Are you making budget blunders?  Follow these 15 budget tips to get back in shape!

If you are reading this and need some budget tips because your budget isn’t quite working for you, then take heart!  Budgets take time to get right and I would say it take between 4-6 months to get it just the way that works for you.

Budgeting doesn’t have to take lots of your time, but when you are starting out it can take a while to truly understand what money comes out every week/ fortnight/ month and year.

I have been budgeting for years and I still get caught out by the occasional expense. (My website is a real offender for this – domain renewals anyone?)

The budget tips coming up may help with some common budget blunders…

By the way, it might cheer you up to know that many people don’t budget at all.   It’s something around the 50% mark in the UK (Moneywise) and 41% in the U.S. (HFCU).  And yet, people who budget consistently save more, have less debt and are more likely to be working towards goals like having an emergency fund.

Basically, if you are just budgeting at all, you are in the money A-Team!  *Readers take a moment to pat selves on back*

Further reading:  If you want to know how to budget, try The Ultimate Guide to Budgeting.

Right! Onto the budget tips!  Here are 15 of them to help you stop making budget blunders and to get your budget lickety split.


Budget tips #1:  Do a budget

OK, I know you are already doing this.  Or about to start.  But I thought it would be a splendid idea if the first tip was definitely something you could pat yourself on the back for and say “splendid, old chap, you’re already on it!”

You’ve got this.

Doing a budget is a trial and error process, but if you do it every pay packet, I promise you at the very least you will fritter less money away on stuff you don’t really care about.  We plan our hols, our career changes, our date nights, let’s plan our moulah so that it does what we want it to. #winning!


Budget tips #2: Don’t underestimate what you spend

The only way you can really figure out what you spend on stuff is to check what you actually spend.

It is very VERY easy to forget that you had a coffee here, a snacky thing there.  Oh yeah, and I forgot about that oohjamyflip that I bought on Amazon.

When I first started budgeting many years ago, I was horrified to learn how much I spent on eating out.  I was in my twenties, didn’t have kids, but didn’t earn much either.  I still spent hundreds on food, despite regularly going overdrawn and running out of money well before the end of the month.

Not any longer.

Check what you spend or get an app that does it for you like  Mint (US) or Money Dashboard (UK). (These are just straight up links – I’m not an affiliate although if that changes I will let you know.)

Budget tips to avoid budget mistakes

Budget tips #3: Have a little fun

Yayyy!  Have some fun – don’t make a budget an itchy hair shirt like the monks used to wear.

The 50 30 20 rule is a great rule of thumb to start with – 50% of budget goes on needs, 30% on wants and 20% on savings.

30% on wants!

That means you can manage your money and still go to the cinema and have a meal or two out.  You just don’t do it every night – which frankly, makes it more special.

This part of the budget is important, because if you like doing certain things and are in the habit of doing them, you will probably continue to do them budget or no budget.  So allow yourself some of life’s pleasures and then, when you do have to exert some willpower and say no, you will find it easier.


Budget tips #4:  Write it down

People who write down their goals are a lot more likely to succeed at fulfilling them.

Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews did a study on the effectiveness of writing down goals.

Her research shows that people were 33% more successful in achieving their goals if they:

  • Wrote down their goals
  • Shared their goals with friends
  • Updated their friends with weekly progress reports

You’ve got money goals – write them down in your budget.  Find other money geeks to share your goals with.  Feel the success heading your way…

15 budget tips to avoid budgeting mistakes

Budget tips #5: Track it

If you’ve done a budget, written it down and made your plan, why would you not track it?

I’ll tell you why – because it’s another new habit you might not have got into yet and for many it just feels like hard work.

Tracking your budget is really important though.  Let’s face it, we all overspend here and there.  If you figure out that a few extra notes have come out for an unexpected meeting or a souvenir of a nice day then you can easily redirect the money from another bit of your budget.  Or you can buy a smaller lunch the next day.

There’s no point doing it, if you’re not going to keep tabs on it.  And if it sounds too much hassle, a money tracking app will do it for you.


Budget tips #6: Keep it real

Start by budgeting the way you spend.  Don’t start by shaving off loads of money off your groceries and travel costs so that you can pay off half your credit card in one go.

The feeling of having managed to stick to a budget for a month can be so motivating.  Make it easy to start with and work on making your cutbacks as you go on to your next month.


Budget tips #7: Live by the month, not every two weeks.

Some people get paid every two weeks, some every month.  Some just get paid when they send an invoice.

But most of your expenses will come out every month, such as the rent, the mortgage, insurances, some taxes.

Instead of having a really lean couple of weeks and a really flush couple of weeks, set aside money from each paycheck so that you don’t leap from feast to famine every two weeks.

We have a separate household account for bills.  Money gets put in there every time we are paid (we are self-employed so the dates vary).  Then the account is not touched and the bills just come out of it.

More tips on budgeting bi-weekly from a fellow budgeteer here:


Budget tips #8: Change it up every month

Budgeting is a trial and error process.  I think I’ve said that a few times already.

