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7 strategies for sticking to a budget

Make it less painful by turning it into a game

By Karen Datko Oct 18, 2009 5:56PM

This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity:


Keeping to a budget is like keeping to a diet. It's painful.


It’s a nuisance to keep track of the money you spend. However, it's a necessary evil. If you don't, you're setting yourself up for failure. 


I’ve come up with seven tricks that will help you stay on track and not give up.

Make it a game by setting goals. Did you spend $200 on eating out last month? How about getting that number under $150? By doing this, you’ll see budgeting as you working toward something (spending less than $150) instead of working away from something (spending in general). Be creative and set other goals, like zero-spending days and sub-$10 days.


Make it a game by focusing on different categories. If you track your spending in categories, devote different days to different categories. On Monday and Tuesday, try to restrict how much you spend on eating out. On Wednesdays, avoid spending on clothing, shoes, etc.


Treat yourself. Once a week or once a month, treat yourself to something reasonable. You’ve taken the same ham-and-cheese sandwich to work because it saves you a ton of money. Spend some of those savings on something you can enjoy like a movie or a new DVD.


Track to the dollar. Does it really matter if lunch was $5.67 or $5.89? No. Round your spending to the nearest dollar when you track how much you spend. 


Use credit cards. The beauty of credit cards is they record everything you’ve spent. Let that be your record instead of keeping little slips of paper every day.


Review your budget with someone. Maybe your budget is too restrictive. It’s unreasonable to set your monthly food spending at $10. That’s obvious. But you may not realize that your goals are unrealistic for other categories.


Set a big goal. Playing games is great, but the ultimate strategy is to set a big goal for yourself. Why are you budgeting and saving money? Perhaps it’s for a vacation or a down payment on a house or a new car.If you’re budgeting to make ends meet, set a goal of becoming debt-free or funding your emergency account. Tape that goal on every credit card you have, and on your wallet or purse. 


Other articles of interest at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity:

Published Nov. 13, 2007
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