Creating a budget can be difficult. Don’t let anyone fool you that personal finance doesn’t require any work.
But why is it even more difficult to stick to a budget?
Quite a few years ago, I was in that boat. Budgeting. Was. Difficult.
I would try different methods. Fail.
Then I would try other methods. Fail.
I felt like I was overspending on a lot of different things. I would research different tips and tricks for how to manage my money better.
Nothing seemed to work. My debt kept climbing and my savings kept dropping.
What’s worse is that not only was I making decent money, but I was putting in honest and real effort to better my financial life.
I was literally going nowhere fast with my money.
And it was incredibly frustrating and discouraging. I was defeated.
Fast forward to today and I’m in a place where I’m very comfortable with my budget. It lets me spend how I want, save what I need, and feel great doing both.
What’s the best part?
I’ve been able to consistently stick to my budget for the past five years.
Looking back, I wanted to figure out why I wasn’t able to stick with a budget for so long. There had to be a reason or two why after fifteen years of budgeting it all just started to click.
I studied my own budgets that I had used over the years, looked back at the budgets I helped other people create in those 15 years, and studied budgeting from some of the greats like Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, Ramit Sethi, and J.D. Roth (from Get Rich Slowly).
What I found is that there are three main reasons why it’s so hard for most people to stick with a budget. It’s because they:
- aren’t budgeting in a way that works for them
- are experiencing mental barriers with budgeting
- are experiencing practical barriers with budgeting
Let’s dive into these one at a time.
1. You Aren’t Budgeting in a Way that Works for You
This is the number one reason I’ve seen for why people can’t stick to their budget—and the whole reason I wrote my book, The Root Budgeting System (get it on Amazon).
Throughout my younger years of budgeting, I tried every method out there, but the entire method is what I was focusing on.
If a specific principle or two didn’t work within that method, I’d get rid of the whole method—sometimes without even giving it a second thought or trying to figure out why it wasn’t working.
Then, I’d be on to the next method. The same thing would happen. If I didn’t like a part of the method, I’d throw the whole thing out.
On and on this went for years.
Finally, I figured out that I needed to focus on the budgeting principles and not the budgeting methods.
I took the principles that made sense for me and used them to help create a budget infused with who I was.
That was the magic sauce to budgeting. Budgeting in a way that matched who I am was the key to being able to stick to a budget.
Now, unintentional overspending is few and far between and it’s very easy to see where something goes wrong if it does.
It even makes it easy to pay off debt, set money aside for vacations, and save more for the future.
The Icing on the Cake
One of the best things about creating a budget this way is that it can change and flex as you grow.
If you need to save up for a friend’s wedding, you can move things around to make it work. If you decide that you want to fast-track your debt payoff, you can use your budget to find extra money to pay it off fast.
Do you want to take a large vacation to Europe in two years or want to start eating out more? Budgeting this way will allow you a clear picture of what you need to do to get there.
Any of these changes to your budget can be done without changing any of the budgeting principles that you are using for yourself.
It makes sticking to the budget you set for yourself super easy because you’re literally doing what is best for you with your money.
2. There are Mental Barriers to Budgeting
Learning how to manage your money the most effective way you can is only half the battle. I have been effectively an expert at budgeting for more than 15 years, simply because of how much knowledge I have about budgeting.
But I just learned how to stick with a budget and budget well in the past five or so years. What happened?
Besides not budgeting in a way that works for me, there were also mental barriers I had to overcome. I see this in many people that I coach in finances.
Have you ever said any of these statements to yourself?
- I feel so defeated when I try and budget
- I’m never going to be able to get budgeting
- Rich people don’t need to budget so I don’t either
- Ugh! I can’t believe I overspent on groceries and (insert your problem category) AGAIN!
- I’m never going to be able to stick to a budget
- When is it going to be my turn to catch a break so I can stop living paycheck to paycheck?
- If I only had more money, I’d be much happier
- If I had more money, I’d be much more popular
Do any of those sound familiar? If you’re like most people, a lot of these statements have found their way into your budgeting vernacular.
These are all mental barriers (among other mental barriers) that we set for ourselves and they can be very hard to get over.
You have to be fulfilled in your budget.
So How Do You Get Over Your Mental Barriers?
One of the best ways to get over your mental barrier is to own your mindset. Your thoughts are your own and you can decide what you want to dwell on.
Instead of telling yourself you’ll never be able to budget, immediately change the thought that you’re learning how to budget and stick with it. And live in that mental space instead of going back to your original mindset.
If you want to get good at sticking with a budget, it helps to believe that you are able to get there. It helps A LOT actually.
Motivation is another huge mental barrier. It is really tough to stay motivated at times—sometimes all the time.
That isn’t just for budgeting either but it can be especially hard to stay motivated in our budgets.
Learn what motivates you and what areas can affect motivation to get over this barrier.
Another mental barrier I see is the relationship you may have with money. We think money has a lot more power than it actually does.
In reality, money has no power. The only power it has is the power you give it.
Money is a tool just like a hammer, and it only has the same power as a hammer.
A hammer is much different in the hands of a child than it is in the hands of a master carpenter.
When your relationship with money changes, you become in charge of it.
You put it to use how you see fit. You get to drive the car.
Get over this hurdle by viewing money as a tool.
3. There are Practical Barriers to Budgeting
Practical barriers are gaps in the tactics, knowledge, actions, principles, tips, tricks, and all of these other tangible things that you use in your budget.
It could be that you’ve learned how to do something in budgeting the wrong way or aren’t applying it correctly. Some budgeting methods are sound but aren’t taught well so that can also create barriers for you.
Simply learning a new way to save or a new tactic to not overspend on groceries may be the defining factor in sticking with your grocery budget.
Applying a new budgeting principle to your budget may go a long way in helping you stick with it.
To get over practical barriers, there are three simple things you need to do:
- Figure out an area where you are having trouble sticking with your budget. This could be your entire budget or any specific category, such as groceries, eating out, or gift giving.
- Learn a new tip or principle and apply it to how it works best for you. You have to take action on it in order for it to have a fighting chance.
- After a couple of months of honest effort, decide to keep it or try something different. You could also add more tips on top of it!
The key is taking action.
If there is something you need to learn, you need to take action to learn it. If you need to get rid of something in your budget that’s not working, you need to take action and say goodbye to it.
Don’t be afraid to jump when you need to get over a barrier.
Sticking with a budget is not just about income. I know plenty of people that make a ton of money that are still not getting any closer to their financial goals.
In fact, many of them are getting further from them—all because they struggle with maintaining their budget.
It’s also not about simply saving. There are people that are saving a ton of money and are living miserable lives because of it.
They still aren’t budgeting effectively because they feel like crap.
Sticking to a budget is more than just knowing how to budget or making sure the numbers look right.
To stick with a budget effectively long-term, you have to budget in a way that makes sense for who you are and be able to either remove or climb over the mental and practical barriers to budgeting.
Here’s the thing though. I know that you can do it. Yes, I’m talking to you.
And I want to help you.
I offer finance coaching for people just like you who are tired of feeling like they’re up against a wall financially.
As a professional coach and expert budgeter, I will guide you into figuring out the best way to manage your money in a way that makes sense for you.
I will encourage you, help keep you on track, and make you feel like your goals can be reached.
And as a thank you after our session, I’ll send you a digital or physical copy of my book, The Root Budgeting System, for free.
Looking forward to hearing from you, and as always, I’m here for you.