Budgeting can be a lot easier if you do it right.
Living on a budget can sometimes feel like a major financial burden. But making your budget work for you is one of the keys to staying out of credit card debt and accomplishing your financial goals.
The good news is that there are a few established techniques you can try to make sure it's as easy as possible to stick with your budget without feeling overly constrained. Here are three tips to help make your budget a whole lot easier to live on.
1. Remember every month is different
It would be nice to just make one budget and stick to it throughout the year, but that's not usually realistic. Most people's spending habits change from month to month because they have different activities or spending priorities at various times throughout the year.
In the winter, for example, you may spend more to heat your home but less on gas for your car if you aren't venturing out on road trips during the colder weather. Likewise, during the holiday season, your entertainment expenses may increase but you may not need to spend as much on groceries if you're invited to a lot of parties where food is served.
By considering your needs for the upcoming month and adjusting your budget to account for them, you can create a plan that allows for the spending that's most important to you while making cuts in other areas. That way, you won't be trying to force yourself to live on a budget that's not a good fit for the current time.
2. Leave yourself a buffer
Assigning a job to every single dollar you have is setting yourself up for failure, because it's inevitable that you'll forget something you need to buy or that surprise expenses will crop up.
Rather than leaving yourself no wiggle room and having to make cuts on the fly, budget a little extra each month for "unexpected." If you don't need to spend that money, you can carry it into the next month so you'll be more prepared when a surprise cost inevitably happens. But if you do end up needing it, you'll be very glad you have that extra cash in your bank account.
3. Budget for some fun spending
Budgeting shouldn't be an exercise in deprivation, and your budget won't be very livable if you strip all the fun out of it. The purpose of making a spending plan should be to ensure that you budget enough to accomplish your goals and to do some of the things you enjoy.
So don't be afraid to have separate line items in your budget for the fun and frivolous spending you want to do. Sure, you should pay yourself first and set money aside for retirement and savings goals. But by also planning to spend a reasonable amount on entertainment and leisure, it'll be a lot simpler and easier to stick to your budget.
As a bonus, you can then spend the money on those fun activities guilt-free, because you'll know that they aren't interfering with your long-range plans.
By following these three steps, you can make a budget each month that's easier for you to live on. It'll take your current needs into account, give you a little spare cash for surprises, and let you use your money to do the things you love. For a little extra help getting started, check out our recommendations for the best budgeting apps.
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