Just like swearing off chocolate and carbs, sticking to a household budget is a New Year’s resolution easier made than accomplished. In fact, last year only two in five U.S. adults said they had a budget and kept close track of their spending throughout the year, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s 2017 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey.
Everybody knows it’s important to track personal finances and maintain your financial health. So, why do Americans have such a difficult time sustaining a budget?
It likely doesn’t have much to do with a lack of money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household in America makes $74,664, well above the $18,871 national poverty line for a family of three. It’s also unlikely that consumers are too busy to keep up with their budgets. Budgeting apps such as Wally and Mint can track spending and income with minimal attention from the user.
Financial planning and psychology experts believe the real reason people struggle with budgeting is psychological. According to an article in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, humans only have a finite amount of willpower. We can only restrict ourselves so long before we indulge. Just like dieting, people tend to see budgeting as restrictive; therefore, struggle to preserve the motivation to stick with it.
As you ramp-up your drive for 2018, here are some tips to help you exercise good budgeting habits and overcome a craving to spend.
- Don’t mindlessly spend: If you don’t feel you have enough money, you could be spending money unnecessarily. Search the corners of your budget for empty spending that isn’t serving you. Many financial blogs offer creative tips to help with this. Check out Lauren Greutman’s list of 13 Things You Should Never Pay For.
- Make time: If you don’t feel you have enough time to track spending, try finding a simple solution – like an app. Phone apps such as Wally and Mint track spending and income for you. They require minimum attention and time.
- Start small: It takes weeks to form a new habit, and the same thing applies to tracking your income and expenses. In the beginning, keep it simple. If your spending plan is too complicated or restrictive, you will not stick to it.
- Budget with a friend: If you don’t feel confident, get some help! Apps, financial blogs, and spreadsheets might help if you’re a little stuck in your budgeting process. But if you don’t even know where to start, consider seeking help from a trusted family member or a financial expert. Your local credit union is dedicated to financial literacy and can offer help and advice for your unique budget.
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