Sometimes it feels hopeless. Like you’re swimming just as hard and fast as you can, and yet you are still drowning in financial burdens. You work so hard to keep up with the bills and just when you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and start feeling hopeful, life gives you another kick and you’re back in the water swimming for your life.
Maybe you are burned out and feeling hopeless. You have plenty of budgeting resources to guide you and are already following a budget. But you find yourself struggling to stay motivated to do the hard work necessary to reach your financial goals. I know how hard it is to stick to a budget and save money.
Getting on a budget is hard enough, but sticking to it over the long-term is even harder. I know, because despite my best efforts, I once lost everything.
Within three years I lost both my parents and my marriage. I found myself a single mom working two jobs to keep up with child-care expenses, divorce attorney fees, and a mortgage. I know what it’s like to drown in a tsunami of bills, fees, and unplanned expenses. I made a lot of mistakes and the consequences were both immediate and long-term.
I know what it’s like to feel ashamed, and desperate, while trying to hide it and appear to the world like I am in control of my life and my finances.
But there is hope. Things can get better. Maybe it will be excruciatingly slow. Maybe it will be two steps forward and one step back. But you can change.
How to Stay Motivated on a Budget
The first step to change is deciding what you want. In Designing a Life You Love, I offered six important things that are essential when creating change in your life:
- Letting go
- Consistent action
Focus on the Positive
Before we can change our life, we have to know exactly what it is we want. For most of us, the purpose of following a budget is to create a plan – to pay off our debt, save for a specific goal, to get rid of bad money habits, or to simply live within our means.
Budgeting is a lot like dieting – we suddenly crave what we can’t have.
To stay motivated on a budget, we need to focus on what we want in life – to live debt-free, to save for a home, or simply to have money left over at the end of every month.
Rather than focusing on what we are giving up on our budget, we can remind ourselves regularly of the reasons for following a spending plan. Staying motivated on a budget means focusing on the positive – the purpose behind your goal.
Courage to Change
When we are following a budget, we may find ourselves unable to do many of the things we once did. Eating out, movies, vacations, and other entertainment might not be a part of our budget, and family and friends will likely notice.
It takes courage to make different choices and to live a different lifestyle. Staying motivated on a budget means living according to our personal values. Staying motivated on a budget means sticking to our plan even when others don’t want us to.
And it will take courage not to give up when things are tough.
We can learn to let go of the false beliefs about money that are holding us back. Most of us were never taught how to handle money and live with a budget. We might have the false belief that we are not good with money, or don’t know enough about finances to make good decisions.
Giving ourselves credit for tackling our finances, learning, and making changes is part of our personal growth.
We may also need to learn to let go of trying to live up to other’s standards and expectations. We don’t have to drive a certain car, wear expensive brand clothing, or define ourselves by what we own. Again, we are living according to our values, not those defined by the media or our peers.
We need to have faith in ourselves as we learn to live differently. We will likely continue to make financial mistakes as we learn how to stick to a budget and save money, but following a budget and staying motivated will help us stay on track and recover from our set-backs.
Living on a budget is rarely fun, and our financial situations can sometimes be downright terrifying. Staying determined will help us move with grace and dignity through the toughest of times.
Small changes add up over time. When finances are so tight, we can barely see results. But the small changes can become huge over time.
Like being on a diet, we can become disappointed when we expect to see big improvements quickly. Give yourself credit for what you are doing, and know consistency over time will get you to your goal.
My financial life is better than it was all those years ago, but sticking to a budget and saving money is still not easy. As I handle the unexpected events in life, I try to remember to focus on the positive and have courage. I am still learning to let go of my false money beliefs, forgive my past mistakes, and have faith in myself. I am determined to continue improving the circumstances of my life, and I am taking consistent action.
Sometimes I become tempted and distracted and the budget flies out the window. Other times I am disciplined and life seems to cooperate. Two steps forward, one step back.
It helps to know we are not alone in our financial struggles. Here are some of my favorite resources for staying motivated on a budget: