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If you haven’t start, don’t worry we can get you on track for retirement

So you know how to start setting aside money, why you need a budget and you’ve created the basics of a solid plan to stay on track for retirement… what?

First: congratulations! The most important step  to good financial planning is creating a budget. Now the hard works begins. For most Americans, creating a budget isn’t the hard part; rather, maintaining a budget once you’ve created it is where the difficulty comes in.

We’re starting this series on budgets just in time: just like diets, going to the gym and spending more time with the ones you love, budgets are at the top of everyone’s New Year’s Resolution list.

We’ve compiled a list of things you need in order to ensure that you can stick with the strong budget you’ve created.

Be A Realist to stay on track for retirement

Yes, this means facing your bank account. You need to be realistic about two core aspects: how much money you HAVE and how much money you can spend.

This is the key to ensuring that you don’t become frustrated and give up on your budget.

If you are barely scraping by on what you are currently making, it is important to keep in mind that you might have to really tighten your purse strings in order to see some savings accrue. This means cutting back on a lot of unnecessary expenses and some fun in the process.

But don’t cinch the purse strings too tightly. It is also unrealistic to expect that you won’t spend a dime and to create a budget with this mentality. This is how you end up tossing aside the budget in favor of frivolous expenses.

You want to be sure to set your timeline – and the amount you are able to stash away – in a realistic manner. Assess your debts and the income you have coming in and make adjustments accordingly.

Think Small

One of the easiest ways to think realistically about your budget is to start small to stay on track for retirement is, beginning with your time frames.

Try to start with a week. If you are an individual who eats out frequently or who buys coffees on your way to work every morning, these are the easiest places to start. For one week, challenge yourself to go cold-turkey. Buy your groceries, pack your lunch and brew your coffee before you leave for work.

Keep track of how much money you would normally spend and compare that with the amount that you’ve saved.

Aim to save at least that every week, cutting back a little more wherever you are able to do so.

There Is No Finish Line to stay on track for retirement

Once you’ve saved, you need to keep saving to stay on track for retirement.

Think of the money you’ve saved as off-limits. Your budget is designed to prepare you for a financially sound future, so just because you have saved a little money doesn’t mean you should reward yourself and ruin your efforts.

Over time, your budget will get frustrating and you should prepare now for how you will face any hurdles in your savings plan.

You may not be able to go out like you once did and you may have to create new challenges for yourself to help you stay on track. For example, if you set a time frame within which you’d like to pay off a debt, speed up your timeline.

This will help you stay on track because the feeling of reaching your goals and striving to reach new ones can give you the same rush as buying something would otherwise. This of yourself as an athlete and your budget as a competition. In order to stay on track and succeed, you have to push yourself a little harder with each review of your budget.

Keep a Sunny Outlook

The most important aspect to creating and sticking with a budget is also sticking with a positive attitude.

If you go into the process of budgeting as a sacrifice, chore or burden then it won’t be as easy for you to stick with it.

Keeping a sunny attitude doesn’t have to be difficult, either. We recommend keeping your goals in mind and figuring out a way to track your progress that also makes the process of saving fun.

And don’t forget that a budget isn’t meant to be a means of depriving you – be sure to budget something for yourself to celebrate your accomplishments.

A Penny Saved

The bottom line is that every little bit you stash away comes in handy for your future. A penny saved really is a penny earned, and if you put those pennies toward your retirement – and those pennies gather interest. So a penny saved toward retirement is truly a penny earned in the long run.

No matter what your goals are for the immediate or long-term future, you can customize a budget to reach these goals.

If you are unsure of where to begin, there are several useful tools to help you. Try a budgeting app (like Mint) or take a few tips from us. You can also talk to a financial adviser who can help personalize your budget and tailor it specifically toward your current lifestyle and your goals.