Tips for Sticking to A Budget

By Katie O'Shea

It may be easy to create a budget, but sticking to it is often more challenging.

Many savers find that, over time, it becomes harder to keep within their budgets. Soon they are right back where they started.

Here are five tips for creating a budget you may find easier to follow long-term:

1. Base the budget on your priorities

What are the most important aspects of your finances? For example, if your main goal is to get out of debt, you should focus your budget on paying down obligations first.

Track spending and identify items that are not crucial to you. Stop purchasing such items, and build a budget around spending on things that matter to you. These can be big things like retirement or travel, or even more modest joys, such as buying a latte three times a week.

2. Budget in the fun

You may want to consider allocating 10 percent of your take-home pay for fun, suggests Nancy Gaines, a money coach and the founder of Women Gaining Wealth, which helps educate women about money issues.

Budgets often fail because we struggle to constantly live in a state of denial. Identify the items you enjoy most, and set aside a portion of your budget for those things. That way, you will not wind up feeling deprived.

"If your budget is too restrictive, you aren't setting yourself up for success," Gaines says.

3. Institute a waiting period

If you do not need an item or service immediately, institute a waiting period before buying it. You might be surprised to discover how much you spend on impulse shopping.

"Wait 24 hours before you exceed a budget category," Gaines says. "It allows time to decide if it's truly worth breaking the budget."

Other experts suggest a two-week waiting period. Based on your financial situation and priorities, you can decide how long your waiting period should be.

4. Convert costs to an hourly rate

In many cases, we fail to consider how much work it takes to afford what we purchase, Gaines says.

"If you make $10 per hour, and you want to buy something that costs $100, ask yourself if it's really worth 10 working hours of your time," says Gaines.

Take into account your time and effort. Suddenly, many things may not seem worth the cost. Thinking in these terms can help you stick to your budget.

It is easier to stick to a budget once you get used to the idea of your new budget as a lifestyle. And you may find that the purchases you do make are more satisfying.

5. Develop a sense of pride in delayed gratification

Our society prizes instant gratification, but the reality is that it does not make everyone happier. In fact, you might experience more joy in the pride associated with delayed gratification.

There is something to be said for accomplishing a goal over time. You may be surprised how good it can feel when you put off purchases and stick to your budget in order to pursue your goals.


Interview with Nancy Gaines of Women Gaining Wealth

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