If You Really Can't Follow a Budget, Make This 1 Move Instead

by Maurie Backman | Published on Aug. 8, 2021

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A woman looking at her finances with a laptop and phone.

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Some people really struggle with budgeting. If it's a problem for you, here's one workaround.

Sticking to a budget is important. Without one, you might go overboard on the spending front and land yourself deep in debt.

But for some people, following a budget is really difficult. After all, you can plan and plan to limit your spending in different categories, but when last-minute obligations pop up, it can be hard to say no. And while you can try to estimate your non-fixed expenses, like groceries and entertainment, your estimates may also end up being way off base -- which, in turn, makes your budget less accurate and less helpful.

If budgeting has been making you miserable to the point where you can't bear to keep at it, you may decide to call it quits. But if that's the case, here's one important move you should make instead.

Automate your savings

As mentioned, if you don't follow a budget, you might end up spending more than you can afford. And that could lead you to rack up debt that you're then forced to pay off over time.

That's a bad situation to be in. When you land in debt, you automatically pay more for your purchases via interest charges. Plus, the mere act of having debt could damage your credit score, making it harder for you to borrow affordably.

That's why if you can't stick to a budget, your next best bet is to automate your savings. Most banks offer a feature that allows you to send a portion of each paycheck directly from your checking account to your savings account every month. If you sign up for one of these plans and steadily pump money into your savings, then you'll buy yourself some protection in the absence of having a budget.

Remember, the big danger of not budgeting is landing in debt. But if you keep padding your savings by automating the process, then you'll also have some cash reserves to tap if you rack up a credit card charge that your paycheck can't cover.

Rethink the way you budget

While automating your savings is a good way to spare yourself a world of financial hurt when you can't or won't budget, it's also not an ideal solution. Sticking to a budget will do more than just keep you out of debt. It could also help you with your personal finance goals. Plus, it's good to have a solid awareness of where your money goes month after month.

If you've struggled with budgeting, try to figure out why. Maybe you need a budgeting method that fits your personality type. Or it may be that you're not allocating enough money to the right spending categories. If that's the case, you can play around with those numbers and see if mixing things up helps.

For example, if you're frustrated because you're constantly going over your $500 monthly grocery budget, then you may need to boost that figure to $700 and find a way to spend $200 less elsewhere, whether in a single spending category or across several categories.

Furthermore, if you find the idea of budgeting tedious or confusing, then it pays to see if the right budgeting app can help. Many of these apps can be linked to your bank account and credit cards so you can track your spending more easily.

It's best to avoid giving up on budgeting completely. But if you're really struggling to stick to one, at the very least put your savings on autopilot so you know you're not spending your entire paycheck month after month.

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