If there's one thing I'm good at, it's starting a budget. I have no problem tracking our spending for a month or two or setting up income and expense categories. I'm even able to setup a working zero based budget where we allocate every dollar to a category, leaving no money left over to just disappear.
The problem is, I'm also good at letting things slide. Once we've been doing a budget for a month or two and things seem to be going pretty well, I have a way of slowly moving back towards bad spending habits, and not keeping track of where our money is going. I fall victim to the slow creep of budget malaise. I no longer care to do the budget because it's just too much work (just feels like it) and it's not fun any more.
The past few months has been one of these off-the-tracks scenarios for me. I keep getting back on track with our budget, and then off track again. We've been going through health issues, hospital stays and general job craziness, and through it all the budget just hasn't been as important. It's been tough to get excited about doing our budget when other things seem so much more important.
Getting Back The Budget Mojo
So how do you get the passion back for doing your budget? I'm not sure I have a perfect answer, but I have one that seems to work for me. I take a month off.
I know, that doesn't sounds like the greatest idea, but I've found that most things in our budget are on auto-pilot anyway, and sometimes you just need a break to collect yourself.
Taking a month off from the budget doesn't have to mean going crazy for the month, but it might mean not worrying about hitting every expense category on the head. Maybe this month you'll shoot for your goals, but not be stringent about them. If you spend slightly more in the dining out category, that's OK, don't fret about it. Just realize that you're having an off month, and next month you'll be buckling down again.
Staying Focused With Goals
Another thing that can help you stay focused and get back on track is to actually write out your goals, and keep them front of mind by putting them on the fridge, or having them on the desktop of your computer. Remind yourself that you're working towards something. If you don't set goals, it's extremely easy to get off track and forget why you're even doing a budget.
Make both short and long term goals so that you have something to work towards, both in the coming months and the years to come.
- Short Term Goals: Goals to be met within 2-3 years. Set goals like saving for birthday gifts, saving for a new car, or paying off that nagging credit card debt. Watch as you get closer to reaching your goal, and have a mini-party when you pay off debts!
- Long Term Goals: Goals to be reached in longer than 3 years. Set long term goals like retirement savings goals, college savings goals and mortgage payoff goals. Keep track of your goals as you go.
Another thing that really helps is if you have someone who can keep you accountable and help you get back on track. If you're married, your spouse is usually your best choice. If you're single, talk with someone you trust that can keep you accountable, and tell you when you're not practicing good financial habits.
Do you have your own tricks or tips for staying on track with your family budget? What helps to keep you accountable? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.