If you are one of the many Canadians who doesn’t enjoy watching how you spend your money, you are not alone — even the experts don’t try to sugarcoat how exciting it is to keep track of your bottom line.

“Budgets are boring,” says Stephen Cox, a certified financial planner with Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network in Halifax. “Most people think of budgets as being restrictive, but they should look at them as a tool that shows what they can afford to do, not what they can’t do.”

Cox offers the following tips for creating — and sticking to — a monthly budget:

Define and prioritize your goals.

The first step is to decide what’s important, then set a maximum of three attainable goals with concrete timelines. For example, maybe you want to spend a week in Cuba one year from now. “The more specific you are with your goals, the easier it is to reach them,” says Cox.

 

Track your spending.

If you don’t have a budget, you are likely to spend subconsciously. For one month, jot down every item you buy and how much it cost. Then determine what you needed (groceries) versus what you wanted (Friday night dinners out with friends). Eliminating as many of the “wants” as possible will help you save. “We all work too hard for what we make,” says Cox. “It’s important to spend it mindfully.”

Summon your willpower.

If you are really keen to a vacation in Cuba, you will find a way to make the necessary choices to help you save. That means making smart spending decisions such as cooking double the amount of your Sunday meal to pack for lunch during the work week.

Don’t make excuses.

Too rushed in the mornings to make coffee? Can’t bear the thought of giving up your daily dark chocolate habit? “When it comes to budgeting, there’s an excuse for everything,” says Cox. If you are serious about saving, you will set your morning alarm 15 minutes earlier and watch the flyers for when your favourite chocolate goes on sale.

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