Cleo budgeting app

Sticking to a budget is super important for everyone, no matter how much you're making or how much money you're trying to save... But it's often incredibly tricky.

Here are five easy ways to stick to a budget.


1. Use a Budgeting App

One of the easiest ways to stick to a budget is by using an app specifically designed to help you keep track of your finances and hit your saving goals. One such app is Cleo, an app that, per its own website, decisively "doesn't suck." Cleo connects to your bank and tracks your spending — and it uses a special AI integration that will literally call you out if you break your pledges.

budgeting app appBBVA

Cleo will help you budget, save, build credit, and much more, and it comes with special quirks that will make saving a bit more fun — including a "swear jar" that helps you control your worst spending habits. A budgeting app can act like an old friend looking over your shoulder and giving you a little extra support as you try to stick to your financial goals, and Cleo is definitely the friendliest of budgeting apps around.

2. Be Realistic

You're not going to want to stick to your budget if you set it way too low — then every time you look at your budget you'll find yourself disappointed and sad, and it'll keep spiraling. When you set your budget, be realistic and make sure you also have categories for emergency expenses or splurges. It's not like you're never going to splurge on your item of choice (be it an expensive meal out or an impulse-bought outfit), so put that into your budget as well and figure out where else you can save or skimp in order to make room for those inevitable stretches.

3. Review Your Budget Regularly and Build Your Habits Over Time

No matter how you hack your budget, be sure that you make checking and reviewing it into a routine. Be sure you review your spending at least every two weeks, if not once a week, and give yourself time to grow. Like any other skill, budgeting takes practice, and you'll get better at it the more you do. You might even try to set a timer for once a week and give yourself fifteen minutes to go over your budget at that time.

It's important to start slow and build your budgeting muscle over time as well. If you're just getting started or have a history of failing to properly budget, start with one or two categories and go from there. Or challenge yourself to save on one area each week, and then add more goals as time passes.

4. Determine What You Want to Do With Savings

It's important to feel like all your budgeting work has a purpose. Finding your "why" and figuring out what you're budgeting and saving for can really motivate you to do better, and this makes giving up little expenses a lot easier. Figure out what exactly you want to accomplish with your budget, and also make sure your goals are achievable and possible.

Of course you'll need savings for an emergency fund, and maybe you need to save to pay off loans and retirement; be sure you have specific goals for these categories, and also it's never a bad idea to pick a few fun things to save for.

5. Automate Your Savings

Saving money is really hard, when all is said and done, so it might be easier for you to just automate your savings so all that cash doesn't suddenly appear in your bank account, giving you the illusion that you can buy whatever you want (until you're broke before the next payday). You might want to enroll in a 401(k) plan or schedule automatic transfers to a saving account. Just be sure that you're tracking how much you're saving, and once you've saved enough you can consider investing.

Of course, Cleo is probably the easiest way to implement all of these tips, since the app helps you do all this and more (with a fun and friendly twist), and it's free! (Or you can get the plus version for $5.99 a month, which gives you features like Cleo Cover, a form of overdraft protection, and Daily Cash, a cashback rewards program).

Happy budgeting!

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

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If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.

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