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Jessica Sillers

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How to Avoid Budget Burnout

January is full of excitement and promise, but reality says most people fall short of the #newyearnewme goals they set. A packed gym turns into rows of empty machines by February, and your savings account may see similarly dwindling visits.

Let's talk about how to beat the odds and carry your money-saving resolution all the way through to next New Year's Eve (and beyond!).

1. Give up the expectation of perfection.

If saving money was a natural habit in your life, you wouldn't feel the need to devote extra attention to it by setting goals. Demanding perfection is the biggest way to drain your motivation and derail your success.

Instead: Trash the idea of flawless commitment. Instead, embrace resilience. Having the grit to make it through the ups and downs of making progress toward a goal will take you way further than only sticking to the plan when it's easy.

2. Designate financial "business hours."

When you're working hard to save, it's easy to get caught up in plans and shop talk. Being mindful of your goal is important, but overdoing it can cause damage, too. This is especially true if you're more interested in the new financial plan than your partner. They feel like all you want to do is crunch numbers, and you're getting dragged down by negativity when you've barely gotten started.

Instead: Pick a time once a week to catch up with the budget tracker and check in emotionally with your partner about how the new arrangement is working. The rest of the time, keep room in your life for the activities and conversations you enjoy.

3. Set an hourly rate for budgeting.

I'm not the most frugal person on the Internet. Far from it. If you're looking for someone with a knack for squeezing the last nickel out of their budget, I'm not your girl.

Sometimes, your debt, income, goals, or a mix of these can demand extreme measures. In other cases, there's no need to spend hours on surveys that shell out a few dollars or sell blood plasma to hit your milestones.

Instead: If a budgeting activity isn't likely to save me at least $50 per hour, I'm not doing it. My time to spend with my family, working on creative projects, or relaxing and sleeping is worth more than a trickle of extra cash. If I've got the energy to research and apply for medical studies seeking participants, I probably have time to research and pitch potential clients that could lead to ongoing work for my content marketing career.

Choose a rate that works for you, and don't waste energy on efforts that don't produce meaningful rewards.

4. Treat yourself responsibly

Speaking of rewards, it's important to recognize the value of fun money. The problem is when you take it to extremes. If you're up for a "No-Spend" January where you only open your wallet for essentials, that's fine, but pressuring yourself to keep that up for months on end is likely to leave you feeling miserable. At the same time, you don't want to go all-in on the"treat yo'self" mentality and burn through a pile of money that would have served you better going toward your real goal.

Instead: Put some thought into your treats. Impulse buys rarely feel good for longer than a day or so after the purchase, if that long. It can help to write out a real wish list, and choose something you know you'll enjoy for a long time.

Treats are also more meaningful when you tie them to something specific. It doesn't need to be an achievement (although that's also fine). Something like ordering lunch from a favorite restaurant on the same day every week or month, and skipping it for the rest of the time, can make the meal feel more like a special occasion. The idea is to keep a treat feeling special, instead of just another part of your routine.

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