If you’re having trouble sticking to your household budget, don’t be too hard on yourself. Sticking to a budget is difficult for most people because life isn’t always predictable.
You may write out a budget but then find that you have to cover an unexpected expense or that you just don’t anticipate certain costs well enough. Or, you could be a spender at heart and just struggle with limiting your spending overall.
If you want to get better at sticking to your household budget, here are some practical tips that can help you.
1. Make Your Budget as Realistic as Possible
Believe or not, most people don’t stick to a budget because they create one that’s too strict and unreasonable. Don’t lie to yourself when writing your budget.
If you know that you like to buy coffee and dine out occasionally, include those expense in your budget. There’s nothing wrong with spending money on fun stuff so long as you can afford it and keep it controlled.
If you restrict yourself from living a normal life, you’ll likely rebel after a while and overspend in certain categories anyway.
Also, don’t try to model your budget off someone else’s. What works for them may not work for you. The best thing you can do is track your spending for at least 30 days then use that information to create a realistic budget so it’s easier to stick to.
2. Use Cash
One of my favorite and basically guaranteed solutions for sticking to your household budget is to use all cash. Think about it. Do you feel more likely to overspend or not really track your purchases when you use a debit or credit card? Statistics say this is the case.
In fact, people who use cash are likely to spend less and budget a lot more efficiently. Why? Because you can’t really overspend with cash.
If you don’t have the money, you just have to figure something else out. I like using the good old fashioned cash envelope budgeting system for most of my spending categories like groceries, dining out, haircuts for my son and husband, household expenses, our pets, and date night.
It’s easy because I can only spend the cash I have in the envelope each month. I’m motivated to stick to my budget because I don’t want my envelope to run empty too early before the month ends.
If you’re curious about the cash budgeting method, I’d recommend trying it out with one spending category for a month to see how you like it. Try to use it with a spending category that you struggle to budget with like groceries for example.
3. Take Credit Cards Out of Your Wallet
Unless you’re really good at controlling your spending or you’re a super successful credit card hacker, it may not be the best idea to keep the cards in your wallet at all times. Credit cards are somewhat tempting for me, even though I feel like I have a pretty good level of self-control.
Having access to credit naturally encourages us to spend money now and pay it back later. Except, when it comes to credit cards, there are interest charges attached to that repayment which makes it more difficult.
Try eliminating the option of using credit cards by removing them from your wallet so you don’t have the option to use them. If you tend to go over budget by the end of the month, try removing your cards during the last 1-2 weeks of each month to help you stay on track.
4. Shop Used
My family and I often buy used clothes and used furniture, and it saves us a lot of money. There were times when our budget was htight and shopping used allowed us to get the things we wanted or needed without overspending.
For example, last Christmas my son really wanted some new Nerf Guns. I know that he usually loses the bullets after a while and only uses these toys for a few weeks until he grows bored of them.
Still, I wanted to make him happy and knew that he likes to have these toys to play with whenever friends come over. Instead of buying new Nerf Guns, I bought some used Star Wars ones online and bought a package of replacement bullets.
Buying used furniture when we bought our house last year has also saved us thousands. You can set your own limits for what you do and don’t buy used, but being open to buying gently used items can help your budget tremendously.
5. Utilize Discounts and Coupons
You don’t have to be on the hunt for discounts 24/7 or become an extreme couponer to benefit from these money-saving methods. If you’re looking for a real solution for sticking to your household budget, be open to spending a few minutes to find deals and coupons to lower your expenses.
Check out deal sites before you make a purchase or consider using a savings or coupon app.
Ask stores if they have any sales going on or a clearance section that you can check out before you buy items at full price. Over the years, I’ve received coupons and deals for many different needs and wants, and the savings add up over time.
6. Find Free Family Entertainment
Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. There are plenty of free and fun things to do with friends and family if you look hard enough.
In my area, there’s a free comedy show on Thursday nights that I enjoy checking out with my husband sometimes. We also keep our son involved in school clubs and groups like Cub Scouts so he stays busy with plenty of activities.
Over the summer some of the kids from his Cub Scouts den got together twice a week to play sports at a local park.
You can check out your local park district or your city’s visitor site to see which free events and experiences are available in your area. There may be free admission for museums, local festivals, art exhibits, and other activities you can enjoy.
7. Monitor Your Utility Usage
This savings action is often overlooked but it’s super important. If your utility bills seem sky high, you may want to check to make sure nothing is wrong.
For example, a high water bill could be due to a leaky faucet in the spare bathroom. If everything in your house seems to be functioning well, start monitoring your utility usage.
Unplug electronics when they’re not being used. Cook meals in batches so you’re not using the stove every day.
If you have kids, make sure they turn off lights during the day. Also, try to delay turning on your heat in the fall for as long as possible. Make sure your home is properly insulated and dress warmly around the house until it gets cold enough to crank up the heat.
Sticking to your household budget may seem like a challenge in the beginning, but these tips will help budgeting become second nature.
Start by making your budget realistic, then be open to finding practical ways to save and cut back. See what works best for you and your family so you’re saving money but don’t feel deprived.
Do you have trouble sticking to your household budget? Which one of these tips would help you most?