We all wish we had more of it. We all wish we had the willpower to stay away from junk food, to study 2 hours every single night and to never spend more than we should.
But let’s be honest, willpower isn’t always reliable. Relying solely on your willpower to stick to a budget simply doesn’t work. Instead, you need to use something that does work: systems.
Systems? What do you mean by systems? 🤔
With systems I mean automated processes that make it easy to stick to a budget and that reward you for taking the right actions. Systems simply make life easier – you don’t have to rely on willpower to get everything done.
Here are some snazzy systems that will revolutionise (is that a word?) your budget:
The 15% rule
The rule that forever changed my life as a student. This system is simple and effective, and it goes like this:
Put away 15% of your income the second you receive your paycheck
As a student, this may sound like a lot, so 15% is really just a benchmark. If all you can put away is 5%, just start with that!
Now just imagine what you can achieve with 15% of your income stashed away every month. Personally, it gave me a cushion that I can now rely on whenever there’s an emergency or I run out of money before the end of the month. This money is really yours – and you can literally do whatever you want with it #adulting.
What I also love about this system is that it removes a lot of stress and it’s all automated. The second I receive an income, whether it’s a student loan, from a job or help from my parents, I put 15% away into a separate savings account. With this system I don’t need to worry about saving that month – it’s all been done automatically.
And by removing that 15% at the beginning of the month, I am now forced to live on less money, making it impossible to overspend. The only willpower I need is to not go fetch the money where I save it – which is easier to control that ‘trying not to spend too much’. Hence, I stick to my budget. A real life-changer.
If you want to learn how to implement that 15% into your budget, check out this awesome guide: Budgeting in 10 minutes
Here’s a little story:
I couldn’t stick to my transport budget. In the mornings I couldn’t be asked to take the bike and so instead I would take the bus. There’s no problem with that, but I really wanted to get into the habit of taking the bike – not only do I save money but it’s supposedly good for your health and all that tralala.
Instead of relying on willpower, I decided to put in a rewards system. Every time I took the bike, I would send the money I would have normally spent on the bus to a separate savings account. It wasn’t much at first, bit slowly the savings pot was growing, and I found that pretty motivating (money for a cool Xmas trip).
Through this rewards system, not only was I encouraging myself to do a better action, I was also saving money to go to an awesome trip? Win-win. These are systems that totally make it worth it.
And mobile banks such as Starling, Monzo and Revolut make it super easy to send money to your goals (as you can see on the screenshot, I’m using Starling). This means that in 5 seconds you can add money to your goals and bam.
Now if it rains I do indeed take the bus, but for the most part I take the bicycle. And the funniest part of it all? I actually enjoy it now 😛
Try it for yourself and see if it works out.
Tired of spending too much on going out? Try the rewards system. Every time you’re out and you consciously decide to not buy a beer, without offending your friends, take out your phone and send that £3 to a savings account.
Tired of spending too much on takeaway? Every time you have the urge, make the conscious decision to not buy takeaway, and send that money to your savings account instead. Make it for something cool like a trip or a nice meal.
This is an amazing way of prioritising your goals over day to day small pleasures. With the small amount of money you accumulate you can now take that trip to Italy. You can now visit your friend in the Highlands. You can now buy some proper shoes. This, my friends, is winning at life.
Week by week
Sometimes a monthly budget is too overwhelming;
‘I have to stick to spending £150/month on going out’.
Whether you’re a student or not, the simple fact is £150 is not a lot of money, especially in the UK. Living on a shoestring budget means sacrifices and it means control, and the thing is that £150 can disappear very quickly – next thing you know you’ve spent it all in one week #beentheredonethat.
So one system that works to make those £150 a bit more manageable is breaking down you month into 4 weeks. So your budget becomes £37.5/week instead of £150/month. Sticking to £37.5/week is easier than £150/month, simply because your brain only has to forecast how the week will go, and not just the month. 🧠
If doing week by week is still complicated, you can try a daily budget – so it’s £5.4 per day. I personally don’t like daily budgets because every day is different and they really vary lot and make it hard to forecast. But really, do whatever works for you; maybe you prefer weekly, bi-weekly, etc.
So there you go, 3 tricks that personally helped me stick to my budget, and that actually helped me with life in general. I was constantly beating myself up for not having enough willpower, but truth is willpower is unreliable. And that’s pretty much the same for everyone. So don’t worry about that, instead put in some systems that automate those processes and that help your brain understand what this money thing is all about.
Try one out and see how it goes.
Are there any other systems you like to implement? Share ’em with the world ⬇