…Sticking to it, on the other hand, is incredibly difficult. This is true whether you’re rolling in the dough or whether every penny of your income is already accounted for. With the new year upon us, it’s a safe bet that you’re reading this because you already know how to create a budget but you haven’t had a whole lot of luck sticking to one. Maybe you’re an impulse shopper. Maybe unexpected expenses keep popping up. Whatever your issue, here are some tips to help you get beyond it.
Reduce Your Fixed Expenses
No, we’re not going to advocate that you pack up and move to a different city or in with your parents–though if you’re really in a tough spot, that might be your best course of action. We’re talking about the expenses that you think you can’t control or over which you think you don’t have a lot of control: like your utility bills or your internet connection. More and more places in both the US and in Canada are deregulating their markets every quarter. This means that, in spite of what you might have been told, you do not have to stick with your current energy provider. You can shop around. If you live in Calgary, for example, you can get your electricity from EasyMax for less than seven cents per kilowatt hour. Compare that to your current rate. It’s likely way cheaper, right?
For internet services, most of us are stuck with Comcast, Charter, Cox, or Time Warner. At least, that’s how it feels. But there are other ways to get television and an internet connection. For instance, Dish offers some really good deals as does DirecTV. If you don’t care about television there are even more options. You can bundle your cellular phone with a home internet setup like AT&T’s UVerse or Verizon’s FIOS. These options cost way less than the major monopolies want you to think they do.
Budget for Fun
Most of us fail to stick to our budgets because we try to restrict ourselves too much. This feels righteous and maybe even virtuous at first. Over the course of a few weeks, though–even if you’re taking full advantage of the free resources in your community–you’re going to find yourself rebelling against your own restrictions. This is why it is good to create room in your budget for fun stuff like going to the movies, getting a haircut somewhere besides SuperCuts, buying cute clothes that aren’t for work, taking a trip, etc.
This line item doesn’t have to eat up a lot of your income. Even just setting aside 1-2% of your income is sufficient. Treating yourself doesn’t have to be expensive. Even small treats and indulgences can go a long way, especially when it comes to your motivation.
If you truly can’t afford to allot even a few dollars per paycheck to the occasional spontaneous milkshake or Redbox rental, that’s okay! There are other ways you can fight against your urge to rebel.
Instead, why not challenge yourself to go six months to a year without buying anything beyond the basic necessities–food, utilities, housing? When you make it a choice to spend as little as possible, you won’t be as tempted to rebel. Choosing not to buy something instead of denying yourself that something puts the power in your hands and makes it much easier to stick to the budget you’ve laid out for yourself. Another great motivator here is to take this challenge on with a friend. You’ll keep each other in check and you’ll have someone who understands when you feel frustrated.
Bringing in More Money
One of the best ways to stick to your budget is to bring in more money so that your budget can have some built-in wiggle room. There are so many ways to bring in extra income and much has been written about the so-called “gig economy.”
Perhaps the biggest frustration most budgeters feel when they read those articles about “side gigs” they should try is how easy most of those articles make taking on a side gig sound. “It’s so easy!” they say. The truth is that if you want to bring in more than a few bucks each month, you’re going to have to be prepared to put in some real work. For instance, you can’t make much money driving for Uber if you don’t commit to driving at for least a few hours each day. This doesn’t mean that real income can’t be earned! You just have to be prepared to really work for it.
Make no mistake: sticking to your new year’s resolution based budget will be difficult sometimes. But it will never be impossible! Use the hints we’ve shared here to make it simpler to stick to your financial goals.