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Living within your means doesn't have to mean living without fun.

What If Your Budget Isn’t Working?

While keeping track of your income and expenses and saving up for the future is certainly important, it’s not exactly easy in practice. There are a seemingly endless number of methods for budgeting your money, but picking one that doesn’t work with your habits or lifestyle can lead to exhaustion, frustration or boredom. There’s a name to this feeling: budget burnout. If you find your discipline slipping, there are a few ways to jump back on the savings wagon.

Talk it out

If a strict budget has you feeling discouraged, you don’t have to bear it alone. Marcie Geffner at Bankrate suggests some informal “group therapy” to get the ball toward financial solvency rolling. If you share a budget with your spouse or significant other, make this discussion a priority. Holding in any anxiety will only make things worse. Be honest and make your troubles with the current budget known. Perhaps they have been having similar thoughts. From there, it will be easy to devise a new plan if necessary, or at least become more aware of each other’s weaknesses. Geffner says that even talking to close friends about budget woes can make things easier, if only to relate to one another and get insightful feedback.

Treat yourself

You may think that indulging in fun but costly purchases is the cause of all your financial hardship. But the lack of these expenses could also cause trouble. Living frugally isn’t about spending as little money as possible, it’s about spending money wisely. Geffner recommends an approach to budgeting that allows for regular, small splurges.

“A regular series of affordable indulgences can make a frugal lifestyle much more palatable than joylessly sacrificing for a big, far-off reward like a well-funded retirement,” she writes. This will lead to a fiscally sustainable lifestyle in the long run, ideally continuing into the retirement that you’re simultaneously saving for.

One approach to budgeting more realistically takes this advice to heart. Trent Hamm at U.S. News offers a smart method for attaining savings goals by setting incremental milestones,1 as opposed to one big, distant one.

“Let’s say your goal is to save $50,000 for seed money for a business,” Hamm writes. “Rather than setting such a large number as your goal after, say, five years, break it down into smaller milestones. Your goal is to save $10,000 this year. Your goal is to save $800 this month. You need to save $175 this week.”

Breaking milestones into small chunks not only makes them easier to comprehend, it will make them easier to attain.

Make the switch

Perhaps the most basic solution to burnout is to just use a different method of budgeting. Claire Murdough outlines an effective way2 to narrow down the budget type that works for you. In order to do this, think about your personality and how you are motivated.

“I usually put a lot of momentum behind a project in the beginning so I wanted to find a budgeting technique that was easy to implement,” Murdough writes. “I’m also most productive when I first wake up, and more likely to finish problems if I make them a part of my daily ritual.”

By making herself aware of her habits and how to utilize them, Murdough crafted a budget plan that she could realistically stick with.

It’s equally important to become familiar with your weaknesses, to understand what’s behind the exact reasons you aren’t meeting your weekly or monthly goals. Maybe you are having trouble manually typing in your credits and debits every day. If that’s the case, consider switching to a plan that automatically diverts a certain amount into a separate bank account for regular expenses like bills. Or you might be getting hung up on visualizing your spending using a credit or debit card. In that case, try the envelope system. With an envelope budget, you only use cash, withdrawing a certain amount at a regular interval and allocating portions of it for bills, food, recreation and other typical categories. These are just two of the many ways to use your money effectively. Search online for more budget methods to find the best one for your lifestyle.

Living within your means doesn’t have to mean living without fun. If your budget has you feeling down and out, take time to reflect and get back on track toward a happy, financially healthy life.

The views expressed by the articles and sites linked in this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions and policies of Cash Central or Community Choice Financial®. 


1Hamm, Trent. (2014, Jan 7). Retrieved from: https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/01/07/5-simple-ways-to-make-any-financial-goal-easier-to-achieve

2MurDough, Claire. (2013, Oct 2). Retrieved from: https://lifehacker.com/how-to-find-your-best-budget-strategy-and-stick-with-it-1440094547

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