How to Bring New Life to Your Budget

March 21, 2018

How to Bring New Life to Your Budget

If you’ve been budgeting for a while, you may have your routine all figured out and pretty much running on autopilot.

In some cases, that’s a good thing, but in others, it might mean your budget is not as effective as it could be. Your budget may be more routine than it is helpful.

If you work out, you probably know that you have to change your exercise routine every so often otherwise your muscles get accustomed to the motions and no longer grow and stretch as much as they could. For your muscles to develop further, you have to switch up what you do.

I believe the same can happen with our budgets and managing our money in general. Our budgets can get stagnant and become less effective. And when that happens, operating on autopilot is no longer a good thing.

It could eventually lead to abandoning the process of budgeting altogether.

So, if you feel your budget isn’t working like it used to, if you can’t stick to it like you used to, or if it’s not meeting your needs like it used to, then maybe it’s time to switch things up a bit.

Learn how to bring new life to your budget with these seven strategies.

1. Switch Up Your Budgeting Method

One way to break up a stagnant budgeting routine is to change your method. Since there are multiple ways to budget, trying a different approach could be exactly what you need.

Depending on how you currently do your budget, consider one of these methods.

Zero-Based Budget

In the zero-based budget, you plan how to spend and save your income down to the dollar. In short, your income – your expenses = zero. (This is my favorite budgeting method because it’s what helped me dump my $74,000 of debt.)

Learn more about how to do a zero-based budget and download a free template.

50/30/20 Budget

With this budget, you allocate 50% of your income to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings. This less-detailed approach provides more flexibility provided you stick to the percentages, but it can get a little tricky distinguishing your needs from your wants.

80/20 Budget

With this method, you prioritize saving 20% of your income. How you choose to spend the remaining 80% is up to you. Other variations of this method are 70/30, 60/40, or any percentage you wish.

Explore other approaches to budgeting.

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2. Change Your Medium

Another way to break up a dull budgeting routine is to change the medium.

If you write out your budget on paper, you could try using a spreadsheet for a while. Already use a spreadsheet? Why not try a budgeting app? Have you been using an app for years? You might be “numb” to your budget and going back to paper and pencil could be a refreshing change.

I started off this year by revamping my existing budgeting spreadsheet, and that small change brought a little more life into my budgeting process.

However you’re currently doing your budget, trying a different approach could make a difference. You could decide to do a temporary switch for a specific amount of time. Who knows? You just may choose to keep the new budget!

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3. Get a Different Perspective

You know how it’s possible to look at something multiple times and see it one way, but when someone else takes a look at it, they see it differently? Having a different set of eyes provides a new perspective. So, maybe your budget could use a fresh set of eyes.

If you are married, even if you do the budget together (which you should!), it is likely that either you or your spouse primarily drives the budgeting process.

Well, why not change that? If you usually write down or input all the numbers, consider handing the job over to your spouse for a while. If your spouse writes out the checks and pays the bills online maybe you could take that on?

Switching up tasks allows each of you to provide new input and gives you an appreciation for what the other has been doing.

(Of course, if your current system works, then, by all means, keep what you have. These suggestions are just if things feel a little rote.)

If you are single, show your budget to an accountability partner or someone you trust who can provide some objective input.

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4. Involve the Kids

Do you have teens or kids that are old enough to understand the basic concepts of budgeting? Why not invite them to (code for make them) do the budget with you for a few months?

They might get bored out of their minds and beg you to do something else — anything else. Or they might be intrigued by the process and want to participate. They may surprise you and offer some valuable input.

And perhaps exposing them to your budget will increase their awareness of just how much it takes to run your household and will lead to them turning off the lights, watching their food consumption, and asking for less. (One can dream, right?)

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5. Use Cash for a Few Months

Similar to changing your medium, if you primarily use debit and credit cards, consider switching things up by using cash. This change can help you particularly if you can’t seem to stick to your budget anymore, since using cash makes you more aware of your spending habits.

Studies have shown that when you use a credit card or even a debit card to make a purchase, you don’t “feel” the effects of spending money. So even with a very detailed budget, it is quite possible to overspend when you swipe, swipe, swipe.

But when you plunk real money (aka cash), you are well aware that you are spending money — and as a result, you make different decisions.

Using cash can make things feel a bit different and could bring a welcome change to your budgeting routine. Why not decide for three months or so you will use cash? If it doesn’t make a difference, then return to your old habits.

6. Improve Your Environment

Another way to inject some new life into your budget is to alter the environment in which you do it. Most people don’t give much thought to this, but I think where you do the budget and how you’re feeling play a role in the outcome.

For example, if you do the budget in an uncomfortable space or while you’re tired, hungry, or in a bad mood, that will negatively affect how you approach the budget.

Pay attention to your environment and mood the next time you do your budget. Choose to do it in a comfortable place. Try playing some music or having snacks and drinks — do what you can do to make it an appealing experience.

Consider the day and time that you do your budget. Do you do it at the end of a long day when you’re mentally exhausted or do you approach it when you’re refreshed and have a clear head?

If you do the budget while you’re feeling good, you are likely to approach it more positively, and as a result, have a more positive outcome.

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7. Introduce New Budgeting Categories

Maybe one reason your budget feels stagnant is it could use some new categories. If you’ve been budgeting for the same old line items for a while, maybe adding some new ones could help.

Perhaps you need to start budgeting for personal development or for entertainment, or something else that makes sense in your world. Consider having a miscellaneous category to catch yourself in case you go over, or budget for pocket money, so you have something to look forward to.

Introducing some new categories could “revive” your budget a bit and could improve your overall approach.

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What Will Work for You?

With the budget being such an integral part of how you manage your money, making sure that process is positive and productive is crucial.

Try one or more of these strategies to inject some new life into your budget and make sure it’s as efficient as possible.

Does your budget routine feel old? What will you do to bring some new life to it?


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