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Which word is more cringeworthy to you, budget or diet? Sadly, for many of us, we view those words with the same disdain. We all know how important budgeting is, so why do we keep failing at it?
My take on budgeting is that we avoid it because we think it is too much work and we have enough work in our day already. What is the reward for budgeting? Much like exercise and diet, we tend to avoid the things that are best for us if we see them as work.
Think about how when starting a new exercise routine, you get yourself prepared by making sure you have the right tools and time set aside. You might feel excited about starting a new journey so the first few days or weeks you are motivated and pleased with yourself for finally committing to an exercise routine.
Then, after a few sessions you may start to feel less motivated; maybe you aren't seeing the results as quickly as you like, maybe it is starting to feel like work. Pretty soon, you are skipping workouts, making excuses and before you know it, you have quit altogether.
So, can the same things that help us stick to an exercise routine and healthy diet help us to succeed at budgeting? Yes!
Build a Solid Budget Routine
The same characteristics of a successful exercise or healthy eating plan should be present in the tools we use for budgeting:
Goals – Why are you budgeting? Do you want to pay down debt, do you want to save for a big purchase or vacation? Maybe you want to do all of these things. The budgeting tools you use should allow you to set specific goals in multiple categories (spending, debt repayment, saving and investing)
Record progress – A major part of budgeting is recording your expenditures. A good budgeting tool should allow you to record your expenses and track your progress towards achieving your goals
Easy to use – Budgeting should not be complicated. The tools you use should be user friendly and accessible on your mobile device, tablet or PC. Many apps can import data from your bank account, utilities accounts and credit cards to update your budget automatically. Some tools allow you to upload receipts from a photo or scanner.
Timely feedback – Timely feedback and prompts help keep you on track. It is important to schedule a time every day or every week to track your spending, pay your bills and review your budget. The right tool for you may have built-in reminders to pay your bills and notifications when you have a deadline approaching or if you have exceeded your budget in a particular category
For as many different exercise plans out there, you will find as many budgeting tools. It is important to find the one that works best for you or you won't stick to it.
There are paid and free apps or mobile phones and tablets that work with both iOS and Android platforms. Some of the more popular and free apps include:
Additional on-line tools:
If you prefer to put pen to paper, you can print any of the downloadable expense trackers and budget forms and fill them out manually. If you struggle to remember to keep receipts for small purchases, try keeping a small notebook in your purse or pocket and whenever you make a purchase write it down. Then you can transfer these expenses to your worksheet when you get home. Cross check your spreadsheet with your monthly bank statement to account for expenses you may have missed and for automatic withdrawals and bank fees.
What else do I need to know about successful budgeting?
Finally, you are bound to experience budgeting ups and downs. Remember, budgeting requires long-term dedication. Don't give up – like diet and exercise you must keep trying; you don't usually achieve your goal weight in a month and you don't master your budget in a month either. But with perseverance you can achieve your financial goals and live debt-free!
Leah Drewcock is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee at our Prince George location. To learn more how MNP Debt can help you, contact our local office at 250.596.4901 or visit our website at mnpdebt.ca.
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