January is the number one month when people launch new financial regimes, and nearly a third of respondents according to a GoBankingRate survey, said their 2016 goals include “saving more and spending less.”
All sounds great, says Lauren Greutman, a budgeting expert who blogs at IAmThatLady.com, where she walks you through how to up a successful budget, stick to it, and become debt-free. “Many people start off the new year excited about a budget, but quickly fall off the wagon, only to feel defeated,” says Greutman.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be stressful. Know the likely pitfalls, and how to avoid them. 5 budgeting mistakes (and how to avoid them):
1. Fail a set budget.
“Feeling overwhelmed by the time it takes to track expenses and set a budget is one of the main reasons why people don’t do it,” Greutman says. By carving out a chunk of time, you will save yourself money and time throughout the month. “For every 1 hour of planning, you save yourself 4 hours of execution,” Gretuman says.
Do this instead: At the beginning of next month, collect all your expenses and income. Understand exactly where your money comes from, where it goes, and commit to what you will save and cut back on. “Instead of spending your time throughout the month tracking where you spend your money, make a money plan for the upcoming month, and just follow the plan. It saves so much time and energy,” she says.
2. Create the exact same budget every month.
Setting a budget that looks the same every single month is a big budget mistake, since expenses differ depending on holidays, birthdays, vacation time, energy costs during warmer or cooler months, taxes, and home or car repairs.
Do this instead: To avoid breaking your budget, plan each month out one at a time at the start of the month.
3. Don’t allow for wiggle room.
Making your budget too rigid is something most people do, but then something comes up unexpected and the entire budget falls apart.
Do this instead: “Give yourself some play money every month – it can be as little as $10 or as much as you can afford,” Greutman says. ”This helps you keep the budget on task, keeps your budget successful for that month, and helps maintain motivation.”
4. Rely on credit cards.
If you are using a bucket budgeting system — a set sum of money for food, clothing, entertainment, transportation — tracking expenses can make book keeping more complicated, since combing through statements adds another layer of work. Plus, reliance on credit cards means you run the risk of over-spending and racking up debt.
Do this instead: Switch to a cash-only budget for the first month of your new budget, then you can visually see where your money is going.
5. Quit too soon.
Successful budgeting takes a few months of tweaking and practice. In our culture of instant gratification, people want to the budget to be perfect the first time. In reality, it takes a few months of tweaking, messing up, and readjusting for the budget to be right and attainable.
Do this instead: Commit to lifelong budgeting, and understand that each family’s finances are a constant evolution as members needs, incomes and priorities change.
*Original article source courtesy of Emma Johnson of Forbes.com.