5 Steps to stick to your budget

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5 Steps to stick to your budget
3 years ago
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Whether you are saving for retirement, trying to break the credit card habit, or just trying to make ends meet, creating a budget is essential to financial security. If setting a budget seemed hard, you may find sticking to it month after month is the greatest challenge. Use these steps to stick to your budget and realize your goals.

1. If you are regularly breaking the limit of the budget you set, take some time to review it. Was it realistic to your basic needs? Did you take into account small emergencies or annual payments? Maybe you did not go into enough detail when you set your budget. Keep track of receipts for three months and then review the categories. You could be breaking your budget because you forgot a few expenses, you didn't account for inflation, or you could be overspending on extras.

2. Set up separate savings, checking accounts, or piggie banks for specific urgent purposes, and then leave that money alone until the intended purpose is valid. Set aside money for:

- True emergencies, like a job layoff, natural disaster, lawsuit, or a death in the family.
- Taxes, if you are self-employed.
- Home repair issues or to save for replacing appliances, HVAC systems, the roof, and any other homeowner maintenance that your home insurance would not cover.
- Major vehicle repairs, and savings for buying your next vehicle
- Medical and dental care and emergencies, if you do not have health insurance, or your health or dental insurance policy requires a high deductible.
- Clothing
- Special occasions like birthdays, gift-giving holidays, and anniversaries.


Contribute what you can to these accounts every month, even if your budget only allows 10 or 20 dollars. These funds should be separate from savings for retirement and your children's college funds. When you are tempted to use money from these accounts for any other reason, repeat the mantra: ?œThat money does not exist.??

2. Before you spend a single cent on any extras, pay the bills first. Set aside one or two days a month to write checks and make online payments, ready to go when payday arrives. Reserve money for groceries, toiletries, household goods, gasoline, and other car maintenance needs. Transfer what you can into investments and savings, emergency and special accounts. If you have anything left over, that is your ?œfun money.??

3. Take cash for grocery shopping and leave the debit and credit cards at home. That will force you to stay within your food budget, and to avoid impulse purchases. If you have a little bit of flexibility in your spending, keep an extra $20 in your wallet for sales too good to pass up. Use that extra only on food or household items you buy regularly.

4. Stop window shopping! If you do not know it is there, you will not feel bad about not having it. That includes surfing the internet for sales. And although you can save a lot of money by buying used or clearance items, you are not doing yourself any favors if you are spending your gas money on clothing at Goodwill. Unless you have money set aside to shop for things you know you will need in the next few months, ?œwindow shopping??is one of the easiest ways to break your budget.

5. Change your attitude about what you must have. Rethink your spending and lifestyle, and make cuts where you can:

- Take your lunch to work instead of eating out.
- Do it yourself ??manicures, dog grooming, car wash, yard maintenance, motor oil changes.
- Convert your wardrobe to wear more washable materials to save on dry cleaning.
- Give up unhealthy habits: tanning beds, bottled drinks, the morning stop for gourmet coffee in a Styrofoam cup.
- Use the library for books and magazines; cancel subscriptions.
- Limit vacations, or travel to destinations closer to home.
- Eat simple foods prepared at home.
- Wait before running to the store for one item. Do multiple errands in one trip to save gas.

Many people find that sticking to a budget can be harsh and dull, so when you cut back on the luxuries you are used to, find other, simpler ways to indulge.

Experts predict inflation will continue to rise, along with thousands of job layoffs in the coming year. Nobody can afford to overspend, or damage their credit rating or spotless credit report ??and your credit score will suffer if you are routinely late paying your bills. Rethink your budget, set boundaries for yourself, and find ways to make it work.

By E. E. Kane
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