Budgeting can be the best thing, but it can also feel like the worst thing. It helps you achieve your goals in life, gain stability and build wealth. However, it can also be completely draining and challenging to stick with it long-term because you have to tell yourself, “no,” pretty often. So what do you do when you fall off the budgeting bandwagon?
If you have been budgeting for any period of time, you have to know how tempting it is to “take a break” from it, just for a little bit. Budgeting is work and it can be really hard to stick with it, especially if your debt payoff is slow going, or you have really far out long-term goals you are working toward.
We all want instant gratification and budgeting is not that game. If you are working toward your goals of becoming debt free, building a retirement, saving for a house, etc., all of those things take time and discipline. But, come on, BORING!
This makes it super easy to just take a break for a week or a month. But be careful! This can totally derail your progress and your plans.
Before you know it, you are 6 months down the road, you have a bunch of new clothes, new holiday house decorations, you have eaten out, you have been going to the movies and you are no closer to reaching your goals.
This happens so easily because all the fun stuff feels so much better than telling yourself, “no.”
When you realize you have fallen off the budgeting bandwagon, there are four things you should do.
1. Resist the urge to go even further overboard.
Just because you realize you have gone off budget does not mean you need to just absolutely destroy your budget. Not adhering to your plan does not mean you need to go nuts and spend even more money.
I use this example a lot, but it is such a good illustration of what you should not do.
When my husband is driving, he has a really hard time making quick decisions when I give him navigation instructions. If I tell him he needs to turn left in 2 lights and he is in the far right lane, he panics. He stresses out about trying to get over to the left lane and starts to speed up. As the turn gets closer, if he isn’t already close to the lane, it’s game over. He loses his freaking mind. In a panic, instead of slowing down with a turn signal on (like a normal human being), he guns it, flies even faster past his turn and gets super pissed he missed it.
I am not making this up. It sounds so ridiculous, but instead of slowing down and trying to get over, he punches it and speeds off in a fury. This then makes him miss the next 3 to 4 turnarounds he could have used to get to the turn he needed.
This is exactly what you do not want to do when you know you are not budgeting as you should be. You do not want to take it even further to an extreme. Instead, you should pump the breaks and turn on your turn signal to get back in the right lane.
2. Reassess your Big Why.
Your “why” for wanting to budget is meant to be your motivation to stay on track when things get tough. People don’t budget because it’s fun. People budget for a reason. Maybe they want to get out of debt, pay off their mortgage, get a new car, start a business, build a retirement, etc.
The “why” for your budgeting venture is supposed to be a reason bigger than any excuse you could ever come up with. This reason should keep you on track when things get tough (and they will!).
If you have fallen off the budgeting bandwagon, your “why” likely wasn’t as meaningful as you had originally thought. If you couldn’t look at your “why” and remember the motivation for doing what you were doing, then your “why” wasn’t strong enough.
If you need to come up with a different “why,” do that now. If you had a good enough “why,” but did haven’t it in a visual place to remind you, fix it! Figure out the “why” that will actually keep you motivated and make it visual.
Don’t give yourself an excuse to not budget.
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3. Check your accountability partner.
One of the very best things you can do for yourself to be set up for success is having an accountability partner. If you have fallen off the budgeting bandwagon, take a look at your current accountability partner situation.
Do you have one? Are they not helping you?
Being held accountable for our actions can be one of the most important determining factors on if we are successful at reaching our goals or not. If you have an accountability partner and they weren’t doing their job, make sure you talk to them about it. If they aren’t helping you, then find someone who will.
This is too important to just do it halfway. This is your life and you should have only the best people in your corner, cheering you on and making sure you are responsible for your choices. Once you enter grown-up land, you will find it to be very easy to let yourself down, but you won’t want to disappoint someone close to you.
Find this person who you don’t want to let down. They need to be your accountability partner to help keep you on track.
4. Assess what caused you to fall off the budgeting bandwagon.
We are all fabulous at making excuses for our behavior so why should this be any different? What is the excuse you are going to use when you fall off the budgeting bandwagon?
- I don’t have enough time to spend tracking my expenses.
- I’m not smart enough to budget well.
- It’s too hard to meal plan to stick to my food budget.
- I work really hard and deserve to eat out when I want to. It’s my money.
- I did really well last month so I can take it easy this month.
- My husband isn’t listening so what’s the point?
- I never learned how to do this and it all just seems too complicated.
I could go on and on. What if instead of excuses, you actually took an honest look at your behavior and figured out why you stopped budgeting?
Did you set up unrealistic expectations you couldn’t meet? This made you feel like a failure when you couldn’t stay on budget so you just stopped caring about it. You already screwed up with your spending so why keep going?
Do you not care enough to do this? Do you not have a big enough reason to keep you on track?
Did you put in the work to set up a budget, but following through seemed way too overwhelming? Not tracking your expenses can be the ultimate budget breaker. If you don’t check in with your budget, you will have no idea how you are doing. You can’t set and forget budgets, they must be tracked frequently.
Are you blowing your budget in one particular area? Did you decide meal planning was too difficult and eating out was way easier?? Does your grocery budget get away from you every month and make you feel like there is no point to this?
If you are being beaten by your food budget you can get it under control!
Falling off the budgeting bandwagon happens to us all. Unless you are one of those people with a really short-term goal that you can accomplish with a few months of budgeting, you are going to be tempted at some point to just take a break. I have put $90,000 toward debt and children, I have felt the success of accomplishing my goals and I still have been tempted to take a budgeting break.
It feels good to just do what we want instead of staying disciplined. When you start to feel tired and just over the whole budgeting thing, there are some things you can do to combat those feelings. Don’t continue to accelerate even faster down that path, revisit your “why,” check in with your accountability partner and take an honest look at what made you stop budgeting.
No one said sticking with budgeting for the long haul would be easy all the time. But, with a little work, you can definitely get back on track if you have fallen off the budgeting bandwagon.
Do you have any tips for getting back on the budgeting bandwagon?
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