How to stick to a budget when times are rough!

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How to stick to a budget even when the times are hard!

A budget is your only companion in managing your finances.

You have to keep it by your side every time you talk about money and personal finances. Without budgeting, you can never achieve financial success and happiness.

With budgeting, there are confusing days, when you might just let go of those budget figures and become derailed from the track you thought you would stay put on forever.

There could be an emergency with unexpected expenses that haul away your savings and force you to spend more than you planned. There could be many, “over the top expenses”, which can never fit in your budget well, and you are left wondering what you should do.

Such times are really difficult and struggling, as money mistakes are pretty disastrous. There are debt payments and unavoidable expenses. In the middle of this monetary chaos, you have only one shining star, which is your budget.

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A budget is like an Artificial Intelligence, holding the power to warn you when you might be making a wrong decision.

Therefore, you should learn to stay attached to your budget when times are a-changin! And to do so, you need unlimited patience and precision.

You’ve got to face the changes, study the circumstances, and create solutions based on the probable consequences.

Budgeting is a game of probability! If you can understand that, then it won’t be difficult for you to stick to your budget when your good days turn to being bad!

Which budgets to follow and how to stick to them

What really matters is which budget you wish to use. Different budgets have different strategies for taking control of different financial obligations.

We will be evaluating three most widely used budgeting techniques. You can choose the one that suits you the best.

The Zero Based Backward Budget – or the reverse budget:

Zero based budgeting is my ‘most favorite’ budgeting style. I like it as it breaks down your overall expenses and gives you a detailed statistical analysis on how much of your income goes where.

As you can see, the name has a ‘backward- or reverse’, and a ‘Zero-Based’ in it. This budgeting system is a combination of two unique budgeting styles.

A backward budget is generally used to address a specific high priority obligation from your income.

Backwards budgeting involves setting aside a fixed amount from your paycheck for savings first. With whatever’s left of your income, cover monthly expenses. Saving money before covering expenses is what gives this budgeting technique the ‘backward or reverse’ name.

Backwards budget

Usually, we first take care of our expenses, then with the remaining amount we do our personal savings. But reversing this idea the other way round started to prove more beneficial for many people.

Now, coming to the term ‘Zero-Based’.

Firms, corporations and revenue departments list their costs and expenditures one by one. Expenses are subtracted from their total earnings, say for example in one financial year.

If the result comes to Zero, then the company is said to have a neutral profit margin. A positive result yields profit, and a negative number indicates a loss.

A mixture of both “Reverse budget” and “Zero Based budget” takes budgeting to a whole other level.

You can stretch this budget as per your needs and wants. This budget requires you to list all your expenses depending on their level of priority. So, if you want to make savings the prime focus, then this goes at the top of the list.

One-by-one, list all of your expenses in descending order from most expensive to least. Once you are done with the list, you will add up your total expenses and subtract it from your total income.

The result you get should either be positive or zero.


Your aim is to make [Total Income – Total Expense (this includes savings too)], equal to Zero.

If you see that you have left over income, even after expenses, then use this amount to do something good. For example, extra savings or getting yourself a small treat.

If the result is negative, your expenses exceed your monthly income. You will need to reduce your expenses where convenient.

How to stick on to a Zero Based Backward budget in hard times:

It’s not at all difficult to follow up this budget, even when you are going through a topsy-turvy financial situation.

Let’s assume that due to some temporary inconvenience you have to increase your expense list. In such a scenario you can cut up the previous unimportant expenses and factor in the new expenses and check whether or not they can be covered under your total income.

Again if an upcoming obligation demands you to allot and keep aside more money saved up, then you need to rev up the ‘backward’ scheme, and do full throttle savings before indulging into usual monthly expenses.

Zero Based Backward budget is pretty flexible and you can see the transparency yourself in calculating your income and expense ratio.

The 50-20-30 conventional budget system

Next in line is the 50-20-30 budget. This budget in fact is very old-school, but its authenticity can never be questioned.

The 50-20-30 are three percentages, which will divide up your expenses into three categories of expense types.

50% for normal day-to-day expenses.

20% shall cover your per month savings.

Finally, 30% denotes luxury or free to play with wish list costs!

50-20-30 rule

Plain and simple budgeting. You should have absolutely no hardship in following this budget every month. For best results, your 50-20-30 budget should follow the rules of Zero Based Budgeting.

This budget may be a bit small in size, but I tell you this is a real “Little Boy”. You can expect some tremendous changes taking place in your own finances, if you can cling onto this budget consistently.

I will be stating the ways to stick with the 50-20-30 rule after explaining the next percentage budget.

The personalized percentage budget

This budgeting strategy is a step higher from the 50-20-30.

Here, you can organize your expense categories as per your preference. Expenses can range from transportation, food and groceries, restaurant and pub visits, debt payments, savings, utility bills, to any other expense you are having.

You will also assign each expense fixed percentages from your income. The number of expense categories and their percentages vary depending on each months financial demands.

Recommended: See Dave Ramsey Recommended Budget Percentages

The personalized budgeting system can get a bit complicated when the expense categories increase too much, as it is solely based on probability. But, you should not worry much as you can anytime go back to 50-20-30 and avoid unwanted complexities.

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How to stick on to 50-20-30 and personalized percentage budget when it’s a struggle

It’s not tough, and pretty similar to how you would stay connected to the Zero Based Budget. You will have to regulate the percentage figures each month and assess your budget from time to time.

Each month poses a different set of expenses. The generalized 50-20-30 can easily match up, as it has only 3 broad categories masking all of your financial obligations.

But, the personalized percentage budget will be breaking into several segments, with each having its own unique percentage value.

Hence work out the probability, as of how to get the approximate figure of each expenses in the following month. Remember, only you can do your own money management in the most efficient way.

Some other lifestyle hacks to maintain your budget, when you are in deep waters:

Try to have no debts around you

Debts are the most troubling of all financial responsibilities. They are very sticky, and it is not an easy job to pay them off fast.

Doing only the minimum payments on credit cards, or missing out on secured loan payments, can never help you to achieve financial happiness.

Avoid debt

Therefore you need to find the best way to get out of debt, so that you don’t stay forever attached to your debts and only land in financial turmoil each month.

You will see that after you have cleared your debts, managing your budget becomes a lot more easier for you.

Have a separate savings account for tackling unexpected expenses

Separate savings accounts are the best way to stay on the safe side when it comes to money management.

If every month, you can allot a specific amount to one such category called ‘rainy day savings’ or so, then whenever you are facing any financial challenges, this amount will be always by your side, and you don’t have to stress out every now and then.

No matter whatever budget you follow, make sure to have room for this special amount.

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Be frugal where needed

The last, but very important part of this post.

No matter who you are or how much net worth you have, if you don’t stop with unnecessary expenses then financial miseries will never end.

There’s a fine line between needs and wants.

Your needs are what you require to sustain a well settled decent lifestyle, but your wants are what entice you to splurge.

Therefore, before making a costly purchase, make sure you ask yourself that whether or not such a purchase is necessary, or is it just another wish!

If you can keep all the things discussed in this post in mind, then there should not be any difficulties in sticking to your budget.

Have a happy financially successful life ahead!