That's the thing that is so hard about budgeting. There's no trick that you'll ever hear, read, or see that will change your monetary life in an instant. In fact, a great way to tell if advice is a waste of your time (and hope) is if it claims to be anything more than a good tip. What I wish someone had told me years ago is that being good with your budget is about forming new habits, not finding a quick fix. This is the part where you sigh, shake your fist at the universe, and move on to the next article that will certainly change your life, right? Well there's a bit more, and there's a light at the end of the tunnel, so bear with me.
Chances are you know someone who has done some sort of extreme diet, or cleanse, or short-term-big-promise program. Maybe, if they were lucky, they lost up to 30 pounds in just a few weeks! But the thing about your body is that it will fight to go back to your original weight, unless you maintain that new weight for at least a year. Did that person you know manage to keep the weight off? It's the same with finance. One good short-term decision won't help in the long run. Even if you win the lottery (in fact many of those people go bankrupt), budgeting is all about the long term. You have to develop good habits. And the easiest way to develop good habits is through your emotions. Budgeting should make you feel good, not be a hardship!
So, how do you achieve that feeling? How do you achieve the mindset that spending $300 a week on various whims feels like placing your hand on a hot stove? If you're reading this, chances are good that you might have some burns on your hand. One of the best tricks that I learned over time is to eliminate all of those little purchases you don't need. Sit down and look over your bank statement. Add up all you spend on soda, gum, candy, and all those other things you don't really need (and don't improve your life that much). Chances are you could buy a pretty nice laptop, TV, gaming system, piece of jewelry (you get the idea) with that money from the last year. Which would you rather have?
We're wired to love quick rewards. But the trick is to have a greater love for the feeling of satisfaction knowing that you're making the right choices. And if you can find that part of you, nurture it. Feed it and let it be what drives you. Of course it's okay to buy little useless things here and there, but it's your behavior over time that matters. And when you do make those right choices with your money over time, you'll be able to reward yourself with the things you really want. So ask yourself: which is more important? Your whims or your passions?