If you’re chasing lasting financial freedom, then you need a budget. It’s a crucial part of your overall financial plan that will help you build financial independence. I’ve been budgeting for years – I’ve literally been learning about how to manage my money since I was a child. But budgeting isn’t an innate skill we’re born with. It’s something we learn and practise over time. We make mistakes, we try again and we get better. Whether you’re new to budgeting or a seasoned pro, sometimes you just can’t stick to a budget. Here are the main reasons why that happens.
- 1. Your budget doesn’t represent your life
- 2. Your budget doesn’t evolve as your life changes
- 3. You can’t stick to a budget because you aren’t learning from your mistakes
- 4. You’re using the wrong budgeting method
- 5. You’re just not trying to stick to your budget
- 6. Your budget doesn’t capture everything
1. Your budget doesn’t represent your life
The biggest reason why you can’t stick to a budget is because your budget isn’t an accurate representation of your life. So many people think budgets are too restrictive. The truth is that you can’t stick to a budget because the budget you’re working towards isn’t your budget.
A budget becomes too restrictive when it doesn’t accurately represent your unique life and circumstances. Your financial decisions are heavily influenced by your behaviour and your personality. This needs to be reflected in your budget. For example, I know I like retail therapy and I need it pretty often.
If would be unrealistic for me to budget $0 for spending money because that’s just not who I am and it’s not how I live my life. To cut your spending, you want to be a little restrictive but it still needs to be accurate. For example, if you spend $200 eating out every month, a budget of $20 is unrealistic. But a budget of $180 is more doable.
Look closely at the areas where you think you can’t stick to your budget. Chances are, it’s because you’ve set the budget at an amount that doesn’t suit your life, your personality or your circumstances.
If your budget doesn’t accurately reflect your life and circumstances, then it isn’t the right budget for you. It will always be restrictive. And a budget that is overly restrictive will always be doomed to fail. You’ll never be able to stick to a budget that wasn’t designed solely for your unique life.
The way to overcome this is to look over your spending and see how much you’re really spending in every area of your life. This will help you set a more realistic budget that accurately represents your life.
2. Your budget doesn’t evolve as your life changes
This follows on from the previous point about your budget needing to be an accurate and realistic representation of your life. Your life changes, therefore, your budget should change too. It needs to reflect your life and your goals as accurately as possible at any given time.
If you’re not updating your budget after things in your life changes, then you begin working towards a budget that doesn’t reflect your life anymore. It will get harder and harder to stick to that budget as you settle into your new circumstances.
For example, you might have been paying $50 a week for fuel but you’ve started a new job that’s a lot closer to home. You’re now really only spending $30 a week for fuel, but you haven’t adjusted your budget. You now have an extra $20 per week that’s allocated to the wrong budget category. That money could be put towards your financial goals, but instead, it’s still being budgeted for fuel.
The problem becomes even worse when you’re spending more now than you used to. You’ll always be exceeding your budget which will make it feel overly restrictive and harder to stick to. The way to fix this is to review your budget from scratch every month. Think about whether things in your life have changed since you set your last budget and account for those changes in your budget.
3. You can’t stick to a budget because you aren’t learning from your mistakes
It’s okay to make mistakes in your budget. Everyone does, and those who say they don’t aren’t telling you the truth. Because here’s the thing – no one has a crystal ball. Your budget might be a plan for your money but there’s always something in life that doesn’t quite go according to plan.
The reason you can’t stick to a budget, however, is because you’re not learning from these mistakes and adjusting your budget. It’s okay if you overspent last month. The key is to allow your budget to change and keep adjusting it until it works for your life.
You also don’t have to wait until the budgeting period is over to make changes to your budget. Change and adjust it as you go along.
4. You’re using the wrong budgeting method
If your budget doesn’t accurately represent your life, chances are that it’s because you’re using the wrong budgeting methods. Your budget isn’t a journal. There can be a wrong answer. Using a budgeting method which is wrong for you and your life is a surefire way to fail a budget over and over again.
Let’s take a percentage based budget as an example. Many budgets like this say you should be spending 5% on food. But what if 5% of your income is $300. A food budget of $300 might be too much for you or not enough depending on your life and your circumstances. But this particular budgeting method is telling you to spend $300 on food regardless of what your life looks like.
It’s budgets like this that become too restrictive. They don’t reflect how you actually live your life so how can you expect to stick to your budget? To help you find the right budgeting method for you, you’re just going to need to experiment. There’s really no other way. Try a bunch of different methods and see what works for you.
Read more: 7 Budgeting Myths You May be Falling For
5. You’re just not trying to stick to your budget
This one can be a hard pill to swallow because no one likes being told that they aren’t trying hard enough, especially at something that matters to them. If that sounds like you, then there’s no judgement here – I’m exactly the same.
But here’s the truth: whenever I’m having trouble sticking to a budget, it’s because I’m not trying hard enough. The areas of my budget that I find the hardest to stick to are food and spending. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a comfort eater and spender. Sometimes, sticking to my budget for those areas is easy. But sometimes, it isn’t.
And it’s usually because I don’t want to. I know I’ve set a budget for how much I should be spending but it’s easy to exceed that budget when you want to. Because in that moment, I’m choosing the short term gain over the long term goal.
It’s always better to choose the long term goal, but I know it isn’t easy. And not trying hard enough to make better choices is one of the key reasons why you can’t stick to a budget. To overcome this, create a vision board and keep it with your budget. Include pictures and quotes that represent what a life of financial freedom looks like to you.
Keep yourself motivated to keep trying and making decisions that align with your goals – not just your financial goals, but the life you want to live.
6. Your budget doesn’t capture everything
The last reason why you can’t stick to a budget is because your budget doesn’t capture everything. You might have put in the work to create the best budget you could but sometimes there are small things which fall through the cracks.
Maybe it’s a small subscription or an automated charge you’ve forgotten about. Things like this are spending your money without you even realising. As a result, they’re not captured in your budget and your expenses become higher than you realised.
When your expenses are constantly higher than you expect, it’s totally understandable that you start to feel a little demotivated. It feels like all your hard work is just going nowhere. That, in itself, makes it even harder to stick to a budget. The lower your motivation, the easier it is to stop caring and trying to stick to a budget in the first place.
To combat this, review your past bank statements for as many previous months as you can. Make sure all recurring charges and fees are captured in your budget.
Your budget is a crucial part of your overall financial plan and essential if you’re chasing lasting financial freedom and independence. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to stick to a budget. If you’re having trouble sticking to a budget it might be because that budget just isn’t right for you and your life. Perhaps it’s too restrictive and doesn’t evolve as your life changes. Or maybe you need a little extra motivation. Everyone has trouble sticking to a budget at some point. Knowing why can help you create more successful budgets.