Starting and Sticking to a Budget: Step 5

This is Step 5 in a series of 5 articles about starting and sticking to a budget. To start with step 1, click here.

5. Live by the plan
The hardest part of making a budget is sticking to it. Keep receipts and write down purchases each night. Make your budget work for you. Carry around a small notebook with a folder for receipts, create a spreadsheet on your home computer, or hang a posterboard in the kitchen for everyone to help track the budget. It doesn't matter what form your budget takes as long as it works for your family.

Track your purchases daily if possible or set aside some time each week to monitor your budget. Don't feel like you need to use all the money you have budgeted for each category. If you set aside $500 for your food budget but only spend $419 this month, that's $71 of "found" money. At the end of every month, take that "found" money and apply it to a debt or put it in a separate savings account.

Do you have trouble sticking to your savings or debt repayment plan? Try paying yourself first. Before you pay anything else, take out your budgeted amounts for savings and debt repayments. At the end of the month, you might feel the pinch in a couple of areas, but you can find a way to balance your spending without "stealing" from your savings or debt repayments.

Remember to readjust your budget every few months. If you find that you're always spending more on gas, you'll need to make up the difference in another area. Maybe you usually spend less than you expect on clothing or entertainment. Then you can devote more money to gas without cutting into savings.

Extra credit: How much should you be spending on the necessities? A good rule to follow it the "60% Plan." That means 60% of your income should be for the necessities: food, housing, clothes, taxes, utilities, etc. The remaining 30% is spent on debt reduction and/or savings, with about 10 percent remaining for "fun."

The thought of creating a budget for your family can be daunting. But think back to how intimidating starting an exercise or nutrition program felt at first. Now, it's second nature to reach for an apple instead of chips or lace up your sneakers for a walk each morning. Think of your financial health as a part of your emotional health, which is tied closely to your overall well-being. When your wallet is in good shape, that's one less worry to keep you awake at night.

Trimming the fat from your budget will help you achieve all the goals you can't afford to reach now. Each time you feel tempted to stray, think of the same tactics you use to stay on track with healthy eating and exercise.

Good luck, stay strong, and keep counting those pennies. They really do add up.
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Member Comments

Live BELOW your means. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
thanks Report
inteesting article and comments Report
Have lived on within my means and budget since my first job at age 14. Am now retired and suddenly I have unexpected dependents also living off my years of careful budgeting. Report
I think sticking to a budget is one of the most important things to do. If you don't plan how to save your money, life can go downhill. I am currently trying to save some money so I can plan for my grandma's funeral. She recently passed away about a week ago.
Jayden Eden | http://www.elmwoo
headstones-monuments.aspx Report
Just starting my budget this month is an eye opener to see where I can pull money out of to more efficiently pay my debt. Thank you! Report
Nearly 50% from my salary go to my saving account. The rest, I use for nessecities and "fun stuff". Hmm, maybe 50% is too much? Anyhow, I read all 5 parts and they are useful and informative and some of them (info) are what I've already know but didn't (yet) incorporate in my life, hehe. Report
This is the best budget printout plan I have found anywhere on the internet... the articles are wonderful.

The 60% rule was not a surprise to me but I knew our budget was "out of whack" and I think this 60% in more like 90% on our budget (which is not written down yet).. I get a queasy feeling at night when I think of our bills and I plan to get this all straightened out soon even if we have to sell our house to do it.

Thanks for the great advice and the tools to work on this major problem in my family. Report
Thank you for this. Some of it actually scared, me but in a good way Report
These articles were great! Leave it to sparkpeople to give info that is above and beyond what you expect! I always set goals every year and one of mine this year was to start working with a budget. so I am thrilled to get the info and especially the worksheets,I am excited to use them! Thanks!
Sandie Report
this was great, but as a college student, not as helpful for someone like me. Report
I found the series of articles very helpful. I look forward to creating a budget now that I know how to go about it properly. Report
I found this article, informative and practical. Thanks so much. Report
Thank you for this series of articles. It's very easy to understand and follow. I currently keep both a budget and a spending spreadsheet so that I can see where all of my money is going. This series still gave me some good things to think about, and the handy budget worksheet. Report


About The Author

Stepfanie Romine
Stepfanie Romine
A former newspaper reporter, Stepfanie now writes about nutrition, health, fitness and cooking. She is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who enjoys running, international travel and all kinds of vegetables. See all of Stepfanie's articles.