July 27

How To Budget, Part 3

Making A Budget And Sticking To It

So, you have worked out what your personal values are, the things it is important for you to spend money on. And you have worked at writing an honest budget, one that prioritises the things you value, covers the things you urgently have to pay for, and doesn’t go over what you actually have to spend. What next?

Your budget is just words and numbers on a screen/page/scrap of paper. It becomes real when you actually live it. Sounds obvious, right? But I know for a fact that I am not the only person to sail through the month with a budget somewhere that bears no relationship whatsoever to what I am actually spending. So once you know what you  are planning to spend you need strategies for making sure you stick to that.

Why Don’t I Have Enough Willpower To Stick To A Budget?

Willpower is not an effective strategy because you can only use it when you are paying attention to your spending –  sometimes you will be using your brain for other stuff while you spend. Plus, using willpower takes mental energy and that fluctuates wildly from day to day and even from hour to hour. So some of your spending will happen, inevitably, when your willpower is low. And willpower is needed for other things too – if you use it all up on your spending you are going to have less of it for other important areas of your life. No, you need something other than willpower to make sure you really live your budget. Here are the strategies that work for me – try them and see which work for you too.

Eight Easy Strategies To Help You Stick To Your Budget

  1. Write it down and put it somewhere you will see it every day. Whether it’s a sheet of paper stuck above your kitchen sink, or an app on your phone, make sure it is right in front of you at least once a day every day or you will lose track of it.  Do not just have a budget in your head. Your head is very good at conveniently mislaying your budget when it wants to go shopping.
  2. Link checking your budget to something else you do every day to trigger you to check it. Tuck it behind your bathroom mirror and check it whenever you brush your teeth. Or put it beside the cooker and check it over while you are stirring your evening meal. Or go over it when you are stuck in traffic on your daily commute… Tick off everything you spent money on that day and add the amount you spent.
  3. Keep it real. Budgets are an idea – they are not real money. Try to deal with real money as much as you can. Don’t use plastic unless you are very good at checking your balance daily. Lift hard cash and spend your budget that way. We are generally more realistic about how much we can spend when it is actual physical money.
  4. Tweak your budget as you go along. Your budget is just a prediction and sometimes your prediction of how much something will cost will turn out to be inaccurate. That’s OK as long as you make up the shortfall somewhere else in your budget. Make sure you adjust an area of your budget that can take it. If you have a bill to pay, you can’t spend less on that, but you could cut what you planned to spend on treats, for example.
  5. Never let other people run your budget. If your budget for outings is low don’t let a friend talk you into a pricey night out. If your food budget is running low don’t let your kids badger you into buying expensive treat food. Just keep coming back to what you planned to do with your money and stick to your guns.
  6. Hide your surplus. If you are hoping to have a surplus – even just a few pounds – by the end of the month, hide it away at the start of the month. Put it in a separate account or in a separate purse. You are less likely to spend it that way. If your budget doesn’t work out and you have to spend that money then you can easily get it. But you won’t just spend it without even noticing.
  7. Set aside spending money. By all means have money just for dipping into if you can afford it. But keep the money you can afford to spend without thinking about it in a totally separate place from the money you have budgeted for other things. If you don’t, you will start to treat all your money as pocket money and suddenly it will all have vanished. Trust me on this one – I have been there.
  8. Put money straight into separate savings accounts on pay-day. We have different accounts for long-term savings, short term things like holidays or Christmas, and an emergency fund. Sometimes the amount we are able to put into each is microscopic but putting money into these accounts right away makes sure that these few pounds were still there at the end of the month. I use standing orders to do this so I don’t even have to use a tiny amount of willpower to make myself do it.
May 28

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Budget For The Real World

Week 4 – May 28th, 2018

It’s the fourth week of the month: if you can make the time, Write a Budget and Share Something.

Last month I invited you to get your own values clear in your head before you start planning how to spend your money. This month it’s time to get your own spending limits clear in your head before you start spending. Why does that matter? Let me tell you a story.

