The Secret to Keeping Your Budget on Track

by Darlene Arechederra


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B-u-d-g-e-t. The very word can cause us to tremble in our new boots! But a hard-working soul need not fear. There's a simple way to win the battle of the budget. It's great fun, and what better time to get started! So what's the secret? Build some rewards and fun into your budget!

Think this tip is too simple to be effective? Consider the last time you blew your budget. You were probably zipping along just fine. Life was great. A month later, you slipped up just a bit. Two months later, boom! Your budget's blown, big time. How long did it take you to get back on track after that?

Think back on your most recent project. Was there a reward waiting for you after completion? If not, did you feel as if the project took forever, with no light at the end of the tunnel? Your rewards will serve as a mini-light at the end of your tunnel.

How to Set Up Your Goodies List

Here's where the fun starts. Your Goodies List will be your own personal list of rewards, fun, or items you'd like to buy or do. Jot down some things that excite you, things you can look forward to. Why? Because there's no budget on the earth that will work if you have no motivation to keep going.

How to Use Your Goodies List to Motivate You

For every month (or week) you're able to stay on track with your budget, reward yourself with one item from your Goodies List. Keep your reward in a range you can easily afford (just make sure it's enough to motivate you.) Try $40 or less for a monthly reward. For weekly, try $10. Even $5 can energize you.

In the past, you might have felt as if you were giving up things to stay on track. You'll find that you're not giving up anything at all. You're simply targeting the things you really want or need, and rewarding yourself for not making those budget-blowing purchases. It's easy to burn out or feel deprived if there's nothing to show for your hard work.

Affordable Suggestions for Your Goodies List

If you're longing to change the colors in your bathroom, try a towel to match your new color scheme, a can of paint, a new shower curtain or a new rug.

If you dream of taking up writing, try taking a course on writing, buy a book on writing a best seller, pick up some paper, pens, resources, software for writers or establish a new writing area in your home.

If you yearn for fancy new tires for your hot rod, try this idea. For each month/week you stay on track, write yourself a check for your reward amount and tuck it into an envelope. When you've saved up enough to purchase one tire, go shopping! Write one check for the tires, then destroy the other checks. Update your checkbook, making up any small difference. Buy your tires one at a time as you "earn" them. If there's a huge discount for buying more than one at a time, simply keep saving your checks until you can buy more than one (only do this if you can stay motivated.)

Do you simply want to feel more secure? If money itself will motivate you, consider this idea. Write yourself a check as your reward instead. Use it to open a savings account. Name your account, writing the name on the cover of a pocket notebook. Carry it in your pocket or purse, tracking every deposit you make in this notebook. Keep your balance up to date. Make it a big deal (it is, you know).

So, how motivating is that? Keep in mind, your rewards are not just for keeping your budget on track. Use your Goodies List to help you ward off procrastination and keep you energized to complete your projects (even those dreaded chores). Now, tweak your plan until you've got it working for you. Go ahead. Get started today!


Darlene Arechederra offers simple, unique strategies to help others move from spending to saving. She believes the trick is to discover which ideas work best for each person because money isn't one-size-fits-all. Darlene encourages others to discover their own unique strategies for saving money!

Take the Next Step

  • For more information on budgets, click here.
  • Let the fun begin. What's on your "goodies" list?

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