Diets are not always effective because they can be so restricting; or at least, the results are often not lasting. Or, there’s the dreaded water weight loss, and no real loss at all. I think budgets are the same way. The last thing I want to do is shed financial weight and gain it all back again.

I’ve been working very hard on paying down my credit card debt, and I think there are some amazing tips I’ve heard that have helped me along the way.

Many budgets are restricting to the point that you feel deprived or feel like you can’t do anything that makes you happy. I still need (very much want) my Starbucks. I know. It is frivolous and expensive, but it makes me happy. It really does. There’s nothing like a long day at school without it in the morning. I don’t drink it for the caffeine, but for the mere sake that I’ve been drinking a coffee every morning since I was fourteen. That’s nineteen years of habits. However, that being said, I’ve cut down on the amount of times that I purchase at the Starbucks. The store still knows my name, though. That should tell you that I’m still a frequent flier.

Budgets are a lifestyle that you want to live with for a long time. Sometimes, budgets need to be restricted for a time and loosened up later or vice versa. Either way, getting in the habit of budgeting every month to know how much you have to spend and where has helped me tremendously. AND, I don’t keep receipts. That is a great tool to use, it’s just not something that I do. It makes me feel like I’m micromanaging myself, lol.

  1. The first step I took was to think about one thing I didn’t want to live without if I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to think hard about making that my Starbucks. I kept that in my mind and mentally filed it aside.
  2. I evaluate my savings and checking account. When I started to look at my statements in my online banking account, I noticed there were extra expenses or subscriptions I had paid for that I didn’t realize I had. I had done a trial subscription that turned into a regular subscription. I canceled those.
  3. I used a simple Microsoft Word Worksheet to write in all my bills. I included percentage rates and how much I still owed.

The Microsoft Word Worksheet has been my sole basis for budgeting as a lifestyle. It’s not complicated, it’s not in an app, I can adjust and change as I go. It’s simple and not fussy.

I look at this worksheet monthly (usually multiple times a month) and check off as I pay those bills, so I know they are gone. I then readjust, if needed. Awhile back, I hadn’t planned on taking my dog to the vet, and that went on my credit card. Instead of feeling guilty, I added the balance in the parentheses beside where I owed it and kept making my payments.

As for paying down debt, I’ve used the snowball strategy. I first try to put $1,000 into my savings and any extra funding goes onto credit cards or extra needs (vet visits, etc.). There are setbacks, but I’m one year away from paying down all my credit card debt. This last year, I paid off half of the total amount.

I plan my bills for the current month and two months ahead. This helps me deduct, subtract and see the savings I make over time (realistically). I adjust my food budget, etc. and decide where I want to sacrifice and where I don’t want to. Some months, I want that case of sparkling water from Costco, and other months I can do without. Months like November, I spend more on food than in October. I can add, adjust and subtract where needed. Every once in a while, I make a budget for an entire year to see where I could be in the future. THEN, I erase it to the three months again. I don’t want to be a slave to my budget, but keeping it at the forefront of my mind, looking at my spending habits (statements) helps me to save and spend my money wisely and realistically.

How do you make budgeting a lifestyle?

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