I’m a teacher… so that naturally translates into… I’m pretty much broke all of the time. Then throw in some Sallie Mae student loans into the mix and we have an absolute necessary need to create a realistic budget that won’t fail.
1. Self discipline: This is the biggest part of creating a realistic budget that won’t fail. It is also the most difficult for many. Why? Because just like your New Year’s resolutions (which I’m sure many of you have thrown out the window by now) by month 2 or three… it is no longer at the forefront of your mind. The driving force and determination you had when you first created the budget fails, and you start wanting to go out more, buy a few sparkly things that catch your eye in the window. The truth of the matter is if you don’t want to budget, then you won’t budget. Turning down dinners/brunches is going to be hard in the beginning but you will find ways to have just as much fun without spending huge chunks of your money that cane be put some where else in the budget. (see step 5 for some how to’s/advice).
2. Save: I know that sounds like a “DUH” no brainer… but people don’t realize how important it is to actually save parts of their money while creating a successful budget. Living pay check to pay check is no fun for anyone, but sometimes it has to be done. If you’ve got some wiggle room, even the smallest amount will add up. Saving can mean not buying that extra cup of Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks coffee for the week. Or brown bagging it to work/school instead of spending 5-10 dollars a day on fast food. These small changes can add up to a savings account that will grow slowly but surely.
3. Treat Your Self Accordingly: I know the big thing is to always “treat your self” especially when you are having a bad day or stressful time. And I am totally up to “treating yourself”. I’ve actually been treating myself non stop all summer, which is why I am re-evaluating my budgeting techniques and making sure I treat myself… ACCORDINGLY! What that means is instead of always spending to “treat myself” or giving myself the bag or shoes I absolutely think I need and deserve, treat yourself to something different. If I am stressed or tired or annoying with all of the adulting I have to do, I’ve decided to just stop for a moment and do something I enjoy that isn’t going to cost me anything. Instead I’ll take a nap, I’ll just watch TV for a few hours, I’ll give myself facial, mani/pedi, or go for a run. These are all methods of treating myself without pulling out my credit card. If you stop treating yourself you’ll resent creating this budget and having to save in the first place. It will make you miserable. Instead just treat yourself wisely and see the difference in how you feel after.
4. Pay off Debt… then pay off some more: A key benefit to sticking to a budget is paying off pesky bills and debt. I myself am focusing on paying off my school debt so I can get on with the more fun aspects of being an adult. I’ve paid off two student loans so far in full, and I’m looking to pay off the final three in the next 2 years. So what do I do when I pay off one in total? After my happy dance, I use the money that went to that loan and put it towards another loan to serve as a double payment. This way I’m paying more on the principal instead of paying interest only payments, and I’m decreasing the balance at a quicker rate. Thus… saving me money in the long run. I’m doing the same thing with the extra money I now have from paying off my car in total, I use it either towards an extra student loan bill or towards my car insurance total. Don’t use your extra money as expendable cash when you have other bills to pay. Either save it or use it towards lowering another bill.
5. Create a No Spend Day/Weekend: This is the hardest part of budgeting for me. My expendable cash is finite and I try not to spend it at all if I can. However if it has to be spent I know it is going to be on expenses that I just can’t help like, grocery shopping, gas, oil changes…etc. I try and limit my spending so the expendable cash can go into the savings pile, and that means not creating credit card balances that my expendable cash will have to pay off. Why is this difficult? Because lately I’ve been going out with my friends a lot. And even though I’m spending anywhere between 5-35 dollars on our ventures… those amounts add up. Over time… I look at my bank account and think… yes I love my friends but hate spending money when we could have had fun for free. Look into things you can do with your friends, family members or significant other that won’t cost a penny. Creating a no spend day or weekend is the perfect way to keep your expendable cash safe. It’s easier for me during the week (though Amazon always seems to catch up to me at some point) but the weekends are tough. So for the next few months I’m going to put myself on a no spend weekend and keep myself from spending a dime on anything.
What are some methods you use to keep up with a realistic budget that won’t fail you? What are some tips tricks or advice you’d like to offer? Share your thoughts with us in the comment box below.
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