It’s a story about me – an accidental (that part is another story) stay-at-home mum who had lots of time with her kids but very little money in her purse. In spite of my limited spending power I went ahead and spent. And then, to my great surprise, discovered half-way through the month that we had zilch left. I spent only on things we valued, things that were important to me and my family – there was nothing wrong with what I was spending money on. I bought in sales, shopped around for bargains, bought materials to make things myself… there was nothing wrong with where I spent my money. But there was a gap between what I wanted to spend our money on and the amount of money we actually had to spend. And our financial security was dropping down into that reality gap and disappearing every month.

Budgeting saved me and it can save you too but only if you get in there and do it at the start of every month. And only if you work with the real not the ideal – planning to spend what you have and not what you wish you had.

So this month I invite you to think about how to draw up a budget that fits your values but also fits your reality. In How To Budget, Part 2  you can learn how to spend in the real world not just in your ideal world. Good luck!

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, some creative inspiration for free DIY projects and a recipe for Lemon And Poppy Seed Muffins.

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

 

April 30

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Budget Wisely And Banish Bad Smells From Your Washing Machine

Week 5 – April 30th, 2018

It’s the last week of the month: if you can make the time, Write a Budget and Share Something.

There are many ways to budget – as many as there are people, I suppose – and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Most months, I use a basic spreadsheet. This has the advantage of being quick and accurate and easy to use. Some months, though, my budget is hastily scribbled on a piece of paper and added up in my head. This has the advantage of being free and not depending on my having technology to hand. Occasionally, my budget is done in my head, hastily, on the hoof, right before I pay for something. Because I realise at that moment that I have not yet got round to doing it. That has no advantages at all.

I strongly recommend that you don’t repeat my crimes against personal finance. Make time to budget – by whatever method works for you – before it’s too late to seize control of next month’s spending. Read How To Budget, Part 1 if you want advice on how to get started.

On a completely different note – how about the easiest bit of spring cleaning you will ever do? For a couple of years, the Tartan Family regularly threw out clothing, towels, even bedding that was in perfectly good condition. Why? Because they stank. In spite of repeated washing, they had an unpleasant mouldy odour. They started out fragrant (if a little grubby), went through the machine, hung up to dry… and then were haunted by a whiff of such fustiness we couldn’t stand them. Out they went. I am not, as you may have guessed, a person who relishes throwing things out and spending money on replacements. I am happy to report, though, that I did eventually figure out what was wrong and our washing is now whiff-free. If you want to hear how spending a few seconds – yes, seconds – spring-cleaning can banish bad smells from your laundry, read Spring Clean Your Washing Machine.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and a recipe for goey, chewy, chocolate cookies. Freezable snacks for pennies in only a few minutes.

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, instructions to make deliciously fragrant luxury candles and a recipe for Apple And Custard Cake. See you then!

March 27

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Set Spending Goals That Make You Happy

Week 4 – March 26th, 2018

It’s the fourth week of the month: if you can make the time, Write a Budget and Share Something.

I write a budget every month, and think of it as an arithmetic task. Something to keep my head busy but not my heart. If you are building a thriftier lifestyle, budgeting has got to be your foundation. But I have gradually come to understand that you do have to listen to your heart as well as your head when you plan how to spend your money.

The point of being thrifty is not just to make numbers add up. Ultimately it is about making your life better, about making you and yours happy. Avoiding debt, making sure you can afford to eat, building up savings just in case… These are all ways to make your life less miserable, more happy.

Trying to make yourself happier is always a good aim but is it one you think about when you are drawing up a budget? Personally, I think in terms of what I have to spend. I think about the boring stuff – utility bills, mortgage, car repairs… I treat them like they are foisted on me, not things I have actually chosen. But they are things we chose. And we chose them for a reason, even if it is lost in the mists of time. We chose them because we thought they would make us happier. When you draw up this month’s budget, try to think about how much happiness each item on it will bring you – and decide if that is good value or not, to you.

