Whether you’re trying to pay down debt, save for a dream vacation or beef up your nest egg, having a budget is a vital part of the plan. Learning how to budget your money is usually a pretty straightforward process but actually following it tends to be a bigger challenge. The following tips will help you use your money wisely.
1. Use Cash Only
There’s something powerful about handing over a stack of hundred Rands for a purchase. It causes you to really think about the amount of money you’re about to spend. Swiping a debit card, on the other hand, doesn’t feel nearly as “real.” Try using cash exclusively for all your personal spending: groceries, gas, clothing, entertainment and so on.
2. Remember The Big Picture
The point of the budget is to keep you out of overwhelming debt and help you build a financial future that will give you more freedom, not less. So think about how you want your future to be and remember that sticking to your budget will help you get there. Adding to your debt load, on the other hand, will mean that your future could be even tighter.
3. Remove What Allows You To Cheat On Your Budget
Availability is your enemy. Either cancel those credit cards or stop carrying them. Clear out your stored payment information on your favorite online shops so you can’t just click to order. Make it more difficult on yourself to make impulse purchases; in other words, set up barriers so you have to really work for it.
4. Find Some Support
If you feel like you’re the only one in your group of friends who is on a budget, do a little looking and find a like-minded group. It could be an online forum, a monthly meeting or even just a couple of friends who are traveling the same road. You need to know you’re not the only person setting sane financial limits for yourself and it helps to be able to talk things over.
5. Build In Rewards
Even small rewards can help you stick to those financial goals you’ve set, so think of some rewards you can give yourself. When you’ve been faithful to your budget for a month, give yourself a reward. Start building associations in your brain that sticking to your budget means a pleasurable reward for you, whether that’s a night out with friends, a concert, a little extra cash for spending or something totally different.
6. Schedule A Periodic Budget Evaluation
It’s difficult to predict how much money you’ll need in every category of life; a new job may necessitate a wardrobe change and your clothing budget just isn’t going to cut it. That’s why it’s important to have a regular check on how you’ve created your budget. If it isn’t working, then tweak it. It is your budget, after all; just make sure that you keep your long-term financial goals in the picture.
7. Set Up Visual Reminders
A big glass change jar on your table not only helps store your loose change, which you’ll have more of when you start using cash, it also serves as a visual reminder that you are all about investing in your own future. Other visual reminders could be pictures or symbols of some object or experience you’re saving up for: a vacation, a designer purse, a better car or a house of your own.
8. Educate Yourself
Learn all you can about finances, money management, and how you can best invest in yourself, instead of taking the more common road of instant gratification, overspending and endless debt. Read books or listen to audiobooks, go to seminars, attend classes, talk to your financially savvy friends, mentors, parents and employers.
9. Keep Tabs On Spending
Making your budget work is all about knowing exactly what you’ve got coming in and going out each month. If your income is relatively the same from paycheck to paycheck your primary focus needs to be on what you’re spending.
10. Start Small
If you’re learning to budget for the first time it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if you’re trying to do everything at once. When it comes to setting goals it’s tempting to try and tackle everything at the same time but you could be setting yourself up for financial failure. Instead of trying to do it all, focusing on one thing at a time allows you time to adjust to living on a budget and work out potential kinks.