Maintaining a monthly budget can a very helpful step that puts you on the road to financial health. That is, if you manage to stick to your budget every month.
But when you bust your budget time and again, you can end up feeling like a failure each and every month as you cringe while looking at your bank balance, wondering if you’ll ever get your act together.
If you’re constantly overspending and then beating yourself up for it, don’t give up on budgeting forever. Instead, making the following revisions to your budget might just help it help you.
1. Cut your each budgeting timeframe into a shorter period
When you were in Primary One, your parents gave you daily allowance. There’s a good reason for that—not giving you a weekly or monthly allowance stopped you from losing all your cash or spending it on Pokemon cards.
One way to help yourself stay on track is to budget within a shorter timeframe. So give yourself a weekly, or even a daily, budget to stick to.
For instance, you might allow yourself a certainly daily budget on weekdays, and a slightly more generous amount on Saturdays and Sundays if you usually spend the weekends out. That way, you’re conscious every day of how much you can spend, as opposed to only realising you’re nearing the end of your budget at the end of the month.
2. Define your categories more specifically
When coming up with spending categories that determine what you can spend on, there is such a thing as being too general.
For instance, let’s say your main spending categories are food, transport and entertainment.
Suppose you’re always busting your food budget halfway through the month. Unless you’re a machine, you can’t possibly not eat even though you’ve busted your budget, so of course you’ll end off each month feeling disappointed in yourself.
If that’s the case, you might want to break that category down more finely into restaurant meals, weekday lunches at work and groceries. That way, when you bust your budget for restaurant meals, you can simply stop eating out. Since you’ll still have room for spending under the groceries category, you can then continue to buy groceries and eat at home instead until the next month resets your spending to zero.
3. Give yourself a budget for entertainment and leisure
All work and no play makes Jack a zombie. Don’t be too hard on yourself by leaving no room in your budget for enjoyment.
If the only things you’re allowed to spend on are food and transport, your financial prudence is going to come at the cost of your sanity. So allocate yourself a small budget for entertainment, leisure, hobbies, shopping or whatever makes you happy. Just make sure you keep the amounts reasonable.
For instance, if you love nothing more than to hang out at bars with friends, give yourself a modest drinking/entertainment budget.
But don’t go overboard and allow yourself to waste tons of money on alcohol every month. Instead, challenge yourself a little by making it necessary to seek out Happy Hour deals or organise picnics and gatherings at home in order to make the most of your monthly spending.
4. Don’t force yourself to stick to an unrealistically tight budget
When enforcing a budget to get yourself to save more, you want to challenge yourself enough to have to make the effort to examine your spending habits.
But you don’t want to torture yourself by walking two hours to work every day to save on MRT fares and eating only instant noodles. Be realistic about how far you’re prepared to go to save money.
If your expectations are unreasonable, you’re just going to end up failing month after month, and eventually abandoning your budget altogether.