Setting a budget is the easy part. To set a budget you can really stick to, you have to know yourself and your habits well. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)
Setting a budget is the easy part. To set a budget you can really stick to, you have to know yourself and your habits well. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

Good news — it’s still January! Chances are, you’re still on track with your budget goals. But February is on its way, and that’s when most of us need a little help.

If your relationship with your budget is on the rocks, understand this: It’s not you; it’s your plan. Chances are, you’re setting financial goals that aren’t right for you. Here are a few things you can do to customize your budget so the two of you can enjoy a long, fulfilling relationship.

1. Use what works for you

If you’re using a certain budget because it worked for someone else, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Honestly evaluate yourself, your spending habits and your level of organization to see if what you’re doing is feasible long-term.

If you hate keeping track of details, let a resource like Mint.com or Quicken do the grunt work for you. If you prefer more control, try creating a spreadsheet of your own. If you’re paid weekly, try setting a weekly budget instead of a monthly. There is no silver bullet when it comes to budgeting. Use what works for you and you will be far more likely to stick to it long-term.

2. Budget for things you like

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t buy the things you want. It just means you need to plan for these purchases and make sure you have the money for it.

If you really love going out to lunch with your co-workers every day, go ahead! Just make sure you plan how much money you can spend on these lunches and order accordingly. Keep track of how much these habits are costing and make sure you’re not neglecting other necessary purchases. Simply planning for what you want–even if it isn’t traditionally a “good idea” budget-wise–can help you stick to your budget.

3. Automate your goals

We all know it’s important to save. But sometimes it’s too difficult — or we’re too lazy — to actually pull the money out of a paycheck and put it into savings.

Automate these chores. Ask your employer to withhold part of your paycheck for your 401(k) or set up an automatic transfer to your savings account. That way, even on months when you don’t manage to check on your finances, money is still going into savings and you’re still reaching your goals.

4. Make it a team effort

Unless you live alone, your personal efforts to stick to a budget will never be enough. Every person in a family — especially those with access to the bank account — needs to be on board in order for a budget to work.

Not everyone is money-savvy, and not everyone likes to crunch numbers. And that’s OK. If you need to appoint a family CFO, do it. But at least make sure that others in the family are aware of how much money you have to spend and what your financial goals are. If you don’t, your good intentions to stick to a budget will quickly fizzle.

5. Eliminate your latte

“The Latte Effect” is a general term for the effect small daily purchases have on our bank accounts. You might not think the $3.50 you spend every morning on a latte makes much of a difference, but if you buy it every day, that’s $24.50 a week. In a month, you would spend over $100 on lattes. That’s more than $1,200 a year. It adds up.

Most people in Utah County aren’t big on lattes, but we still have our splurges. Track your purchases to find these holes that you’re dumping your money into, then try to cut back. If you only indulge in your personal latte every other day, you’ll cut that $1,200 in half.

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