Read How To Buy Happiness to get you in the mood, or listen to Michael Norton’s TED talk on the same subject. I will be back next week with a recipe for Humiliating Scones. How can you resist?

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, instructions to make deliciously fragrant luxury candles and a recipe for Apple And Custard Cake. See you then!

January 29

Thrifty Things To Do This Week – Budgeting Without The (Costume) Drama

Week 4 – January 29th, 2018

It’s the fourth week of the month: if you can make the time, Write a Budget and Share Something.

Congratulations – you have made it to the end of January. Did you make it on-budget? Or were you still in holiday-mode at the start of the month… and scrabbling to get back in control for the rest of the month? If you did, then you (and I) are not alone.

A monthly – or even weekly – budget is vital to staying on top of your finances. Planning what to spend and what to save is a serious business – but we shouldn’t take it too seriously. You don’t need the perfect system, or the most complex spreadsheet. You can start without the right app or the right qualifications or the right attitude. The important thing is just to start. Click here to find out What Downton Abbey Taught Me about budgeting without faffing.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner and some heart-warming advice on how to make the most of dreary February evenings.

Free, Downloadable Thrifty Habits Planner To Keep You On Track

Click here to download your copy of this week’s free Thrifty Habits Planner.

So, you want to get into the habit of spending less without putting in more effort? You need something to remind you what to do and when, so you don’t have to keep thinking about it. The Thrifty Habits Planner is a simple tool to help you do just that. Use it to pencil in which thrifty things you plan to do this week and to pin yourself down to when you plan to do them. If you take control this way at the start of the week, you are far more likely to have stuck to your plan by the end of the week. Sticking your plan up somewhere you will see it every day helps you to stay on track too.

Take time at the end of the week to give yourself a little treat as a reward for your thrifty efforts. Little splurges will actually help you to stay thrifty – read this to find out how.

I will be back next week with a fresh Thrifty Habits Planner, instructions to make deliciously fragrant luxury candles and a recipe for Apple And Custard Cake. See you then!

April 24

How To Budget, Part 1

How To Budget – Laying Your Foundations

Budgeting is about making sure your money covers the things you really want it to cover, juggling various needs to make sure the things that really matter to you don’t get left out in the cold. So before you even begin to crunch the numbers, it is vital that you clarify what you really value. One reason budgets so often fall by the wayside is that they aren’t a true reflection of what we really want and need. We only really get behind something if it really matters to us. Imagine, for example, that you are budgeting for huge mortgage payments towards a beautiful home when what you really value is time with friends and family. Over time you find that coffees, meals out, weekends away, gifts, phone bills, and a whole heap of other “keeping in touch” costs eat into the money you budgeted for your mortgage.

Does that mean you are bad at sticking to a budget? Or does it mean that your budget did not reflect your real values? Remember that one of the Principles Of Thrifty Living is to Work With The Real Not The Ideal… A budget that reflects your true values is going to be a lot easier to stick with in the long run so it pays to start off by looking – realistically – at what your values are.

 

Getting Real Value For Money – Finding Out What Matters Most To You

Take time to sit with a pen and paper and list the things that matter most to you. Remember that values are ideas not items or spending areas. So don’t just list what you want/need to spend money on – for example, ‘rent’. Instead list what matters to you in life – for example, ‘freedom’, ‘family’, ‘flexibility’, ‘security’…  Any of these values might be met by paying rent but paying rent is not, in itself, of value to you. Ask yourself whether the thing you are about to write down serves a purpose or is an end in itself. For example, you might realise that ‘career success’ is not intrinsically valuable to you, but helps you get ‘social status’. In that case, ‘social status’ is what you really value – so that’s what you write down.

You can get more advice about discovering what you really value at www.mindtools.com and download a free Core Values Workbook at www.dawnbarclay.com. You may find that some of the things you are struggling to afford aren’t worth the money you spend on them. Once you know what you really value, keep thinking about whether you are really getting value – your value – for money as you draw up next month’s budget.