A budget might restrict spending, but it’s one of the best ways to stay in control of your money. You’re able to save more and live within your means, which means fewer financial stresses.
But even if you know the importance of budgeting and you’re making progress, pinching pennies, depriving yourself, and tracking every dime you spend gets old after a while. Budget burnout might cause you to fall off the wagon, but there are tricks to defeat burnout and make managing your money a lot less painful.
1. Don’t Let Your Budget Take Over
Everyone should know where their money goes, but this doesn’t mean being a slave to your budget nor letting it take over your life. I know people who eat, sleep, and breathe their budgets. Not only is it the topic of every conversation, but they also spend hours each week clipping coupons and still feel guilt over any purchase outside their budget, even if it’s only a few bucks.
I’m all for self-control and committing to a budget. However, I also know from observation that some budgeting habits are exhausting and overwhelming. Extreme budgeting can backfire and leave you frustrated and fed up. A spending plan is effective, but don’t let it overwhelm you.
2. Be Realistic With Goals
A budget reduces the likelihood of overspending and increases your disposable income. And with extra income, you can reach financial goals like building an emergency fund, paying off debt, or saving up to buy a house. Unfortunately, the risk for budget burnout increases when saving for multiple things simultaneously.
Your money only goes so far, so it might be better to tackle one savings goal at a time. If you do decide to budget for more than one goal, avoid unreasonable deadlines, which can stretch your budget too thin and cause burnout or frugal fatigue after only a few months. For example, rather than become an extreme budgeter and drive yourself crazy with a goal of paying off a $5,000 credit card balance and increasing your emergency fund by $3,000 in 12 months, be realistic and give yourself more time — perhaps accomplishing these goals over the next two or three years. You’ll get there eventually if you’re motivated and committed, but not if you’re beating yourself up about it.
3. Give Yourself a Splurge Budget
Eliminating entertainment, recreation, and shopping from your budget can help you save a lot of money in a short amount of time. But if you deprive yourself for too long, you’ll burnout and toss your budget out the window. Budgeting is about moderation, not deprivation. Make sure your budget includes a little fun or splurge money. It can be $25 a week (or less), which might be just enough to enjoy a movie or dinner with a friend.
4. Switch Up Your System
Maybe the budgeting system you’re currently using worked great in the past, but now you feel it’s too time-consuming or tedious. I’ve been there, so I know how easy it is to give up. But instead of losing interest in your budget, change it up and find a better system.
To illustrate, I did the envelope system for a couple of years. And while it worked, I eventually got tired of filling envelopes with cash every two weeks. To make matters worse, I always forgot the envelopes at home when grocery shopping and ended up using a credit or debit card, anyway. Then I switched to keeping all my cash in the bank, but quickly discovered that I didn’t have the patience to keep track of every single debit card transaction, and this method made it far too easy to overspend. Now, I deposit a reasonable amount for groceries, recreation, gas, and incidentals onto a prepaid debit card, and keep the rest in the bank. Our checking account is strictly for expenses, and since our bills are on autopilot, budgeting has become a lot simpler.
5. Give Up Budgeting Control
In some relationships, one person manages all aspects of the money, including the budget. If this works for you and your partner — great! But if you’re the person responsible for keeping the family on budget and you’re feeling overburdened, share the responsibility or completely pass the torch to your partner — but make sure he or she will be as responsible with the checkbook as you were.
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