Seriously, how do you stick to a financial plan?

This question is for those who are financially worry-free. I don’t mean wealthy people or those who don’t take care of their own finances. I mean people who are working, raising families, and yet on top of their financial situation.

I am married with 2 young sons. What we make in take home pay covers well over our usual bills. Groceries and gas are budgeted, but a little looser. Saving money seems like a joke. I budget out our finances to the point I get obsessed with it. It doesn’t seem to matter how much out of debt we get, we can always find some place to use the extra money instead of using it to pay off another debt. I’m really frustrated because I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. Why can I figure it on paper, but can’t make it happen? I write out a meal plan for an entire month and stick to it very closely, we don’t eat out, and we don’t go out. Because of our situation, I really worry about how my sons will learn to manage finances. Give me a clue!

It’s hard. I know what you’re going through because this is what I teach people for a living so I’ve heard every story you could possibly imagine about finances.

Have you done a detailed tracking of where your money is going? If not, both you and hubby need to write down every penny you spend for the next month. Put it into an excel spreadsheet and categorize it. See if you can figure out where the money it going.

Additionally, here are some suggestions I have for you:

1 – you need to sit down with your family, including your kids (get them involved in family finances early), and figure out what your family’s financial goals are. Make a list of them, prioritize them, assign due dates and come up with a plan on how to meet them. Then implement your plan.

2 – make everything automatic. On the day you get paid, set up automatic payments to your credit cards, loans, savings accounts, retirement accounts, etc. Everything that you want to pay towards should come out of your account the day you get the money. Whatever’s left after you pay towards all of that is how much you have to spend that month.

3 – tracking every penny will make you insane. Instead, implement #2, set aside your grocery money and then the rest is fair game.

4 – give yourself an allowance. You and hubby both get $X/month to spend on whatever you want. Once that’s gone you’re done. No robbing peter to pay paul. When the money’s gone you’re done.

You and your husband should both read Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach. It will make you take a look at your relationship with money and give you tips on how to make it work.

You can do this. You just need to get control of where your money is going.

Good luck!