2012 was a great year in a lot of ways, but it’s the end of the year and it’s time to put it to bed. It’s now time to start thinking about the year ahead. Make plans to make 2013 your best year ever, whether it be for your home, family, small business, or whatever (why not all of those?).
If you and your family are like me and mine, you may have found yourself getting “off track” in several key goal areas during the year. Especially during the holidays.
One area where most of us can be more successful is the family budget.
5 Steps to Sticking to Your Budget
1. Start Now!
It’s not the end of the year yet, but it’s close enough that you can go through your financial statements and average the money you spent in major categories for the year. It really is the best time of the year to make a budget happen. And the only way you can stick to it is to get it started, so start now for 2013.
2. Make It Habitual
Like anything else in life, once something is a habit, it’s much easier to stick to it. The earlier you start your “habit” the earlier it becomes “automatic” (so see step 1 above). Things that will help you make budgeting a habit are doing your budget at the same time every month, carrying your budget, looking at it regularly. Another tool that can help is the envelope system. Be intentional about this and you’ll have success.
3. Partner Up
This is especially critical in the realm of budgets because there’s a good chance you’re married. If you are, then you really should have a budget meeting with your spouse in order to make sure that nobody is being trampled in the process. That’s just healthy for your relationship. But you also get the benefits of “buy-in” that make it much more likely that your household budget will actually hold. If you’re single, partnering up may mean getting an accountability partner to hold you to creating a new budget on paper (or in the computer) each month and then assessing how good you are at sticking to it.
4. Do It Before The Month Starts
This may seem like common sense. And it is. But how likely are you to stick to a budget when you’re already a week into the month? Take the time to create your budget the last weekend of the month. Once you get it going, it really shouldn’t take a terribly long time. It becomes more of a review process, which means feedback. Feedback is the best way to alter your behavior.
5. Use a Consistent Tool
I use YNAB 4 for making budgets and I love it (Here’s my review of it). Honestly, it’s beautiful and easy to use. There are tons of tools out there from home-made spreadsheets to plain white paper. Many financial sites include budgeting software. Mint.com has a pretty functional budget component and it’s free. Mint is also an awesome way to quickly gather information about where your money has gone over the past year.
What has been the key to your success (or lack thereof) in keeping with your budget in the last year?