Even the best of us occasionally slip up with out budget. If you’re in the midst of this right now, check out these helpful tips to get back on track with your budget – or simply spend less.
If your budget feels out of control, it might be time to simply hit the “reset” button and break a bad habit. You may not need to set up a 30 day no spend challenge, but simply a 7 day spending cleanse. Use up what’s in your pantry, don’t go to any of your stores (or websites!) of weakness if you’re overspending, and commit to only eating food that you cook yourself.
You’d be surprised at what 7 days of resetting your spending can do for your budget. In fact, if you find you’ve failed at keeping a budget several times but the numbers seem right, perhaps consider building this into a monthly budget experience as part of your routine.
While I advocate a fiscal fast to figure out what’s screwing your budget up, sometimes you can figure out your budget-buster just by doing some soul searching. It’s easy to blame the holidays or being stressed at work for a budget-fail, but you’re blaming the symptoms, not seeking to solve the problem.
Learn from your holiday over-spending blunder by planning ahead next time- even if it means that you start saving for Christmas 9 months in advance. If you’re stressed at work, you may not be able to switch careers, but address the behaviors you’re using to cope with it all- do you shop on your lunch break, or if you run out of food in the house, do you run to the cafeteria for a $9 sandwich because you forgot to pack?
We have a tendency to blame the symptoms, “I always spend too much on birthday gifts” without going to the source- which could usually mean better planning, having an emergency fund or simply realizing that paying for convenience (like with fast food or late payment fees) that you forgot to plan ahead.
Eating outside the home has two major problems- it usually costs triple to eat out what it would to cook from home, but restaurant foods typically contain double the calories, sodium and saturated fats (yes, even in those darn salads!) as a home cooked meal- but the logic also applies to most processed foods you can buy in the store to take home (like premade iced coffee or premixed nut mixes).
It’s not a coincidence that green tea brewed at home costs pennies and contains less sugar and preservatives than the bottled kind in the refrigerator case at the grocer with a hefty 90% markup, but the same goes for salads, soups and sandwiches- convenience food that costs sometimes pennies to make per serving but come wrapped in cellophane and the price tag to match!
Convenience is expensive, so only pay full price for things that are truly inconvenient to make at home, precisely- a good steak or lobster tail you couldn’t quite replicate or a delightful dish of sushi….you know, stuff that takes skill to make! Paying $5 for a sandwich that took 30 seconds to make and isn’t really that fresh or tasty is kind of a waste of your food budget.
Overspending seems to be a slippery slope doesn’t it? I’ve noticed that when I’m on a spending spree, things in my home and my life tend to get more cluttered and chaotic. Not only does the acquisition of stuff simply muck things up, but I spend less time trying to be tidy when my brain is addled with return policies, unpacking incoming purchases and things never get put in the place they belong. Spending money means that we spend less time doing something else- namely, keeping up with the housework.
A great way to restart the budgeting habit is to start over by clearing out. Chances are your crisper bin could use some attention, so don’t just shove new groceries on top of it! If your budget got busted this month, take a look at your closet. Transition your thinking from “shop and shove” into curating your collections, clearing out the clutter and using what you have. You can stop shopping by simply rerouting your behavior to make room in your life for greater abundance.
Seriously, take your money and hide it from yourself. I’ve talked about how I purposely live paycheck to paycheck by employing an automatic savings plan in order to hit my savings goals, but also, constantly beat back the temptation to overspend.
Each paycheck, take whatever you don’t need for bills, food or a little bit for fun, and sock it away, immediately, without giving yourself a chance to think about it. If you know that you may have a “tough love” moment later in the month because you’ve overspent but you’re sticking to a budget and are out of cash, well, that’s some good behavioral data right there! Tough love keeps us on budget!
If you’re feeling discouraged or frustrated, know that there are ebbs and flows, ups and downs to everything in life- sometimes you can’t keep all of the balls in the air.
Your budget is a living, breathing thing, so there will be times you’re crushing it, times you’re just getting by and times you fell off the wagon pretty hard, and you’re just trying to dust yourself off. That being said, you will slip up.
Just like training for a marathon, there will be weeks you hit your training goals, and other weeks where life gets in the way- but if you miss a run, you just get back at it and keep going.
Love yourself and rock on. You can totally get back on track with your budget! You got this!