You Can't Depend on Motivation to Budget- Here's Why

May 01, 2023

Motivation is not the same as consistency, and in the long run, consistency is going to benefit you more than motivation when it comes to budgeting


Motivation is defined as, “the general desire or willingness to do something.” It is an internal process. Motivation is what drives you to do certain things, behave in a certain way; it is your WHY. 


Everyone’s motivation is different because we are all different people with different values and goals. You and your best friend could have a goal to go to the gym every day, but your motivations for doing so could be completely different. 


There are also different types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from you, from within. “I want to go to the gym every day because that will make me feel strong and accomplished.” That internal feeling of accomplishment is intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors or sources. “I want to go to the gym every day because I want to win my powerlifting competition.” Wanting to win the competition is extrinsically motivating. 


Here’s the thing: motivation comes and goes. It fluctuates depending on the day of the week, your mood, and whatever else is going on in your life. Even if you feel motivated at the beginning of a project or goal, you may lose that motivation along the way due to any number of factors: perfectionism, lack of confidence, comparison, how your body is feeling, how your mind is feeling….I could go on. Motivation is great, but it’s fickle. It’s easy to feel the impulse, the drive to start something new, but then you have to continue to maintain that same level of drive over the course of whatever you’re completing; reading, budgeting, going to the gym, etc. 


Consistency, on the other hand, is sustained, continued action. It’s defined as, “acting or done in the same way over time.” Consistency is not about feeling. It’s about DOING. 


If you consistently move your body and eat well, you will feel healthier.

If you are a writer that consistently writes no matter how inspired you feel, you will be a better writer than those who only write when they feel like it. 

If you budget consistently, you will feel more in control of your life than someone who doesn’t. 


When you are working towards any goal, being consistent trumps being motivated. Motivation may lean you toward goals that are important to you to accomplish, but it’s consistency that’s going to help you achieve them in the long run. Consistency ensures you are taking small, regular steps toward what you want regardless of how you feel on any given day. 


Being consistent does NOT mean doing something every day, either! Being consistent can look like a daily skincare routine, a weekly budgeting ritual, or a monthly Zoom call with your friends from college. What matters is that you are showing up and doing the thing, no matter how motivated you feel. 


A side effect of consistency is....(drumroll).....habit development! The more often and regularly you take action toward a goal (aka DO something), the more likely it is to become a habit. And once something becomes a habit, it takes less energy to do and is more appealing to complete; motivation or no motivation. 


At Beyond the Green, we know how big of an impact consistency can have when it comes to budgeting. Consistency with budgeting: 


  • Builds confidence & trust in yourself 
  • Allows you to feel in control, even when unexpected expenses come your way
  • Helps you reach your goals (financial and otherwise!) faster


There are going to be days when you don’t feel motivated to track your expenses, when you don’t feel motivated to look at your debt repayment plan, and when you don’t feel motivated to budget. That’s just life. We’re freakin’ finance coaches, and we STILL don’t feel motivated all the time to budget. But once you build a strong budgeting habit, when you are consistent in showing up for your present and future self; THAT’S when you’ll start seeing results.


If you want to start being consistent with any new habit, here’s a starting point: 


  1. Start small. Like, very small. Very very very small. If you want to be more consistent with budgeting, start with the smallest piece of that habit: sitting down and opening your budget spreadsheet. Get consistent with that piece, and then build on it (slowly!)
  2. You want the habit to be easy to accomplish- as you start small and build, continue to check in on how reasonable it is to complete your habit because that will help you be successful. 
  3. Plan for failure- it’s gonna happen. Consistency is NOT about being perfect; it’s about continuing to show up even when you fall off track or miss a week of budgeting. 


What might that look like in practice?


βœ… Schedule budgeting time. Literally, put it in your calendar once a week, or set up a daily alert to remind you to sit down and open up your budget sheet.

βœ… Do your budget at the same time each day or week. BONUS: stack your budgeting habit with other habits you are already doing. For example: if you wake up, do your skincare routine, and read in the morning, stick budgeting between skincare and reading your book. Since you are already used to doing the other parts of your routine, after a few weeks, budgeting alongside them will feel like you’ve always done it.

βœ… Bookmark your budget sheet (and keep it visible on your browser window). It’s much easier to avoid the numbers if you aren’t looking at a physical reminder that they’re there.

βœ… Find an accountability partner! Lean on others as you build a new habit.

βœ…Even if you miss a day (or week) of budgeting, SHOW UP the next day (week). 

βœ… Have something to look forward to once you finish budgeting. This is a way to start integrating motivation with consistency. If you know some of your extrinsic motivators, use them on a smaller level to support you in building a consistent habit. Coach Rachel has ADHD and finds a reward system for budgeting super helpful. For her, it’s a glass of wine after she budgets once a week. Maybe your daily walk is your reward, or 15 minutes on social media. Find what works and let it support you. 


Happy Budgeting!!!

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