Here’s an important money fact: You can’t take charge of your money without a budget. Why? Because when you budget, you tell every dollar what to do. Every. Single. Dollar. That’s taking control!
But let’s be honest—sometimes all this budgeting stuff gets . . . well . . . exhausting. It can be tough to keep that money motivation alive.
No matter where you find yourself on your money journey, we’ve got a few tips and tricks for learning how to stay motivated and on budget along the way.
Why You Lose Motivation
So maybe you don’t wake up early when it’s time to create a new budget because you just can’t wait to get started. That’s okay. You don’t have to be jazzed about the process of budgeting as long as you’re pumped about what budgeting does for you, today and in the long run.
Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!
But we get that waiting for those long-term payoffs (like paying off your debt) can feel super draining in the short term. Sometimes the excitement of having fun right now or the short-term thrill of impulse spending can take our eyes off our priorities. And sometimes life gets so busy that we lose focus on how to stay on budget.
As a result, our budgeting—a major key to financial peace—takes a back seat. It happens to everyone. So first, show yourself some grace. Then jump into these practical tips.
How to Stay Motivated as You Budget Month to Month
Here are a few of our favorite ideas for pumping up the volume on your motivation:
1. Surround yourself with people who respect your budget.
If you hang out with senseless spenders, you’ll be tempted to pick up their habits. Like-minded people are living reminders of your money goals. They won’t pressure you to do stuff that’s not in your budget. Plus, they’re great resources when you have a question or need a little accountability.
2. Make budgeting easy with an app.
Okay, not just any app. Our app—EveryDollar. Because you can try to keep up with pencil and paper or spreadsheets, but they aren’t as easy. And let’s face it: The easier budgeting is, the more likely you are to stick to it.
3. Define your why.
Why did you start budgeting in the first place? What money goals do you want to reach? What will your life look like when you reach them? Dig deep and be honest about the reasons you want to take control of your money once and for all. That’s your why. And when things get tough or boring—remember your why!
4. Make your goals visual.
Hang up images around the house that represent your financial goals. Paying off that car? Put a picture of it on your fridge to remember why you’re cooking at home instead of ordering that pizza. You’re adjusting your budget and living by it so you can make big things happen. So, make sure you’re reminding yourself of those big things. Every. Day.
5. Budget for fun.
Another way to lower the risk of budgeting burnout is to make sure you budget for fun. Now, if you’re saving for an emergency fund or paying off debt, that fun money line item will be super small—but just for a season.
6. Have an emergency fund.
Your emergency fund has one job: to take care of whatever curve balls life tosses your way without throwing off your budget that month. Start with $1,000 if you’re in debt, and then save up 3–6 months of expenses once you’re debt-free. And remember: Use it only for real emergencies like a flat tire—a shoe sale doesn’t count.
7. Learn more about budgeting and money management.
Sometimes when motivation drops off, it’s because we start to doubt ourselves. Am I even doing this stuff right? If questions like that pop up, then take a little time to learn more about how to do this money thing better. Start by watching Financial Peace University, our nine-week money course. With all the practical financial knowledge you get, you’ll be more pumped up than all the bike tires at the Tour de France combined.
8. Celebrate wins (big and small).
If you’re motivated by rewards, don’t feel bad. First of all, that’s natural. Second, use that to keep up your money motivation. When you reach a goal—even a small one—celebrate! After you budget three months straight, pay off a debt, or cut extra spending for 30 days, treat yourself to a budget-friendly reward.
9. Keep moving forward.
The decisions you made yesterday don’t have to determine today. And by “yesterday,” we mean your past and literal yesterday. When you make mistakes with your money (and you will—everyone does) don’t throw a pity party. Keep. Moving. Forward.
10. Find better ways to deal with stress than spending.
So, if you’re an emotional spender, or if you respond to stress by buying things, you can overcome that habit. But you need to think of budget-friendly replacements for that go-to action. A nice relaxing bath, a walk or run outside, a card game with the fam, a cup of chamomile tea—these are all great ideas.
11. Track expenses like you track social media.
Let’s be honest, your budget is more important than your Instagram feed. Yes, we said it! It’s way more important to track expenses and stay on top of your spending than it is to see what a near-stranger is having for dinner. Of course, it’s okay to jump on social media, but make sure it’s not getting more of your attention than your money goals.
How to Stay Motivated to Reach Long-Term Money Goals
Maybe budgeting month to month is a breeze, but you’re having trouble staying focused on bigger money dreams, like ditching all your debt, paying off your home, or saving for retirement.
It makes sense. In some situations, those goals might take years to reach. But you’ve got what it takes. Try these tips to make it easier:
1. Split big goals into smaller goals.
Simple enough, right? Let’s say you’ve been paying extra toward your mortgage for a while and you still owe $60,000. Why not break that total into quicker-to-reach numbers? Six smaller goals of $10,000, with a celebration after you hit each one, seems far more manageable.
2. Set up auto drafts.
Wherever possible, put your goals on autopilot. Set up automatic bank drafts that send money directly to your retirement accounts, mortgage company or lenders. If you never see the money in the first place, you’re less likely to miss it—and more likely be pleasantly surprised by your progress along the way.
3. Prepare for burnout.
Know that, most likely, you’ll face a season of burnout at some point. Hey—it happens to us all! Go ahead and decide now what you’ll do when it comes. Whatever you decide, don’t give up on your goals. They’re worth fighting and budgeting for!
4. Learn the power of sinking funds.
A sinking fund is when you set aside a little bit of money each month for a specific large purchase. Imagine you’ve had your eyes on a new 65-inch TV, but you know you can't afford to spend such a big chunk of money and keep your budget on track at the same time. Thanks to your sinking fund, you can save up and take that baby home after three months.
5. Use a budgeting tool.
Yep—we’re talking about EveryDollar again—but only because we believe it truly is the best budgeting tool to help you reach your money goals. It's free, and it helps you stick with your budget by doing the math-heavy grunt work for you. That way, you can focus on telling your money where to go, hitting those goals, and living your life.
It's seriously worth it! Check out what Patricia V. from Facebook has to say about budgeting:
“Making a budget takes less than five minutes. I don’t have to worry about juggling what payment comes out of which paycheck. When I buy something, I never regret it the next day. I never wonder how I’ll pay for it. I just enjoy.”
- Patricia V.
No worry. No regret. Just enjoyment. That’s how you stay motivated to meet your money goals!
Download EveryDollar today and stay on budget. Always.