Once again, you’re having trouble making ends meet, and you’ve renewed your promise that this time you’re going to make a budget and stick to it. It’s hard because you think of budgeting as a punishment for not managing your money well. We all know that change comes from rewarding good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior.


A Budget Is a Good Thing

Following a budget requires a certain amount of effort and maybe a lot of discipline, but it’s a tool that will reward you by helping you create a better life. Not only will it reduce the stress that comes from not having enough money to meet your current obligations, it will enable you to eventually have everything you truly need or want. Start with spending some time thinking about what you want your financial future to look like and setting goals. Write your goals down where you can see them, and remind yourself that they’re the reward from budgeting now.

What Is Coming in And Where Is It Going?

A budget is basically a way of keeping track of money in and money out. It’s that simple. Start with recording your income. That’s usually the amount of your paycheck, and it generally doesn’t change much. If your income is irregular amounts, you’ll have to use estimates. Many of your monthly expenditures vary little from month-to-month, but some will require estimates. Estimates are your best guesses and accuracy takes practice. Avoid stressing over determining exact amounts.

The Perfect Budget

What’s the best way to record your budgeted numbers and compare them to actual amounts? You’ll probably have to experiment because there is no best system or perfect app. The key is to find a method that you can actually stick with and that produces reasonably accurate results. You don’t have to account for every single penny you spend, but don’t allow yourself to dismiss too many items as “too small to matter.” Remember that it’s the accumulation of many small amounts that sabotage you more than big expenditures.

It’s All Wrong

You thought you had an accurate idea of income and expenses and you prepared a beautiful budget. The end of the month has arrived and nothing matches. Relax. This is what adjustments are for. However, before you change the budgeted numbers, you need to look at the actual amounts. That means taking the time to analyze the details of your spending rather than just glancing at the numbers and promising yourself to do better next month.

Gotta Have It Now

You’ll likely discover that your budget-busters are impulse purchases. Impulse purchases are deadly. Experts recommend shopping with a friend or family member that knows your financial goals and will make you question your purchases. Another tip is to wait 24 hours before actually buying whatever it was that caught your eye. You’ll often find that it’s no longer desirable.

One Day At a Time

Perhaps nearly every expenditure is excessive according to your carefully thought-out budget. Choose one kind of expense and work on reducing it. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a long time. Focus on your goal of long-term financial security, and the desire for short-term gratification will decrease. Success builds on itself.

It’s Your Choice

Our lives are built on daily choices. Financial planners remind us that our long-term financial security is also a result of daily choices. You can choose to live within your means using budgeting as a tool to help you do so. You can choose to save money for what’s important to you. You can choose a life that doesn’t include worry and stress about your finances. You can choose to follow a budget.