Budgeting Advice to Help Keep You Motivated

budgeting advice

Why do budgets fail? You read through your receipts. You set your goals and limits. And you track your purchases. Yet, even after accounting for every dollar and laying out the best laid money design possible, there is still one thing that could sabotage the whole thing: The motivation to participate.

One of the hardest things about keeping your household budget on track is staying motivated. No matter how great your plan is on paper or what kind of budgeting advice you follow, it will all be meaningless and accomplish nothing if the people involved can’t agree to stick to it. People often under-estimate how quickly a low morale can derail your best efforts.

But fear not! A few small rewards or signs of success can be just enough to keep everyone viewing this as a positive thing. So with that, here is my budget advice for keeping everyone motivated and making your household plan work!


My Budgeting Advice for Keeping You on Track:


1. Post pictures of goals. Sometimes just saying “we’re going to pay this off” or “we’re going to go on vacation” is not enough. Put up a picture of that house you want or the place you want to go on vacation to so that it constantly reminds everyone of the goal you’re trying to reach.

2. Keeping a jar of money. Just like posting goals, sometimes physically seeing a jar of money fill over time and build up towards your saving goal can be a very powerful stimulant to keep everyone staying on track.

3. Pay yourself. Not all your money needs to go towards paying bills and debt. Make sure you pay yourself and your family members every paycheck with money that is intended to be spent on something purely fun, up to you, and guilt-free.

4. Delegate different spending responsibilities. Budgets usually fail when one person becomes the “Money-Nazi” of the house. People psychologically buy into the effort when they have some say or element of control within the system. So instead, delegate different aspects of the budget to various family members such as buying groceries, utilities, etc. That way everyone can have a stake in the process and have their say in what goes on.

5. Setup a rewards system. As part of the budget, setup a system within your house that says for every month you stay on track you get to go do something fun as a reward. This doesn’t have to be a big shopping spree or tropical vacation. It can be something very simple like going out to dinner at a local restaurant, seeing a matinee movie, etc.

6. Do the crime, do the time. Don’t just address the positives.  If you don’t stick to your budget, have a list of a few small “penalty” things you could do to generate some extra bucks this month. Nothing lethal; just committing to a few quick dollar generators like doing a few online surveys, selling old stuff on eBay, freelance writing, tutoring, giving lessons, (starting a blog?), etc.

7. Redeem gift cards for fun purchases. If your budget is really tight, get creative with finding your fun money from things outside your budget. Do you participate in some kind of rewards program with your credit card, airline miles, or other rewards system? If so, use these rewards to redeem things that can be used for something fun. That way they won’t cost the family a thing and everyone will still get some enjoyment out them.

8. See how the other side lives. This is one of my favorite pieces of budgeting advice because it involves changing your whole way of thinking versus just simply cutting back. When you visit places like the Pottery Barn, it warps your perception about how regular people actually live. Want to really see how people live? Try going to a garage sale, farmers market, thrift fair, flea market, volunteering at a shelter, etc. You’ll probably have a much different opinion about how you live your life, the stuff you own, and how badly you actually “need” certain things in your life.


Readers – What’s your budgeting advice for staying motivated and sticking to the plan?


Related Posts:

1) How to Budget – Download My Excel Template

2) What Would You Do With An Extra $1,000?

3) My Cash Flow Plan – September 2012 Update

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art


  1. Matt says

    Pt 8 is a good one. It’s always good to do charitable work and give back to the community, and it needn’t cost you money either, just time and effort.

    I’m going to try out pt 4 on the Mrs, see if it helps bring her round to my way of spending!

    Like you I also keep a net worth spreadsheet. That helps keep me motivated as I update it every month.
    Matt recently posted..More About Money and HappinessMy Profile

    • MMD says

      Good luck with putting the Mrs in charge! I hope it goes well. But I do believe that when someone has a hand in something, there is much stronger motivation not to let it fail.

  2. says

    Great tips MMD! We do many of them and I always find that having concrete goals is what keeps us going. If I know that I am saving to go on X vacation and know what I’ll be doing there then that makes it easier so I have a picture of it somewhere to motivate me. I also find that allowing yourself some fun money helps a budget go much better.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..First Steps to Investing in the Stock MarketMy Profile

  3. says

    These are some solid tips. We use our credit card cashback rewards as “fun money.” I often use it to redeem gift cards for Chipotle, Starbucks, etc. When we redeem it, it is not part of our regular cash flow so it’s like getting it “for free” (at least psychologically). I think posting pictures of your goals is a great idea that I may try out in 2013. I also have a plan of making seperate savings buckets in my savings account i.e. $100 of the $500 I just deposited is for the Vacation fund, etc.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Saving Money on Entertainment and HobbiesMy Profile

    • MMD says

      Creating savings buckets in your savings account sounds like a good plan! I’ll have to see if my bank has a way to set that up.

  4. says

    The biggest thing that keeps me motivated is experiencing success. Frankly, there isn’t anything else out there that motivates me. Sure, I want to accomplish my goals and get to the road, but if things aren’t going well for 6-12 months then it really sucks sticking to a budget. However, if we’re doing what we need to do (saving money and paying off debt) then it’s a lot of fun to stick to the budget.
    WorkSaveLive recently posted..Is Debt Consolidation an Opportunity – or a Trap?My Profile

    • MMD says

      Very good point, Jason. No one likes to fail or feel like they are wasting their time with something like a budget. In a sense, I like to design my budget and financial goals so that they are so bulletproof that progress is inevitable.

    • MMD says

      Yes, that is VERY important. If you have a bunch of enablers who encourage you to spend, you’re not going to do well. Inversely, when you associate with people who are modest and frugal, you’re far more likely to stay on track.

  5. says

    Great tips! For me I take quiet time and meditate. I go back to the feeling that staying in budget and having money is way better than spending and feeling stressed out month to month. The thing I find that in the beginning it was hard to do this. I felt sorry for myself that I couldn’t spend what my friends were spending. But now, especially after a recent trip with a couple of friends to a mall, I found that they are the ones who are frazzled and stressed, and I’m calm knowing I don’t feel those urges like I used to to spend. I’m content. Progress!
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..Looking Back, Looking Forward: Part 1My Profile

    • MMD says

      You’re right – It may hurt in the beginning, but its far less pain that what you COULD cause yourself later on when things really snowball out of control.

    • MMD says

      I’m thinking there might be a picture of Disney World going up on our fridge. That will be our motivation to save for vacation!

  6. Jason Clayton | frugal habits says

    I really like your last point. One activity that my family has been attempting to conduct is weekly service at Salvation Army (every Friday at lunch). We plan to help with the meal service to those in need.

    We have yet to start this, but we are doing this for our own hearts and the hearts of our girls. Its easy to get wrapped up in your own world and forget about those who are in need in your own community. (let alone the world)
    Jason Clayton | frugal habits recently posted..5 Family Activities I’m looking forward to this WinterMy Profile

    • MMD says

      That is a pretty admirable gesture you plan to participate in! We’ve also talked about how we need to do more to volunteer our time.

    • MMD says

      I can identify with that. Reading a lot of blogs or hearing stories about how other people built their success is a very powerful motivator for me. It inspires me to know how many regular people “figure it out” and share the secrets with the rest of us.

    • MMD says

      We had one when we got married and it was our honeymoon fund. It was cool to watch it fill with change and dollars because we knew how much we’d enjoy it later.


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