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How to Avoid Budgeting Burnout

Last updated Nov 1, 2023

Think about how you initially felt when you set your budget. You may have felt invigorated, encouraged, and optimistic…but did those feelings stick around? Or are they giving way to “budgeting burnout”? 

A woman looking peaceful outdoors on a clear day.

“Budgeting burnout” happens when you overextend yourself and/or your money, which can make you feel discouraged, lose interest in budgeting, and possibly overspend. Common reasons for budgeting burnout include:1

  • Not having specific goals for your money
  • Creating an unrealistic and/or restrictive budget 
  • Not knowing your own shopping habits and spending triggers
  • Trying to budget by yourself
  • Neglecting to reward yourself for reaching goals

Addressing these issues can help you stay on track and avoid losing steam. Here are some tips to help prevent budgeting burnout before it becomes a big problem.

Set some money goals (or review and revise the ones you already have.)

While budgeting for its own sake is great, some struggle to stay motivated without having other, more immediate and tangible goals for their money. Prevent this by setting a few goals that take your individual lifestyle, financial situation, habits, and wishes into account, such as:

Of course, setting goals only works if you hold yourself accountable for meeting them. Check in with yourself regularly to monitor your progress and make changes that could help you reach your objectives faster!

Alter your budget to be more realistic.

While most budgets require you to cut some costs to prioritize saving, it’s possible to cut spending too much and burn yourself out. If an unrealistic budget is killing your motivation, consider revising it and including more room for fun so you don’t wear yourself down with too many rules and restrictions.

The 50/20/30 rule is one way to create a budget that balances saving and spending while still allowing for the occasional treat. When you use this rule, you’ll allocate 50% of your take-home pay to things you need (i.e. rent or mortgage payments, car payments, utilities, a modest amount for food and clothing) and 20% to a savings account or debt repayments. The remaining 30% is yours to use as you wish!

Examine your spending habits and look for “spending triggers.”

A “spending trigger” is any situation, emotion, place, or person that tempts you to spend money. Most spending triggers fall into one of three categories.

  • Emotional triggers: Negative feelings like jealousy, guilt, fear, and sadness can drive you to seek comfort and/or distraction in shopping. Positive emotions can trigger spending too; for example, you might be tempted to buy yourself something to celebrate a recent achievement.
  • Social triggers: We often want what others have (regardless of whether we can afford it), and many people spend money to keep up with family and friends. Social media platforms can exacerbate these problems by flooding our feeds with photos of our loved ones’ new cars, luxurious clothing, elaborate vacations, and other desirable items/experiences.
  • Physical triggers: A “physical trigger” is anything you can look at, touch, walk into, or drive through. Physical feelings like hunger or thirst can also drive you to shop impulsively, as studies show people spend more (even on non-food items) if they shop while they’re hungry.2

Reflect on your recent spending and look for correlations. For instance, do you shop when you feel sad or angry or stressed? Do you tend to spend more when you’re with a certain person or group of people? Are you easily influenced by emails promoting sales from your favorite brands? Noticing these patterns and trends can help you prevent impulse spending in the future. As an example, if you realize you’re prone to “retail therapy,” replace shopping with cost-free alternatives such as talking to a friend or loved one about your feelings; if specific people encourage you to spend more than you should, limit your contact with them or suggest free activities next time you hang out; or if promotional emails make you shop too much, unsubscribe from them.

Find a “budgeting buddy.”

It can be hard to stick to a budget when you’re doing it alone, and if well-intentioned friends or family members are always inviting you out to pricey bars and restaurants, expensive shopping trips, and/or extravagant vacations, it can be easy to let your budget fall apart entirely. This is where you could benefit from a “budgeting buddy,” or someone who will partner with you in your budgeting efforts. You and your budgeting buddy can talk about your budgets together, hold one another accountable, talk about any challenges you’re facing, and mutually support one another. 

Your budgeting buddy could be anyone, from a spouse or romantic partner to a best friend, a sibling, or a parent. Whoever you choose, they should be someone you feel comfortable around and can have candid and vulnerable conversations with. 

Reward yourself for reaching important goals.

“Allowing yourself an occasional indulgence can help you avoid burnout,” the writers at Mint say. “If you can add in a financial treat day here and there, you won’t feel like your budget is always the enemy.”3 As you remain on track with your budget and reach important milestones (e.g. saving at least $1,000 in an emergency fund, paying off one credit card in full, or increasing your credit score by 50 points), give yourself small and inexpensive rewards such as a meal at your favorite restaurant, a new house plant, or an at-home spa day. Your mind (and your wallet) will thank you for the refreshing treat!

A person sitting on a cliff with their back to the camera, overlooking the ocean.

When you proactively prevent budgeting burnout, spend less, and save more, you can enjoy the benefits of a more financially stable life. But that takes a lot of willpower and a little knowledge, so follow us on Facebook and Instagram for new money management tips every day.

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