When Your Budget Doesn’t Work (and What You Can Do About It)

By Lauren
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    Lauren Greutman Recovering Spender

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    Ya know what's discouraging? When you're trying to get better at something, but it just isn't panning out. You've followed the steps: 1,2,3 and it just isn't working. You ask, “What am I missing?” Like when your budget doesn't work.

    What happens when you do your budget, you've cut all you can cut, and it still doesn't work!?

    To quote Bob Wiley:
    budget doesn't work

    So, what DO you do when your budget is just not working!? There's only so much you can cut, and only so many coupons you can clip. So what's next?? This post is for you!

    How serious are you about fixing your financial situation?

    12 Practical things you can do When your Budget Doesn't Work

    Before we get started, make sure you are:

    1. Budgeting Prospectively,
    2. Using Cash to budget,
    3. and Meal Planning.

    If you're still running into problems, these steps will take your budgeting to the next level. You don't have to do all of these, but depending on your situation, you may need to make some more drastic sacrifices.

    1. Change your Mindset

    f you aren't there mentally yet, THIS is the time to get into survival mode. If you're at a financial deficit every single month, the hole you're digging will only get deeper unless you make some drastic changes. This is time to ask yourself one question, “What do I absolutely need to survive?

    You need to be willing to put everything you don't absolutely need on the chopping block. This is only going to be a temporary season of life. It won't always be this way, but in the long run, you'll thank yourself you made sacrifices early on to change your financial future.

    2. Prioritize every Dollar

    This goes hand-and-hand with #1. You need to place every expense you have in a priority structure – from basic groceries down to fun money.
    Next, you need to make sure you are spending your money throughout the month in order of priority. This means that even if you have a bill that isn't due until later in the month, you reserve that money for that bill and consider it spent before you spend that dollar on anything else that's lower in priority.

    Here's a picture from The Personal Finance Planner that has a suggested priority order for your bills. Use this as a guide for how to prioritize your own bills.:

    3. Get rid of the Car Payment

    It's no secret that new cars are a waste of money. There are used cars that are just as safe and reliable as new cars and are thousands of dollars less. Do whatever you can to get out of your car payment(s)! Sell your car, and buy something that you can pay cash for. I refuse to believe that having a car payment must be a normal way of life.

    Another way to think about it is to get a car you can afford. If you're in a dire financial situation and have a car payment, you can't afford the car you drive (possibly among other things). So, get something you can afford. Find something with enough seats for your family, that runs well, has airbags and seat belts, and you've got a winner.

    4. Ditch Cable

    You'll live. Your husband will live. This is a luxury that doesn't fit in the budget right now. In most places you can even buy a cheap antenna and get all of your local programming for free! If that's just too much, consider one of these alternatives to cable.

    5. Downgrade Cell Phone Plan

    Most cell phone providers offer you 2 things and we aren't putting them together:

    1. They sell you HUGE data packages so you can “make sure you don't run out”, and
    2. They give you a report of how much cell data you are actually using each month.

    You can see how much data you use each month. If you rarely ever use more than 1gb, why are you paying for 10gb?? Downgrade your Plan. Most people use their phones in WiFi areas most of the time anyways, so they should hardly ever be using cell data.

    Another favorite option of mine is Republic Wireless. They have some of the most affordable cell phone plans I've seen! I've been using them for a couple years now with ZERO issues.

    6. Cancel every Subscription you have

    The new thing is subscriptions. People used to just subscribe to magazines and not much else. Now you can buy a subscription to anything you can imagine – furnace filters, laundry detergent, fishing lures, makeup, shavers, socks, etc. etc. You can try to convince me otherwise (with actual data), but I don't see how anyone is spending less money using a subscription service.

    If you're in a financial struggle, cancel ALL your subscriptions. You can buy furnace filters at Lowes, and a new razor at Walmart. You can't afford these luxuries right now.

    7. Cancel Your Home Phone

    With cell phones, there isn't a real need for a home phone anymore. If you really want a home phone, Republic wireless has cell phone plans for $15/mo. And you can just keep the phone at home.

    8. Sell Stuff

    Sell things you don't use or need on Craigslist, Facebook groups, OfferUp, or eBay. Getting extra money and cleaning out your house could be just what you need to give you a jump-start in the right direction!

    9. Have a Garage Sale

    As I'm writing this, it is full-on Garage sale season. Take advantage of that! Not only are you going to make some money, many people plan to go garage sale-ing to spend their money in the Spring and Summer.

    Coordinate with some neighbors, advertise and get selling! Here's a great organization guide to get you started!

    10. Sell your House

    Whatever the reason for your financial strain, honestly ask yourself, “Can I afford to live in this house?” Consider selling it and moving into a smaller and more affordable house. This can be tough and SUPER emotional, but the belief that our happiness is directly related to our home size or location simply isn't true… especially if you can't actually afford it. There is also the emotion of memories made in that house. That is probably the hardest part, but life has a way of always allowing us to make new memories wherever we are and in whatever season of life we are in.

    Are you really happy drowning in debt in a house you can't really afford?

    Trust me. I've been there. We did it. We were in $40,000 of debt and decided to sell our 3,200 sq. ft. custom-built home and moved into a 700 sq. ft. townhouse. Were we a little cramped? Yes. But we were able to pay off a TON of debt, build an emergency fund, get on our feet again, and completely reset our financial future. Looking back, it was the best decision we could have made. And we made memories in that little townhouse. It has a special place in my heart.

    11. Make money with Survey Sites

    Trying out some online survey sites is a great way to make a little extra money on the side. This is something you can while sitting on the couch at night while watching TV. Every little bit adds up!

    12. Start a Side Hustle

    A “Side Hustle” is just a something you do in your spare time to make a little extra money. Can you turn your hobby into something that makes money? What about music lessons, or walking dogs, or writing, or babysitting?

    Here are 24 side hustles you can check out. See if any of them can inspire you!

    Just remember. It won't always be this way. Do whatever you have to do to get your budget in the black, start destroying your debt, and build your emergency fund. You can do it!

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