Having a budget is one of those things you know you should do, but you never seem to get around to actually accomplishing. There are a lot of intimidating spreadsheets and apps involved, too, so it sometimes feels like you have to make it into a major project. But if you really want to succeed, keeping things simple can help. After all, if your plan is too complex, you’re more likely to give up on it – or never even start in the first place. To jumpstart your budget without getting bogged down, try these quick tips. You’ll be on your way to keeping better track of your money in no time.
As a first step, write down every transaction you make at the time that you make it. When you’re more aware of the money you’re spending, you’re likely to spend less. Having a record is also a great way to start realistically setting goals for your spending. Throw a pad of Post-it® Super Sticky Notes in your purse or pocket, and jot down everything you spend. At the end of the day, you can put each note in a notebook or snap a photo on your phone for a long-term record of your spending.
Based on the transactions you’ve recorded over the first month or so, figure out some spots where you could save a few dollars. Maybe it’s giving up lunches out a couple of times a week, kicking your diet soda habit, or cutting out your cable subscription – but whatever it is, set a savings goal for the next month. Write it on a Post-it® Super Sticky Note and keep it in your budgeting notebook, on your computer monitor, or on your calendar so you can’t forget it.
You should have a reason for your savings goals – it might be to pay off some loans, to save up for a down payment on a house, or to go on an incredible vacation. Whatever it is, jot it down (or draw a picture) on a Post-it® Super Sticky Note or a Post-it® Reminder Tag and put it somewhere where it’ll help remind you not to spend money unnecessarily: in your wallet or purse, on your dashboard, or on your desk at work.
When you’ve reached one of your spending goals for the month, reward yourself. Pick an inexpensive treat at the beginning of the month, and use your success as a reason to celebrate. Maybe it’s a pint of fancy ice cream, a movie rental, or a bottle of wine – whatever it is, make sure it’s something you’ll really enjoy, but that still won’t ruin your savings goal. Put a Post-it® Super Sticky Note on the last day of the month on your calendar with your reward written on it to remind yourself what you’re looking forward to.
Simple reminders and rewards are a good way to get started on your budget project, so don’t be afraid to start small. Even the first step is a step in the right direction.