We Need Help Sticking to a Budget!

Where do I start? …well…I’ve been a budget nazi for over 6 years; in the early days there were times when we budgeted flawlessly and utilized the cash envelope system to perfection as we worked our bare-bones budget to escape from being broke. There were then years where I made substantial amounts of money and therefore our budget was a little more relaxed. Then there has been this more recent phase where we’ve lived on an irregular income budget – which means we again have to be on our budgeting game as we simply don’t know when the paychecks will be coming in.

We Need Help Sticking to a Budget

While we’ve made decent financial progress (by most standards) over the past few years, there is one problem we keep running into: we can’t stick to our budget! Ever!

I know, I know…most of you not-so-disciplined types will tell me, ‘it’s okay to kick back and enjoy life every once in awhile. Don’t worry about that iPad you just bought or the extra $200 you dropped this month living the not-so-high life. It’s just a couple extra dollars…’.

On the other hand, you fellow budget nazis are already biting your nails and frantically wondering, ‘how in the world can you spend $200 that wasn’t on your budget?! How can you live with yourself knowing you went over budget when you have gobs of student loan debt? Don’t you know that you CANNOT have a life when you have debt to pay off?!’

While going over budget every once in awhile isn’t a big deal, our problem has developed into much more than that: we’ve been going over budget nearly every month for the past 4-6 months! We Need Help!

As with most things, we tend to hold ourselves to some unreasonable expectations — especially when it comes to sticking to our budget. So, to be fair, the aforementioned iPad wasn’t something we splurged on. Instead it was purchased completely by rewards points that we accumulated from credit card rewards. Regardless of how it was paid for, it has made us feel that we’ve splurged a little too much. Then, when you add that onto the fact that we’ve gone over budget $50-200 each of the past few months, then you can probably see my conundrum.

Now, do I really think it’s the end of the world that we go a few dollars over our budget each month? No. Am I the worst financial blogger ever because I don’t execute our budget to perfection? No…it simply means that I’m human.

Saying all of that, do you think we need help sticking to a budget? Why do you think we’ve grown so lax and how would you suggest we correct it? Should I simply budget more for the categories we’ve overspending on, OR should we tighten up the strings and get disciplined again? Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

Picture by FreeDigitalPhotos

About the Author

By , on Feb 5, 2013
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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  1. Pauline says:

    I don’t like budgets very much but have a relaxed approach that is as long as financial obligations and goals are met, the rest is money for the month. I don’t mind being over $100 in food or under $50 in the phone category, it is all a big pot for day expenses and fun. And if there is something left, it goes to an instant access savings in case there is nothing left the next month.

  2. Maybe the fact that you’re going over budget every month is a sign that the budget needs to be reassessed. Clearly it’s too restrictive, what aspect of it is doing that? Is it the groceries, entertainment, what? Once you figure that out, you’ll be able to see if increasing these certain areas (without putting yourself in financial trouble) would help.

  3. If you can’t stick to your budget, then you need to adjust your budget. I’ve made budgets that I couldn’t stick to. Maybe I allocated too little money for eating out, or vacations, or paying the electric bill in winter.

    If your expenses aren’t aligning with your budget, you’re either too unrealistic in your budget assumptions or wasting a lot of money.

    This is where you go back to your expenses and your budget and see if you can make them align somehow while still meeting your savings goals.

    • Andy says:

      At the end of the day I think it really depends on the person. 6 years ago I would have agreed with you: readjusting the budget or cutting back more so that you fit within the budget would have been a priority. However, these days I’m not too concerned if we go over the budget a few months because of lack of discipline. Fortunately we’ve worked so hard that we’ve gotten to a point where we don’t have to be worried about that.

      With that said, you make some great points and it’s something that readers should consider (especially if they’re having trouble sticking to a budget).

  4. MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    I’m a Dave fan, and I listen to him all the time about his feelings on credit cards. I personally can’t have them…too tempting. You know he says you spend more when you have them even if you pay them off each month. Could that be part of the issue?

    Also when. Was doing the cash envelopes I was much better at sticking to the budget. When I pulled back on that, I started slipping more. I definitely feel much more pain when I part with cash. The weekly trip to the bank also helped me feel the riches and not want to part with it.

    Maybe just getting back to basics?

    • Andy says:

      Great points and questions!

      If somebody out there is having trouble sticking to a budget then credit cards could certainly be the issue. For us, we only charge large business expenses, large personal purchases, and gas on our credit card. For the rest, we still use the cash envelope system.

    • FI Pilgrim says:

      Mom, I agree with you here. I actually wrote a post about this topic today, because credit cards really relax my focus on our budget, and I end up thinking about purchases as part of next month’s budget. I’m not totally over to cash yet, but using debit cards has really helped my wife and I over the last year.

      • Other than our mortgage, we’ve been on a cash-only basis for about 15 years. I’m not opposed to debt, when managed properly and used for the right reasons, but until our daughters entered college, we never really had a good enough reason to go into debt.

        We both (my husband and I) like nice things, but over time we’ve convinced ourselves that we need fewer of them and we figured out when to spend a little extra and when to buy on the cheap. Neither of us was born with that particular skill…but it has improved with time. 🙂

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