How to Stick to Your Budget

How to Stick to Your Budget

A budget should be a reflection of your life.

Think of it as a cozy, well-maintained house for your money—the kind with paint colors Joanna Gaines would love and furniture made by the hottest new designers. In this case, you’re the designer, so you decide where your money goes each month.

That means if you want to shop a big sale or go out to eat more often, no problem. Just arrange it in your budget first. And if you want to save for a new couch or put money toward debt, that’s fantastic! Dedicate some space for it.

The trouble comes when you start overspending in your restaurant budget then “sneak” money from your sofa savings to pay for your fast food cravings. Remember, your budget isn’t open concept; it has separate rooms for a reason.

Let’s discuss some simple housekeeping tips for a beautifully balanced budget.

Why It’s Important to Stick to Your Budget

We’re all adults, right? No one can tell us to make our beds in the morning or wash the dishes before we crash at night. And no one can force us to budget.

We budget for a reason. Around here, we call it our budgeting why. And the why looks different from person to person. Finding your why is the key to helping you make the best decisions with your money.

Maybe you love the feeling of peace and security you get when you budget. Perhaps you want to teach your kids the best way to manage money. Or you might even have some big money dreams you want to fulfill!

Tap into your personal why and keep those reasons close as you work to stick to your budget this month and in the future.

How to Set a Budget You Can Stick To

The best budgets set you up for success. To stick to your budget, ditch the wish list and get realistic about how much money you’re likely to spend in any given category.

To start, you might take a look at our suggested budgeting percentages. These numbers aren’t meant to be hard and fast rules, but more of a guide to get going. You can make adjustments as the months go by, so the numbers best match your life and your needs.

Here’s how we break things down:

Category Percentage of Overall Spending
Giving 10-15%
Housing 25–35%
Utilities 5–10%
Food 10–15%
Transportation 10–15%
Health 5–10%
Insurance 10–25%
Personal 10-15%
Recreation 5-10%
Saving 10-15%

Of course, if you have debt, you’ll want to move these numbers around to allow for crushing your debt as quickly as possible. Remember: You’re the designer of your budget, so make sure the budget works for you!

How EveryDollar Makes It Easy to Stick to Your Budget

Create an EveryDollar budget and you’ll put yourself three steps ahead of your old budgeting ways. That’s because we do the math for you, building expense tracking right into the app.

Previously, grocery shopping probably went a little like this: You go to the store, shop from your list, and try to keep costs down while crossing your fingers you’re not spending too much. When you get to the register and the cashier tells you the amount, you do an internal shrug because—let’s be honest—you have no idea how much you have left for groceries this month.

With EveryDollar, you’ll set your food amount before the month begins, and with every visit to grocery store, you’ll input how much you spent. EveryDollar lets you know how much money remains.It gets even easier when you upgrade your account to EveryDollar Plus, becasue we’ll import purchases directly from your bank account. All that’s left to track expenses is a quick swipe, and you’re done!

8 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Budget

1. Keep it real. Let’s say you give yourself $100 for restaurants each month, but consistently spend three times that. Something’s got to give. Why not meet in the middle? Go ahead and cut back, but also budget a little more if you can. The closer your plan is to reality, the more likely it is that you’ll stick to it.

2. Set up auto draft. This is an easy way to save for a big goal. Set up an auto draft, so your money goes right into your car savings account or your Christmas fund. That way you won’t accidentally spend the money on something tempting and delicious like kung pao chicken.

3. Plan your meals. Find yourself going hog-wild at the grocery store? Here’s a simple solution: Plan out all your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks for the week. Instead of grabbing whatever looks good off the store shelves, go to the grocery store with a meal-specific list in hand. Get what you need and get out.

Related: 5 Easy Tweaks to Help Your Grocery Budget

4. Break it up. You’re dying to see that new superhero flick with your sweetie, but you might have spent all your entertainment money during the first week of the month. If you typically go to a few movies, concerts or plays every month, mentally divide up your money into four weeks. Then allow yourself a set amount each week. That way, when the next month rolls around, you won’t blow all your money in the first week!

5. Consult your social calendar. Birthdays. Weddings. Anniversaries. Retirements. You love celebrating big life events with your friends and family, but you don’t always remember to budget for them. Next time, look through your social calendar to see what’s coming up before you budget. If you don’t have a social calendar, go ahead and make one now. It doesn’t take long, and it works organizational wonders!

6. Wait it out. You’re window-shopping (with absolutely no intention of buying anything) when you see the perfect denim jacket. Your closet wants it. Now. But your clothing budget is running seriously low. Take a breath and try this instead: Tell yourself you can buy it, but not until next month. By then, you’ll either have enough saved up, or you’ll decide you don’t like it that much after all. Even better, if you wait, maybe it’ll be on sale!

7. Drop the credit card. Research shows that people are willing to spend more—as much as 83% in some cases—when paying with a credit card instead of cash.¹ That’s because they don’t feel the pain of payment until the bill comes around weeks later. Don't let the temptation of delayed payments force you to spend more for an item than it's worth! Resolve to save money by sticking with debit or cash.

8. Use your budget buddy. If you’ve done everything on this list but still find yourself overspending each month, find an accountability partner. If you’re married, that person is your spouse. If you’re single, it’s a financially savvy friend or family member. Ask them to help you create (and stick to) a better budget that fits your lifestyle. (Be sure to cook them a nice thank-you dinner—they earned it!)

Like any good housekeeper, you know when your home feels just right. So if your budget isn’t working for you, redesign it until it is. You’re in control! And be sure to honor your hard work by sticking to your money plan (and asking for help if you need it).

To create a budget that works for you, sign up for a free EveryDollar account. Set up your monthly budget in minutes and easily edit as you go until you get it just right.