Budget Yes!: Maintaining the Budget Habit

by Jane Chidester

This is the final installment in a series of articles about making budgeting a way of life. It's not the torture mechanism we've been trained to think it is, but rather a powerful method of gaining control, planning, communicating, and fulfilling your dreams. At the very least, a budget should allow you to find extra spending money in your paycheck every month!

In the last installment, I covered how to get yourself in the best position to begin budgeting. To wrap things up, I'd like to share some motivation and tips on permanently incorporating the budget habit into your life.

Though this quotation from Sara Ban Breathnach, author of "Simple Abundance," is directed at women, I believe both men and women can take inspiration from it: "Like success, money is an emotionally volatile issue for most women. It's probably the most complicated relationship we have--and the one that most controls our lives because we let it." In this series of articles I've presented about budgeting, I hope you have gained some insights, motivation, and steps on how you can take control of your money. Everyone can successfully reap the benefits of budgeting; just take it step by step. The payoff is big. I truly believe there is no greater life-changing experience than getting and maintaining control of your finances. The effects percolate to every aspect of your life.

I leave you with a list of my favorite tips for weaving "money smarts" throughout your life. I'm sure many of these are familiar, but I hope you'll pick up one or two new ideas. Aside from the list below, the following three are my top favorites:

  1. If you are new to budgeting, don't overwhelm yourself and categorize your expenses into too many "little" categories--start with a few big "buckets" at first until you get the rhythm, then fine-tune your budget.

  2. Make this a household activity by involving all members, and make sure there is some "fun" in it for everyone.

  3. If you never go any further than spending some time tracking your expenses for a few weeks, at least do that. The insights you'll gain from paying attention to your habits will go a long way!

General Budgeting Tips :

  • Make impulse buying difficult (leave checkbook, credit cards at home)

  • Make savings an "expense" item

  • Have some fun money for each family member

  • Budget for a fun item (vacation, toy)

  • Don't over-categorize (don't make too many "expense" categories)

  • Don't divide couple's paychecks functionally using her check for certain categories and his for others

  • Use an interest-bearing checking account

  • Create an "expense" item to pay off credit-card balances

  • Pay off the highest-interest rate cards first

  • Don't use credit cards again until the balance is paid off

  • After a loan is paid off, keep paying the loan amount to yourself (make a vacation fund, or car fund)

  • Set aside money monthly for bills that are due quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly

  • Reconcile your budget at least once a month when reconciling your checking statement

  • Make sure to mark your last reconcile point in your budget

  • Get utilities or banks to change the due dates of bills to make your work easier

  • Remember, just the act of identifying your expenses is extremely valuable

Jane Chidester is the author of BudgetYes! 21st Century Solutions for Taking Control of Your Money Now!

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