7 Bizarre Ways to Stay on Budget (That Actually Work)
Budgets fail for a number of reasons, but the most common one is that we simply do not follow through. Everyone's optimistic and driven during the initial planning stages, but actually putting the plan into action often decreases enthusiasm and motivation. If the traditional ways of staying on budget aren't working, you may have to resort to more drastic measures. Here are a few tips that are so crazy, they just might work. (See also: Build a Better Budget in 5 Minutes)
1. Argue With Yourself
Sometimes it seems like there's a whole 'nother person in your head telling you to do the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do. She's the one who tells you, "It's only a one-time expenditure," or "You've been doing good so far, surely there's no harm in a tiny splurge at the mall." It all sounds reasonable, but it's also dead wrong.
One of the best ways to combat the little devil on your shoulder is to talk to yourself. It helps to refer to yourself by name or by saying, "You." Remind her that you have goals you're trying to reach and catching that Super Nintendo complete with 50 games going for $100 on eBay is not a good enough reason to slack off on debt payments.
2. Gamify It
It may be hard to find the inherent fun in budgeting, but, if you make your budgeting endeavors into an actual game, you may find it easier to stay the course. Tools such as HabitRPG and Epic Win provide a comprehensive gaming adventure, complete with experience points, gold, and a multiplayer function. Just like in a real game, you level up when you achieve goals and take damage when you fall short. (See also: Cheap Ways to Play Video Games)
3. Lock It Up
If you're having trouble resisting the siren song of the credit cards in your wallet, you may need to rely on more than just your will power to stay on budget. A timed lock box such as the Kitchen Safe can help you can stop unnecessary spending by sealing your cards away for up to 10 days. The Kitchen Safe is made of clear plastic, so you'll need to wrap up the cards or cover the numbers with a piece of masking tape to make sure you don't cheat.
4. Put Your Money in Someone Else's Hands
Much like the tip above, sometimes you just need to put a barrier between you and your money. Take the amount of cash you've budgeted for the week's lattes, fast food lunches, and other frivolities out of the ATM, then give your card to someone else (whom you trust!) for safekeeping. If you run out of money before the end of the week, not only will you need to ask for your card back, you'll have to tell the person why you ran out of money and what you'll be using the unbudgeted amount for. (See also: Ways to Make Yourself Accountable)
5. Freeze It
The idea of putting your credit cards in a block of ice to stop yourself from using them is an oldie, but a goodie. Fill a container halfway with water and freeze it overnight. The next day, place your cards on top of the ice and fill the container up the rest of the way, leaving a half inch or so at the top for the ice to expand. Put it back in the freezer for another night and, voila! Your cards are completely encased in ice. Using this two-part method ensures the cards they don't just sink to the bottom where you can read the numbers through the ice. If you do choose to simply drop your cards in, wrap them with opaque plastic or cover the numbers with tape. Remember, the bigger the container the more hassle it will be to melt the ice.
In the same vein, you can bury your card in a large pot of dirt or even drop them down a hole in your backyard and plant a garden over top. Anything you can do to make retrieving your cards a giant pain in the butt will help you think twice about whether you really need to spend the money in the first place.
6. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
You may be more inclined to keep up your budgeting efforts if you have some hard money on the line. Websites such as Stickk and Beeminder work on the principle that the threat of losing money can be a positive motivator. You don't actually have to provide any money upfront, but if you fail to make progress on a goal, say putting a portion of your paycheck into your savings account every week, you'll have to pay up.
Beeminder keeps the money, but Stickk gives you the option of choosing the beneficiary of your forfeited funds. The default option is to send the money to one of the charities Stickk supports, although you can't know which one. The other option is to give it to someone you know, such as a friend or family member. You can even choose to surrender your money to an organization you oppose, providing you an extra bit of motivation. (See also: Surprisingly Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself)
7. Have a Snack
The decisions you make when you're hungry can be heavily affected by starvation instincts, which make you more likely to choose an option that has an immediate reward than one you have to wait for. This not only means you'll probably choose to hit the drive thru instead of sticking to that budget-friendly home cooking plan, you'll also be more likely to disregard the importance of saving money for your family reunion next summer over going on a bender at Macy's semi-annual sale.
So if you find yourself craving a new pair of shoes or the latest electronic gadget, have a small snack and reconsider.
Do you have a weird way of maintaining your budget? Share with us in comments!