Tips and Advice

How to Stick to a Budget & Plug Your Budget Leaks

Many people overspend without even realizing it. Learn how plugging your budget leaks helps you stick to a budget.
budget leaks
Written by:
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Kristin Marino verified

From the grocery store to travel, prices seem to be going up everywhere.

In today’s current economic environment, it’s crucial to manage your personal finances wisely. It’s very easy to overspend and end up in debt without even realizing it. Many people start out every year with the admirable plan to set and stick to a budget. A few weeks into the year, money starts to leak out, and often you don’t even realize it.

The first step in learning how to stick to a budget is to track every penny you spend.

Here are some places to start.

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Track Your Spending

A good method for tracking spending is using the 50/30/20 budget rule in combination with a spending tracker app or spreadsheet. Here’s how it works:

Calculate Your After-Tax Income

To calculate your after-tax income, subtract all the deductions, such as federal and state taxes, Social Security, and Medicare, from your gross income. This will give you the net income or take-home pay, which is the amount you’ll use to create your budget and allocate funds for different spending categories.

Categorize Expenses Into Three Groups

When categorizing expenses into three groups, label them as needs (50%), wants (30%), and savings/debt repayment (20%).

Needs include essential living expenses like housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation; wants are discretionary spending such as entertainment, dining out, and hobbies; and savings/debt repayment covers building an emergency fund, retirement contributions, and paying off debts like student loans or credit cards.

Set Financial Goals

Use insights from your spending analysis to set short-term and long-term financial goals.

Record All Transactions

Regularly input expenses into the chosen tool, categorizing them accordingly.

By recording all transactions in real-time or at least daily, you’ll maintain an accurate and up-to-date picture of your spending habits, which will help you make informed financial decisions and stay on track with your budget.

Monitor Spending Categories

Ensure you’re staying within the allocated percentages for each group.

Regularly reviewing your spending categories allows you to identify any imbalances and make necessary adjustments, promoting healthier financial habits and supporting progress towards your financial goals.

Analyze Spending Habits

Identify areas of overspending and adjust behavior accordingly.

By closely examining your spending patterns, you can pinpoint unnecessary expenses or opportunities for cost-cutting measures.

Implementing these changes can lead to increased savings, faster debt repayment, and more financial freedom in the long run.

Review and Adjust

Periodically reassess your budget, making necessary adjustments for changing circumstances.

Track Progress

Regularly check your progress toward meeting financial goals.

Consistently monitoring your progress not only keeps you motivated but also helps you identify any obstacles or setbacks early on.

This enables you to make timely adjustments and maintain momentum towards achieving your financial objectives.

Stay Disciplined

Maintain consistency in tracking and adjusting spending to achieve desired financial outcomes.

Set Up Alerts

Configure notifications in your spending tracker app or create reminders to review your budget regularly.

Use Cash or Debit Cards

This can help reduce overspending by making you more conscious of your purchases.

Plan for Irregular Expenses

Account for annual or semi-annual payments (e.g., insurance premiums, property taxes) by dividing their cost into monthly amounts.

Maintain an Emergency Fund

Allocate a portion of your savings to unforeseen expenses. If an emergency arises before you have your emergency fund built up, you could use a personal loan to pay for your emergency rather than racking up more high-interest credit card debt. The point of an emergency fund, however, is to not need to take on debt to deal with emergencies.

Communicate with Family Members

Discuss budgeting and financial goals with those involved in your household finances, ensuring everyone is on board and working together.

Get Help Paying Off High-Interest Debt With a Personal Loan

If your income isn’t enough to manage your budget and you’re paying several high-interest credit card bills or other high-payment bills, a personal loan could help.

Many lenders offer debt consolidation and credit card payoff loans, but some lenders offer better deals than others.

Check out the personal loans from the lenders below to find the best personal loans.

Pay Attention at the Grocery Store

Think about the last time you went grocery shopping.

Did you take a list and only buy what was on it?

In a time where everyone is always on-the-go, quick unplanned trips to the grocery store are common. Often we buy more than we could ever eat, or we buy without pre-planning our menus. This creates unintended waste. Then we check our refrigerators and find the food we bought has gone bad, so we have to throw it out. It’s the same as throwing $10 bills directly into the trash can.

Plan before you go grocery shopping to easily plug this budget leak.

Manage Your Debt Wisely

High interest rates on debt can make it difficult to pay down. Plug this leak by managing your spending and not incurring additional debt until you pay off your current balances.

If you have credit card debt at a high interest rate, balance transfers can be a good option if you have good credit. If your credit has some blemishes this often isn’t an option.

An unsecured loan or debt consolidation might be a good option for you. For free assistance in finding what option might be best for you, contact AmONE for assistance.

The Bottom Line

Adopting effective budgeting strategies and monitoring spending habits are essential in today’s economy, where prices constantly rise.

By using tools like the 50/30/20 rule, spending trackers, and setting financial goals, you can take control of your finances and avoid falling into debt.

Additionally, mindful grocery shopping, managing debt wisely, and maintaining open communication with family members contribute to plugging budget leaks and ensuring financial stability.

Staying disciplined and consistently tracking progress helps you stay on track and achieve your financial objectives, providing a sense of security and freedom in the long run.