It gets easier and more fun as your budget is more finely tuned to your life.

So each month or couple of weeks, tweak it.  If you have more travel expenses than you thought, add it on.  You can’t really cut back until you know what the existing situation is and how realistic it’s going to be to spend less.

Also you may find that as you get better at saving money, you want to allocate more to paying off your debts or saving for something important.


Budget tips #9: Be flexible

If you overspend, congratulations!  You are human!

It might bugger your budget for a while, or it might not.   Maybe you can steal a bit of money from another pot.

See if you’ve allocated money towards groceries or travel that could be snaffled to balance your budget again.

I walk to work as much as I can and sometimes get a train.  But if I have to save travel money, I walk.  Sometimes that means getting wet.  Boo.

Budget tips to avoid mistakes

Budget tips #10: Have an emergency fund – IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW SMALL!

An emergency fund is your get out of jail card for your first few months of budgeting.   Having a little pot of money put aside allows you to balance the books when you overspend without putting money on credit cards.

Once you get the hang of staying on budget, you can then keep building up your emergency fund for its proper use: emergencies!

The dream is to have enough money to live on for 3 months if you found you suddenly couldn’t work or were sick, or your partner or kids needed looking after or your house blew up.

That sounds like a lot but you don’t have to get there all at once.

Even just having $200 or £200 saved up would help you in many situations.

According to Bankrate’s latest financial security index survey, 34 percent of American households experienced a major unexpected expense over the past year. However, only 39 percent of survey respondents said they would be able to cover a $1,000 setback using their savings.

Source CNBC

So one in three of us will probably have an expense that catches us unawares.  Without an emergency fund, that’s definitely a budget blower…


Budget tips #11: Birds of a feather budget together

If you and your partner are on the same page with your budgeting it makes life a lot easier.  You can work together to pay down your mortgage or save for retirement.  You will both know what the target spend for groceries etc are, and you both can have your own stash for fun and frolics.

It’s not impossible to be a solo budgeteer in the household, but if your partner’s spending habits don’t match your own it makes it a lot harder.  At least if you can agree on a budget together it helps you both to have a plan.


Budget tips #12:  Live in a house you can afford

When you live in a big city, you get so little bang for your buck, it can be very tempting to overstretch yourself so that you can have a nicer/ bigger/ more central house.

Bear in mind that to have money to be financially secure and to save up for things you want or retirement, you need to aim to spend just 50% of your income on needs – i.e. housing, bills and insurance.

Another sobering fact is that saving up for retirement costs as much as buying a house!  So if all your money goes on house, you may never be able to save up for retirement.

Try not to max out the house, even if it means making a compromise on space or where you live.

Budgeting tips that help you avoid mistakes

Budget tips #13: Buy groceries you can afford

It’s hard cutting back on groceries – well I think it is.  Good food is a wonderful every day luxury.  Eating well gives me deep and warming pleasure.

But you can still eat delicious food on a budget.   If you are glutton and like eating pretty much everything, a chargrilled courgette salad with chilli, mint and garlic can give you just as much pleasure as a much more expensive meal.

Environmentally and for the sake of our health we should all be aiming to eat a bit less meat than we do, and happily that’s also great for the bank balance.

There are stacks of frugal bloggers who have great recipe ideas.  Have a rummage on Pinterest.

Planning meals is the way forward for grocery shopping.  Pick meals that you love that don’t rely on fillet steak.   A homespun chicken curry made with thighs and legs is a joyous thing…  Pasta… who doesn’t love pasta?  If you know in advance what to cook and buy it all in advance it’s much easier to stay on budget track.

Remember you can add extra food luxuries to your budget.  So if you have to have a chunk of artisan cheese and a hand made sourdough loaf from time to time, put it into the budget.  Knowing you can do it occasionally will help you stay on track.

Budget tips #14: Focus on one goal at a time

When you want to take your money by the scruff of the neck it’s easy to get caught up with trying to do everything all at once.

I want to pay off my debts, pay down my house early, retire, have an emergency fund, and I want it all NOW!!!

Patience, Padawan.

Focus on one main goal first.  I would suggest starting with building a small emergency fund of around a thousand dollars or pounds.  Add your newly budgeted funds to that goal.

Then start to add each new goal to your budget.  As you get better at cutting back, you can save more money and start to allocate funds to all your financial goals.

But just don’t worry if you don’t do it all at once.  You’ll get there.


Budget tip#15: Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not working for you yet

Money skills are learned by experience.

Unless you had amazing financial training from your parents or you do it for a living, you may not have ever been told how to manage your money.

I wasn’t taught it and I used to be horrendous at it!

It takes a bit of time to change your habits so each time you have a bad budget month, just go back, tweak it, and try again next month.

It’s worth it when you crack it.  You might even become a budget nerd…


I love nerding out on budget tips!

So there are my budget tips to stop you giving up or making mistakes.

Let me know if you have any others.

The main thing to remember is that budgeting is always a work in progress, not a set and forget it thing.  But the fact that you are doing it puts you streets ahead of the people who aren’t.


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