How To Finally Stick To A Budget When You Suck At Saving Money

by Niki McGloster

There is no greater relief than finally making it to payday, especially when you're on your very last $20 bill.

If I'm being honest, the reason I decline dinner invites or skip that third concert near the first of the month is because I just paid rent and can't afford it.

True life: I am horrible at saving.

When I spent four months unemployed last year, I felt the burden of not having money to fall back on.

I resolved to be more financially savvy in 2016.

Learning how to stop living paycheck to paycheck and start preparing for my long-term financial future sounds like the responsible adult thing to do, right?

I reached out to Michelle Schroeder, money expert and founder of the blog Making Sense of Cents, for some advice on ways a girl who loves spending above her means can manage a sound budget.

Schroeder suggests studying how real people manage money.

She says,

Reading blogs and seeing how people overcome financial difficulties can help a person stay motivated and learn new ideas so that they can solve their own financial problems. If you are living above your means, it will eventually catch up to you.

Well, here I am at a financial crossroad. I've got to start #adulting like a pro, or suffer the long-term consequences.

Don't just be realistic, be brutally f*cking honest.

Now's not the time to be naive about your student loan debt or plummeting credit score.

Get completely honest with yourself about your moolah. And, for the record, that $3 pack of Oreos counts.

Schroeder says,

Sit down and track your spending honestly. Having a budget isn't helpful if it's just a dream. It needs to be realistic.

Instead of killing yourself creating a budget for the entire year, break down your spending plan by month. It’ll ease that long-term anxiety.

Schroeder suggests starting with your total income after taxes then totaling every single expense. That includes every cost, from rent and groceries to those Seamless orders. Don't forget about health bills and, of course, savings and retirement.

Schroeder says aim to spend less than you earn each month.

After you have a clear picture of where your money is going, you can see where you should cut back.

Stop spending cash on sh*t you don't need.

Be truthful about your unnecessary expenses. For instance, you don't need a cable subscription if you're set on watching Netflix.

I don't bring my lunch to work because it never tastes as good as a Hale & Hearty balsamic chicken sandwich. Whoops.

Schroeder suggests cutting back a tad, even if I can't give up cheat meals.

She says,

You can get rid of an expense completely, spend less in a certain area or you can negotiate your bills so that they are lower.

Making my own lunch isn't the only solution. Instead, I can cut costs when it comes to my apartment.

Installing a programmable thermostat like Nest will mean less time with the heat on, lowering my utility bills.

Go digital.

Apps are the way of the future, but I want to throw my phone across the room when Mint tells me I've taken too many trips to Whole Foods.

Still, I prefer an immediate update on my funds to jotting the price of my Shake Shack order down in a book. Recording transactions via a budget program like Personal Capital tracks money in a much easier way.

Still, Schroeder doesn't play favorites when debating paper or apps.

She says,

I recommend using what you are most comfortable with. What's great about going digital is that you can easily make changes without creating a big mess full of scratches on a piece of paper.

"Less mess" is the best phrase in the English language.

Make your financially responsible BFF hold you accountable.

When it comes to money, I've always adopted a "can't take it with you" motto. Why not buy the $200 dress Beyoncé wore?

You can imagine how sucky saving money can be for a person like me. Schroeder, however, is adamant about making budgeting enjoyable.

She says,

Saving doesn't have to be boring and you don't have to feel like you are missing out on life just because you're making your finances a priority.

Grab a BFF or a family member who will agree to check you when you're racking up a ridiculous tab at the bar. Or, alternatively, make saving money a competition by racking up a certain amount by summer.

Do tons of research before a big purchase.

Taking a trip to Rio for the Olympics takes more than just booking an Airbnb and a flight with no layovers.

You don't want to be stuck without pocket change to really enjoy your vacation.

Schroeder advocates drawing up a financial plan more than 24 hours before making a big purchase.

She says,

Truly think about whether or not the purchase is worth it, whether there may be something better for your money and so on. Many will change their mind in a 24-hour time period and it most likely won't hurt you to wait.

The problem with plane tickets is that they're usually nonrefundable.

Get a side job.

Sorry, folks. Most of us won't see Powerball billions in our lifetime.

So, how do you build a deeper nest egg?

Schroeder, who paid off $40,000 in student loan debt over just seven months, suggests finding an additional gig.

She explains,

Side jobs are great because the amount you are able to earn can be significant and you may be able to earn more than what you are currently earning at your day job.

If you are unable to cut back on your spending, you may want to work additional hours at the job you already have.

Give your finances some therapy.

If you can't find financial footing, don't trip. A lot of us are just trying to have one less problem among our other 99.

If you're really bad with money or have a certain addiction that hinders you from being financially responsible, Schroeder believes it may be time to seek the help of a psychologist.

Honesty is the best policy.