Whether it's summer vacation, back to school shopping, or the upcoming holiday season, it seems that it's always easy to find an excuse to break away from the family budget. Given that we live in a world where we can now send money to people through text messaging, or buy just about anything with one click of the mouse, this makes sticking to a budget harder and harder for most families. Fortunately, there are several behaviors that can help curb those impulses to spend.
Track your spending for a month
Success doesn't happen overnight. Building a budget you'll actually follow is no different. After all, it is not creating the budget that's important, but sticking to it. The first step towards improving cash flow goals is creating awareness about where your money is going.
So, how should you track it? Honestly, it doesn't matter. Mint.com, an Excel spreadsheet, or a legal pad will all do the trick. The key here is forcing yourself to think about what you are spending money on. As you begin to track these day-to-day expenses, start asking yourself if these expenses are either necessary or things that make you happy. These conversations will be crucial as you begin to develop a budget that fits your families lifestyle and needs.
Even though this step doesn't instantly create a budget, it is my experience both personally and with clients, that the awareness alone helps to reduce spending in wasteful areas by the end of the month.
Money free weekend
Believe it or not, they are tons of ways to have fun without spending any money at all. Make a list of some ideas and pick a weekend to do them. If you have kids, this is a great opportunity to involve them in the decision-making and talk to them about the families personal finance goals.
My wife and I have started doing this on a semi-regular basis and have enjoyed the challenge. It's a great way to try new things in the community and also take on those previously avoided tasks around the house. We typically stock the fridge beforehand and have even been able to cook some meals that we've previously deemed too time-consuming.
Unsubscribe from email list
Nothing helps to reduce the urge to spend frivolously quite as much as simply eliminating the temptation. In going through a 30-day spending challenge myself, I realized how effective email marketers actually are. It seems like every time we purchase something now, we are added to a mailing list that instantly begins trying to sell us more stuff. Simply click unsubscribe at the bottom of those unwanted emails and you'll be freed from the urge to buy something that you didn't need the first time you shopped on that site.