Here's What Finally Helped Me Stick to a Budget
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By Kristin Sutton for Sapling

If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve stuck with budgeting the many other times I tried over the past nine years.

I truly believe that budgeting is the single most important tool for mapping out the life of your dreams. A budget allows us to control our finances and tell our money where to go, as opposed to figuring out where it went. It’s how you turn your vision board into reality: You put up all these fancy images of goals you want to accomplish and things you want. Budgeting gives you a roadmap of how you are going to attain them.

 

 
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But creating a spreadsheet is not enough: You also need to embrace these truths (which can actually benefit you in other ways) in order to successfully stick to your spending plan.

1. Budgeting forces you to be honest with yourself. You have to look in the mirror and ask yourself some tough questions. What are my spending habits? Why do I spend the way that I do? Am I trying to fill any voids? Take some time to review your checking account, tally up how much you’ve spent over the past month and put it into categories. (You may be shocked.) See which areas you can cut back.

2. Budgeting focuses your eyes on the prize. When you create a vision board, you are actually setting concrete, long-term goals (like traveling more or buying your dream home). Use those goals as fuel to create a budget and stick with it, all while keeping your endgame in mind.

3. Budgeting gives you a big dose of reality. Most of the time people fail at budgeting because they don’t make it work for their lifestyle. If you start off by making huge, unrealistic changes, then it’s not going to work. You are going to have to tweak your budget a few times before you figure out what works for you. Just make sure there’s some wiggle room for things you enjoy. For example, if you love to go out to eat, give yourself a small eating out “allowance” so you don’t feel deprived. Just remember, baby steps!

4. Budgeting makes you rely on your tribe. It’s imperative that you have support in place when you’re trying to make any type of life change. When we have someone checking in with us, such as a significant other, family member or friend, we are more likely to stay on track. Alternatively, if we are around those who are reckless with their money, we are more likely to behave that way, as well. You’re only as good as the company you keep, so surround yourself with like-minded, budget-conscious folks.

A version of this post originally appeared on Sapling.

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