a budget makes you miserable, you're more likely to stray from your target. Set aside some cash each week for a special treat, such as a meal at a reasonably priced restaurant or a night out.

Write out a grocery list and only buy the items listed when you visit the store. Plan your weekly meals so you know what you need to buy. Shopping without a list means you're more likely to go over budget.

Take your savings and investment money straight out of your paycheck as soon as the money arrives. Don't be tempted to wait until the end of the month to deposit funds into your savings account.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't beat yourself up too much if you overshoot your goals now and again. Forgive yourself, then get back to sticking to your budget.
  • Avoid the temptation of easy credit. It's easy to build up a lot of debt by using credit cards.

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