If maintaining a budget was a simple matter of math, more people would succeed. But sticking to your budget requires motivation, not just administration.
Adhering to your budget isn’t just a straightforward matter of making sure that your groceries, fuel or clothes don’t exceed a certain spending limit. At it’s core, budgeting is an emotional exercise. It demands self-restraint, patience, delayed gratification, appreciation and gratitude, and other mental and emotional hallmarks of strength.
How can you cultivate some of these qualities — with regard to the way that you think about money — so that you’re more likely to maintain motivation? Here are a few tips.
Budgeting for it’s own sake won’t motivate you for long. If there’s no “why,” no higher purpose, you’ll quickly lose interest. Instead, keep your “purpose” in mind each time you’re faced with a tough spending decision.
Here’s an example: Let’s imagine that you want to buy your next vehicle in cash. You’ve seen too many of your friends get trapped by debt, and you’ve decided that you don’t want to finance your next car purchase. You now have a purpose, a mission, a “why.”
One week later, you’re at the grocery store. You pick up your basic staples, but as you’re walking to the cashier at the check-out aisle, you spot a premium cut of steak. It’s expensive, and it would cause you to exceed your grocery budget for the week, but you know it would be delicious. Do you buy it?
If you don’t have a purpose that’s motivating your budget, you’re more likely to answer that question with a “yes,” and impulsively buy the premium product. But if you can keep your goal in mind — (debt freedom) — you’re more likely to stick to your original plan.
An idealized “diet” doesn’t work. Successful diets will allow you to indulge in an occasional glass of wine or piece of chocolate, so that you can overall stay on track. Your budget operates the same way. It should allow you to treat yourself — and build those treats into the overall plan.
Give yourself some money each week that’s purely “fun” money. You can use it in any manner you want — a nice dinner at a restaurant, a few pints at the pub with your friends, new clothes or shoes. The most important thing is that this “treat” is predetermined. It’s not an impulse; it’s a planned part of your regular spending routine.
Create little “mini-games,” like seeing if you can list at least a dozen free entertainment options for the weekend, or guessing how much money you can save by purchasing your kitchenware at consignment shops. This will turn budgeting and deal-hunting into a fun activity, rather than something you’re required to do. Too many people associate “frugal” with “not fun,” but this doesn’t need to be the case. (After all, money can’t buy “fun.”) The more you enjoy the process of sticking to your budget, the more successful you’ll be.
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