How To Create A Budget—And Stick To It

how to stick to a budget

Picture this. You’ve just gone through 30 days of spending only what you need to—and nothing more—and as a reward you suddenly have more money than you usually do at the end of the month. Money that you can put towards whatever you want: a future house, an exciting trip, a big present for a special someone, you name it. Sounding good? That’s how it feels to stick to a budget.

What a Budget Can Do for You

When it comes to saving—whether it’s for a vacation, a new house, or your retirement—creating and sticking to a budget is a big part of keeping yourself accountable. It also gives you a financial structure to work with. Instead of agonizing over every bill and payment, a budget can make it easier to guide your spending decisions by giving you a clear indication of how much money you have to play with at any given time.

By helping you track all your income and spending—whether that’s for you as an individual or for your family—a budget gives you insight into your finances from one central location. In this way, you can get a clear picture of how much money you can put towards your larger financial goals and into your emergency fund, and how much you have left to spend on food, entertainment, and other aspects of life.

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Setting Up Your Budget

With all these benefits in mind, we’ve put together some tips and tricks to help you build a budget that makes sense for you.

Where Should It Live?

A budget can exist in a variety of formats. Whether you’re more comfortable using Excel and Google Sheets, are keen on budgeting apps, or prefer to stick with pen and paper, you can create a template that helps you track your various finances. 

What Should It Include?

In your budget template, you should be able to easily track how much money is coming in and out on a weekly or monthly basis. As such, your budget should include rows to track:

  • Salary and other income
  • Fixed costs like rent, utility bills, tuition, and monthly subscriptions (i.e. Netflix, New York Times, or a BarkBox for your pets)
  • Estimated costs for groceries, socializing, and shopping
  • Automated deposits to your retirement plan or savings accounts
  • Any debt repayments due

These are all data points that you can find in your monthly bills and banking statements, or on your mobile banking apps. With that information and a bit of math, you should be able to set your saving goals and determine where you need may to cut on your spending. Tip: You can set custom savings goals directly in Citadel's Online & Mobile Banking so you don't forget to stay on track!

How Do You Start?

Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. Start by tracking one week, and then the next, and update your budget template as it makes sense to you.  

How to Stick to Your Budget

The hardest part to working with a budget is sticking to it—particularly when you’re trying to get through the holiday season, tax season, or other times of high inflation and heavy spending. If you want to remain committed to your spending budgets and contribute to your savings, these are three methods that can help.

1. Use Cash

We’ve all become unaccustomed to carrying bills in our pocket—but it can actually go a long way toward helping you manage your spending. Start every week by taking out the exact amount of money you budgeted for food and groceries. That way, you’ll have a very tangible grasp on how much money you have left to spend. If you want even more control over your spending, you can also try separating your money into categories with colored paper clips or envelopes.

2. Plan Ahead of Time

Take a look at your social calendar and your work schedule for the week. If things look busy, try meal planning over the weekend to avoid spending money you don’t need to. If you’re coming up to a season of heavy spending, packed with birthdays and holidays, adjust your spending in other areas to make up for it.  

3. Track Your Performance

Tracking how you’re doing against your budget is key. This could take shape in a daily review to start, or a monthly check-in to help adjust for spending not included in your initial plan. These reviews will help keep you more accountable to your budget and make it easier for you to save in the long run. 

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