Figuring how to stick to your budget is like a tricky balancing act! Sometimes it can get confusing or overwhelming, or some expenses simply slip your mind. In order to stick to your budget, it is important to ask yourself important questions, answer them honestly and really brainstorm on how to trim your budget if you need or want to. In this post, I have a lot of great resources for you to use- including Pinterest boards and sections that I have saved for myself from other bloggers.
Feel free to check out my own budget in the table at the bottom of this post when you grab your FREEBIE.
Stay Organized to Stick to Your Budget
It is really important to keep your budget organized! There are several ways that you can keep track of your expenses. The most important reason to keeping your budget organized is so that you know where all your money is going. It is really easy to swipe your card when shopping, or place an order on your phone (simple
Tools You can Use to Stick to Your Budget
- Mint.com (though I am not always a fan and I don’t think that that should be your only organization tool for budgeting).
- Binder System– list all your expenses, the due dates and the costs in a binder. Check the binder and keep track of income and the expenses throughout the month. You can also save your grocery and other receipts and keep them in your folder/binder.
- Several Checking Accounts– We have a separate checking account for our Home Expenses. We transfer 1/2 the mortgage and HOA bills per pay check into that 1 account so that it never is accidentally absorbed by other expenses.
- Keeping the Banking Apps on your phone– I check our bank account balances and credit card balances frequently so that I don’t allow myself to mindless get sucked into swiping on credit.
- Envelope System– After certain expenses are scheduled, you could opt for a cash-only system for groceries, gas, entertainment. But with so many digital tools that can help you save money on things like groceries and gas- I don’t do that.
What tools do you use for your budget?
Be Honest about Your Budget
It is really important to be honest about your budget and yourself. You need to ask yourself what are your priorities, goals, which expenses can you really live without, and brainstorm ways to save money on groceries, gas and other shopping. If you can manage to answer these questions for yourself, then you shouldn’t be failing at your budget.
It is also extremely important to be honest about how much you make on a monthly budget! You can’t have $2,300-2,500 list of expenses and only make $2,000-2,100. Granted, there are many things that can make that difficult on a month to month basis- emergency room visits, car issues, winter weather making electricity costs higher that month.
What is necessary, and what is unnecessary in your monthly expense budget? The easiest expenses you can categorize as such mortgage/rent, utilities, groceries, etc. Some unnecessary expenses include Hulu/Netflix, Pandora, etc. As you can see below in our monthly budget.
Eliminating Expenses from Your Budget
Can you reduce that amount of money you spend on takeout and restaurants? Buying less junk food or processed food at the grocery store can save you money too. If you do car leases- like we do- opt for base models on cars! I have noticed that cars are cheaper than trucks and SUV type vehicles. Then add gas and insurance! The fancier the vehicle lease, the higher the insurance premium.
BONUS TIP: If you are a home owner, you can find a lender or use your previous lender to refinance your home! When the interest rates are lower than the one you currently have, it is a great time to get a new mortgage, pay off the current loan and get a lower mortgage with some cash back in the process (though that part is not guaranteed)! We did that in November 2020 and were able to lower our mortgage by almost $200 and get roughly $1,000 cash back.
Prioritize Your Goals
Right now Kyler and I have 5 goals that are determining our budget: we want to travel little more, be healthier and more physically active, he needs to focus on his studies, we would like to update our house; and as usual, we want to build our savings. So what were some of the things we did to make that happen? We went down to a single car, therefore a single car payment. I wasn’t driving my car much anyways. That lease was $216/mo + $84/mo for car insurance + $15-25/mo for gas. We stopped paying for XM Radio- no matter how good the “luxury” was. We go out to dinner far less than usual- his busy schedule helps make that possible. Although, he did purchase a monthly gym membership- his student rate is $45/mo and I have the Fitbit subscription so that I can stay at home. That is $80/year- so that still is saving us money.
I do realize that traveling and making updates to the house are not priorities- they are wishlist items that we will only do if we can afford or justify the expense. We are also not in a rush to do that much to our house- right now we just want to replace all the carpet (especially the bathrooms and kitchen!)
What is it that you want for this chapter in your life?
Budgeting for Groceries
This one might be one of the trickiest to balance…Grocery costs go up and down – especially as gas prices increase. When I was a cashier at a grocery store, I also noticed that winter prices were higher than summer prices. And during training, I was told that pre-cut items (like fruit platters and bowls) are more expensive than the melons themselves. That’s because you’re paying a convenience fee! If you want to try to buy strawberries when they are not in season- you’ll be paying almost double what they cost in summer.
Ways to Stick to Your Grocery Budget
- Buy in-season produce– I have a Pinterest section with a bunch of pins for Seasonal Produce!
- Shop at Farmers Markets– sometimes produce is cheaper or you can get giant pieces of produce at “bulk prices” I once saw a basket of potatoes that were the size of 3-4 grocery store sized potatoes for like $2 each. That’s pretty good when you only need about that much for a batch of potato soup or mashed potatoes!
- If you have a special diet, try the tips I have outlined in this blog post Budgeting for a Low Carb Diet
- Check out my in-depth article about Basics I Know to be True When it Comes to Grocery Shopping
Final Thoughts on How to Stick to Your Budget
So there you have it! 20 ways that you can stick to your budget! As promised, here is your freebie. I created a chart similar to my budgeting system. If you want a mostly blank template to track your expenses, click here. Below you can also review my monthly budget and notes about our expenses.
My Monthly Budget
|HOA (paid bi-monthly)||$200|
|Water Softener Bill||$32|
|Car Lease Payment||$285|
Usually spend $300
|Any credit card balances||X|
Notes about My Budget
- * Amounts vary month to month
- Our grocery budget varies based on what we need to buy that month or week. The months we need to take a trip to Costco to buy meat is obviously more expensive. This is an exaggeration and a limit on how much we spend. Not the actual amount that we spend on groceries. In fact, I have plenty of meals that cost $5 or less- this is an awesome resource for you!
- Electricity is $80 in the summer and up to $200 in the winter in Montana, but there are several ways to try to offset that cost and warm up your house in the winter without the baseboard heaters… But when it’s -30 degrees + windchill, you can’t simply avoid using the heater.
- Some of our basic monthly expenses are on credit carbs – like utilities- because I like to redeem a percentage as cash back to go towards our statement balance
- This amount does not include internet- because that is a business expense- and it doesn’t include annual memberships like Costco, Thrive Market and my Fitbit Premium subscription.
I do love my Thrive Market Membership, you can learn more about my favorite products and experience by reading my Thrive Market Posts.
Disclosure: I am a Thrive Market Affiliate and this post contains affiliated links. This means that I earn a commission if you choose to purchase a monthly or annual membership by them using these links. The products listed in any of my blog posts that promotes Thrive Market are only the ones that I have ordered and really enjoyed. Read full disclosure here.