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I’ve always said that one of the best ways to maintain financial stability is to keep a budget. Whether it’s through helping you track your expenses or keeping you on track with your goals, a budget is an incredibly handy financial tool that does a lot of good. Unfortunately, there are some habits out there that can really throw a wrench in your budget and, consequently, your financial well-being. To help you avoid making a major money mistake, here are three bad habits that can put your budget in danger.

1. Making Edits on the Fly

While we may find ourselves needing to adjust our budgets from time to time, it’s important to avoid making a habit of haphazardly changing it on the fly. Constantly adjusting your budget to cover unnecessary expenses is a surefire way to fall into financial instability and lose ground on achieving your financial goals.

If you find yourself constantly making changes to your budget, you may want to consider setting aside a small fund to account for the occasional spur-of-the-moment purchase. You can also look into automating your savings and retirement contributions to ensure your big financial obligations are taken care of before money even reaches your wallet.

2. Financial Procrastination

The longer you put off your budget-based obligations, the less likely you’ll be to actually follow through on them. Choosing to ignore your credit card bills or inconsistently tracking your expenses can keep you from meeting your budget’s requirements and making informed adjustments. If you think you’re procrastinating your financial responsibilities, it’s best to adopt a habit of taking your fiscal responsibilities head-on. Staying proactive when it comes to checking credit card statements, transferring money to your savings account or paying down debt can help quell the urge to procrastinate.

3. Prioritizing Wants Over Needs

We all have our wants and needs, but not being able to properly prioritize between the two can spell doom for your budget. Putting too much focus on being able to afford the things you want (material items, vacations, dinners at restaurants) and not enough on the things you need (retirement, paying down debt, college tuition) can leave you with a lopsided and fragile budget. (It could also potentially hurt your credit. You can see how your credit card balances and the amount of debt you owe may be affecting your credit scores by viewing your free credit report summary updated every 14 days on Credit.com.)

To keep this habit from forming, sit down and clearly outline which expenses are “needs” and which are “wants.” Categorizing your budget this way might help you better identify which portions need more of your attention and hard-earned cash.

Ideally, your budget should work for you, not against you. If you aren’t plagued by one of these bad habits and still find yourself struggling to stick to your budget, you may want to revise it. Perhaps you were a little too ambitious when it came to contributing towards your retirement fund or paying down debt. Maybe you didn’t properly track your grocery or gas expenses. While budgets can occasionally be challenging to follow, they shouldn’t be overly restricting. As with most things in life, balance is key.

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Image: Alberto Bogo

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