Have you ever searched on the internet for how to live on a budget or how to save money? Probably 99% of the advice is about how to save $5 here or $50 there and 100% of the advice will make you miserable.
I’m here to say what we’ve all been thinking. Being frugal sucks. Hard. Like I get that if I give up getting my nails done I’ll save $100 a month. But what if I like doing it and it makes me feel good about myself?
Lifestyle is the number one thing any financial guru will tell you to cut down once you’re trying to reach any financial goal. But do they really understand how much clipping coupons sucks? And how embarrassing it is to leave a checkout line empty handed when you went over budget and don’t have enough cash to pay for everything?
I’m definitely not a fan of a strict budget but I’ve had to live on one the past few years to reach financial goals. Luckily, along the way, I’ve come up with some ways to still live the lifestyle I want and have the freedom to do things with friends and family on the spur of the moment without pinching pennies.
5 Tips for Conquering a Restrictive Budget:
1. Give yourself some wiggle room
If your budget is so restrictive that overspending by $20 throws the whole thing off, not only are you constantly stressed about going in the red but you have no freedom and when you have no freedom you are more likely to rebel. Believe me, I was a teenager once. Budget $5-$10 over for bills that fluctuate month to month and include a small ‘Miscellaneous’ category in your budget to make sure you have no excuses to give up.
And if you find yourself always doing something each month that you haven’t budgeted for, add it in! We didn’t want to give up going out to eat with family once a month so we’ve added it to our budget. It makes us cut back in other areas, but we still get to do what is important to us.
2. Give yourself some ‘Fun Money’
‘Blow money’, ‘fun money’, ‘No-questions-asked’ money. Whatever you call it, no budget is complete without it. This amount is the same for you and your partner and can be spent on whatever you want. That’s right–whatever. This also means that when your partner spends their ‘fun money’ on whatever you don’t get to nag, berate or make negative comments about it. Yeah, that’s hard for me too, but it’s important. So, go ahead. Get that latte, manicure or new app. You’ve got ‘fun money’ girl!
3. Find out what the real problem is
If you are reading every blog post you find on Pinterest about how to save money but have a huge car or credit card payment you are ignoring your problem. If you are trying to learn how to stretch your dollar even further but are making just above or at minimum wage you are ignoring your problem. If you have a GIANT student loan but are working in a field that has nothing to do with your degree you are ignoring your problem.
That’s right. I’m calling you out. You need to take a good hard look at your life and discover where your real issue lies. Is it a spending problem, a payment problem or an income problem? Do you have a serious addiction, need some career counseling or have an issue with self-esteem? Your money reflects more than just what you buy or what you make. It reflects the real issues with your life. Sit down today and figure out what the real issues are and start making baby steps towards resolving them.
4. Break the logjam
You know what a logjam is right? If you don’t go Google it. If you have figured out your real problem (see above) then it’s time to take some drastic measures to breaking the logjam and get moving full speed ahead on meeting your financial goals. Sell the car or stuff you bought and take on extra hours or odd jobs. Make sure that any effort you take it going to be worth it. Any action you take to break the logjam should help you solve 25-50% of your problem in one fell swoop.
I know that for some of you (myself included) money is a huge source of stress. And I realize that reading a blog post where someone tells you to “Relax girl!” doesn’t help. But seriously, relax. We all only get one life. And yes, that means that you should be making smart decisions and taking everything seriously. But you have also most likely never done this before. So take a deep breath and give yourself a little grace. As long as you have hope for the future and continue to move forward, nothing can get you down.
And guess what?
Overspending on your groceries by $20 one month is not the end of the world. Adjust your budget elsewhere and just forget about it. It’s not a failure and it’s not an excuse to give up. It’s a learning opportunity and an opportunity for you to learn that nobody (and no budget!) is perfect.