It's difficult to make yourself consistently stick to a budget especially when you are used to spending freely without remorse.
For starters, figure out your financial budgeting style. Everything doesn't work for everybody, so it's time that you figure out what works for you. Here's the three styles I am most familiar with:
Cash Envelopes: With this system you organize the amount of money you plan on contributing to each category into physical envelopes. When the Starbucks envelope is empty that means home coffee the rest of the week. This plan works well in seeing what's going on and allowing no room for accidental overdrafts.
Spreadsheets and Customized 50/30/20: This system calculates bills on spreadsheets/paper forms to review total income, expenses and savings. This system works well when you are serious about paying off debt and meeting big financial goals. If you need some direction, check out my financial planning and budgeting post.
Free fall: This system involves a broad plan where you know what you need to cover your bills. Then you kind of try not to spend too much money and you figure it all out before the month wraps up. With this approach you typically don't pay more than the minimum payment and some things end up being paid late. You can quickly rack up late fees and interest debt based on this approach, I recommend that you make some changes IMMEDIATELY if you're in this boat.
There are also combinations of the above methods. Once you determine where you fit in in terms of budgeting you next need to figure out where you stand on spending.
Conservative spender: Uses less than 10% of income to purchase things for fun. This type of spender does not make big purchases without sleeping on it and researching for the best price.
Planning spender: Sets an amount for personal spending and tries very hard to stay within that budget. When that doesn't work out the planner adjusts different categories to ensure the books stay pretty balanced. Sometimes the planner will put too many purchases on the credit card, but nothing insane.
Risky spender: Lives by "spend a check and get it right back." There is no plan with this spender, but here are a few characteristics of this girl: she maxes out her credit cards, she asks for extensions on her bills (though she HAD the money for them), she makes purchases without thinking... you get the picture.
If you're moving in a bad direction, you need to set some real goals and consequences. So what you are you trying to accomplish? In the next 10 years? What about the next 5 years? What do you need to finish by December to make sure these goals are met? The T.G.I.F. (Thank God I'm Focused) plan can help you set these goals. Click Here For Your Free T.G.I.F. Plan. Where do you need to make some changes? Once you pinpoint it, get started!
There are 2 key things that are necessary for your success:
Execution: If you don't put in the work nobody else will, flat-out
Crucial Consequences: When you do the wrong thing you need to make it hurt. I'll give you an example, I need to cut my spending on eating out during work, so I gave myself a budget and a guideline. I broke them both, now I am not allowed to eat out AT ALL the entire month of March. And it hurts. So make sure you give yourself hard consequences and make stick to them, you'll learn your lesson and you'll save money.
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