Creating a budget is an essential part of managing your finances effectively. However, it’s one thing to create a budget, and another to stick to it. In 2023, it’s more important than ever to manage your finances wisely, especially in light of the economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. Learning how to create a budget and stick to it can help you make smarter financial decisions, achieve your financial goals, and stay in control of your money.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the steps you can take to create a budget that works for you and provide tips on how to stick to it. We’ll cover topics such as identifying your income and expenses, setting financial goals, tracking your spending, creating a realistic budget, and finding ways to save money. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a budget that helps you stay on top of your finances and achieve your financial goals in 2023.
1. Keep it real.
Have you ever made a goal that totally set you up for failure? Like saying you’ll read 10 books a month when you barely have any free time. Or promising to run 10 miles a day all year when you’ve never run a meter. If you want to succeed, you have to push yourself—but you also have to be realistic.
The same is true with your budget. Push yourself to spend better and save more—but be realistic when you set up every single budget line.
Saying you won’t buy any new clothes all year might not be realistic if your winter coat is falling apart. But you can challenge yourself to skip restaurants for a month and put the money you save toward your current money goal instead.
When you keep it real, you can really win.
2. Set up the auto draft.
Set up automatic bank drafts so some of your bills and savings deposits are paid straight out of your paycheck. That way, you don’t even touch the money—and you won’t be tempted to put that $200 for your emergency fund toward a new pair of shoes you want but don’t need.
3. Plan your meals.
Beat drive-thru temptations that bust your restaurant budget, and keep the money-grabbing munchies at bay. How? By planning your meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Then make a grocery list—and stick to that list! Meal planning saves you from going overboard on your grocery and restaurant budget lines.
4. Think weekly.
You may want to break some of your budget lines into weekly portions to help you spread out your spending. For example: If you give yourself $300 for personal spending, think of it as $75 a week.
If you put $967 in your grocery budget (which is the average monthly spending for a family of four), that’s like spending about $242 a week.1 Sometimes thinking in these bite-sized amounts makes it easier to stick to your budget.
5. Check your social calendar.
Your BFF’s birthday is the same day every year. Budget for it. You’re hosting book club next month and need to make a charcuterie board. Budget for it. Family’s coming in from out of town. You get the idea.
Yes, emergencies and surprises pop up that can rock your budget. But a lot of what we call “surprises” are actually just poor planning. So, check your social calendar when you’re making each month’s budget so you can budget realistically for each month’s needs.
And don’t worry! You don’t have to build each budget from scratch. Go ahead and copy everything over from the previous month, then only make tweaks to the budget lines that will be affected by anything coming up.
6. Learn to say no (or not now).
If you want to buy something, a budget doesn’t always say, “No way.” But it often says, “Not today.” Instead of caving in to impulse buys, save up for bigger purchases, pay cash, and set financial goals for yourself.
And to be honest, sometimes you do have to say no. That’s part of being an adult. It’s like saying no to social events so you don’t drain your energy and time. The same goes for saying no to spending sometimes: You don’t spend so you won’t drain your bank account.
Don’t worry about what everyone on social media appears to have. Some are lying. Some are in debt up to their designer sunglasses. And a few really do have their lives together. But those people worked hard for it—and that’s what you’re going to do too.
Work hard defending your budget—saying no or not now when you need to—because being true to yourself, your budget and your money goals is more valuable than anything you could ever buy.
7. Ditch the credit card.
Listen carefully—you don’t actually need a credit card. In fact, it’s often a motivator to spend like crazy with the mindset that it’s tomorrow’s problem. Hey. Guess what? “Tomorrow’s problem” is a lame excuse, and you’re better than that!
If you want to stick to your budget, don’t use someone else’s money that comes with strings attached—like interest and fees. Pay off your debt and start using your real money—your cash or debit card. That’s how you stay away from “tomorrow’s problems” and start knocking out tomorrow’s goals.
8. Find an accountability partner.
Do yourself a huge budgeting favor and get an accountability partner. That’s someone who’s encouraging enough to cheer you on and bold enough to call you out. Got a spouse? Boom. You’ve got a built-in accountability partner.
Get with your accountability partner every month to check in and set up the next budget. If you’re married—do this together and in person at a monthly budget meeting.
If you’re working with a friend or family member, you’re welcome to make your budget alone, but never skip the check-in. Your partner can’t keep you accountable if they don’t know what’s going on!
If you aren’t sure how to have a good budget meeting with your accountability partner, check out our free budget meeting guide (the classic or the couples version).
Listen, there’s no shame in asking someone to help you keep your eye on the goal. Just the opposite. There’s incredible strength in working as a team. So, get yourself an accountability partner. Today!