8 Simple Steps to Help You 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 Martha Stewart paint on the walls and Ralph Lauren rugs all around. You’re the designer, and 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-floor concept. It has separate rooms for a reason.

Here are some simple housekeeping tips for a beautifully balanced budget.

1. Keep It Real. Let’s say you give yourself $100 for restaurants each month but consistently spend three times that. Something’s gotta 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 into your car or Christmas savings accounts. That way you won’t accidentally spend the money on something tempting and delicious, like kung pao chicken. (Okay, now we’re hungry.)

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 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 sorta 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 because you’re starved for fun!

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. Like, 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 it may be on sale! Problem solved.

7. Drop the Credit Card. Studies show that consumers spend much more when they use credit. That’s because they don’t feel the pain of payment until the bill comes around weeks later. Don't let delayed payments put you in a trance of spending 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 budget-savvy friend or family member. Ask them to help you create (and stick to) a better budget for your life. Afterwards, 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 less than 10 minutes and easily edit as you go until you get it just right.