Budgeting and money management is not an innate skill that we’re born with. Yes, some people are naturally more disciplined and organized than others, but that doesn’t mean they’re always great with money. However, even if money matters elude you, you can still take control of your finances to put yourself in a healthy situation and build a good life. Sometimes, doing that requires you to trick yourself into it. No one approach works for everyone, but some of these tips might work for you:
Get clear on your numbers
The first step to financial success is always to figure out where you’re starting from. You can’t implement a budget or new habits if you don’t do this first. Figure out how much money you have coming in every month, and get clear on how much money absolutely needs to go out. This includes things like rent, utilities, student loans, etc. Whatever is leftover can be allocated into your spending budget, savings goals, and extra debt payments. Once you’re clear on these numbers, you can create your budget and set up tools to help you stick to it.
Automation is key when it comes to financial management. It removes human error from the equation by taking the action for you. That way, you can’t forget or actively avoid paying your bills or building up your savings. Set up auto-pay for your utilities, credit cards, and subscriptions. Make sure you keep track of when these payments are due so that you always have enough money in your bank account to cover them. You should also automate any savings you’re able to contribute to. Set up your 401k deduction with your employer, and make sure a portion of your paycheck deposits directly into your savings account(s).
Set up a spending account
One of the more genius ideas I’ve heard of is opening a checking account that is allocated specifically for everyday spending. Then there is a separate checking account that covers bills, like rent and other expenses. In this scenario, you would set up your paycheck direct deposit to split into the two accounts based on your bills and your spending budget. Ideally, you would leave your bills debit card at home and only use the debit card that goes with your spending account. Once you run out of money, you have to wait until you get paid next. That can be a motivating factor in keeping your spending down as the weeks go by. It also makes it so that you’ll never accidentally spend the money that you need to pay your bills.
Use cash only
Maybe you’ve heard of the envelope method of budgeting. Basically, it means that you set a budget for each spending category each month. Then you put the cash for each amount in an envelope dedicated to that specific category. You only use cash for spending, and once you run out in one area, you’re done spending on that category. Another, simpler approach is to take out cash at the beginning of each week and use it on your everyday spending until it’s gone. Once it’s gone, you can’t spend more money until the next week starts. This can be painful, but it will show you where you tend to overspend!
Use apps that move your money for you
If you know you won’t save or invest money on your own, take advantage of all the great apps out there that will do it for you, like Acorns, Digit, Qapital, Qoins and more. Many of these apps will use a round-up method to put small amounts of the everyday money that you spend into a savings or investment account. If that approach doesn’t appeal to you, you can also choose the exact amount that these apps move for you each month.
I have a client who uses Digit not just for saving money, but for setting money aside for rent during the month. She used to find herself strapped for cash and stressed out at the end of the month when rent was due. Then she set up Digit to pull half of her rent from her mid-month paycheck so that she wouldn’t spend it without realizing. The app holds the money in a separate account until it’s due. Now, at the end of the month, she always has enough money to pay her rent and doesn’t have to worry about it.
Disconnect your cards from online accounts
Have you ever made a purchase on Amazon without even thinking about it because your debit or credit card information was already programmed in? You’re not alone. This convenience makes it much easier to spend money impulsively. If you had to stop and type in your credit card number everytime you wanted to make a purchase, you’d probably be more discerning. So disconnect your cards so that you have to think twice about that purchase.
Delete apps from your phone
Have you ever deleted the Twitter or Facebook app from your phone so that you wouldn’t use them so much? This helpful approach can also apply to shopping apps. I once had a client who would open up the Sephora app on her phone when she was bored. This immediately led to her buying makeup that she didn’t need and couldn’t afford. I suggested that she delete the app from her phone to remove the temptation, and within days, she realized she had no urge to buy from Sephora anymore. Figure out your most tempting app and delete it from your phone. See how your impulse spending changes afterwards.
Budgeting is not a one-size-fits-all system. What works for you might not work for someone else. It’s important to know yourself and your habits so that you can know exactly what you need to trick yourself into sticking to a budget. So, what kinds of tricks would help you?
This article was originally posted on MaggieGermano.com.
Maggie Germano is a feminist and financial coach for women. She helps women improve their relationship with money so they can take control of their financial future. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, workshops, writing, and speaking engagements. She also founded Money Circle, which is a safe space for women to talk about money without feeling judged. It’s a way to create community and openness around personal finance. Passionate about many issues affecting women, Maggie is a member of the Women’s Information Network and was trained as a salary negotiation facilitator by AAUW.