Studies on financial stress consistently find that almost everyone worries about money from time to time, often on a daily basis. But worrying about money and doing something about it are two different things. Here are a few ways to take action and stick to your spending plan on a day-to-day basis:
Set aside a specific time to budget. Don’t assume you’ll find time to track your spending. Instead, plan ahead and know when you’ll balance your budget at the end of each day or week. Consistent and frequent monitoring helps prevent spending spirals and means you’ll be quick to notice any irregular activity in your account.
Be completely honest with yourself: What are your needs and what are your wants? Reducing unnecessary spending doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a little fun (that would be eliminating unnecessary spending). Motivate yourself to stay on track by planning small rewards for yourself along the way. Just don’t forget to include saving for those rewards in your financial plan!
Keep a running list of things you chose not to buy. Avoiding an unnecessary purchase doesn’t feel the same as saving money, but it will help you reach your end financial goals. Write down items you want to purchase but don’t (a late night pizza, pricier meals or clothing), and track the cost to help you remember how much those items add up. You may also discover a few purchases you truly do want. And that’s obviously just fine! If an occasional nice meal or fancy cup of coffee helps get you through the week, try to adjust your budget and find funds for the stress breaks that you need. If you really can’t afford it, brainstorm alternative ways to scratch the same itch.
Having trouble staying on track? Return to your goals and the steps you’ve planned to reach them. Are they realistic? If not, try to find a sweet spot that is challenging but achievable. Failing to meet impossible goals will reduce your motivation and slow your progress.
Setting and sticking to a budget is difficult, but it does get easier--healthy behaviors are habit forming, just like bad ones. Whether you’re worried about your finances, don’t know where you’re at or simply looking to improve your situation, tracking and planning your spending will help you save more money.