Avoiding Budget Busters

When I review my budget each month, I try to make up for any discrepancies that may have occurred in the month prior, and I make adjustments as needed. Sometimes, though, sneaky little things make their way in and create a small leak in my finances, which can become a bigger problem if they’re ignored. I often allow myself a fair amount of “free money” for these things so they don’t do too much damage, but every once in a while, I lose track of my spending. Be sure to pay close attention to your weak spots (mine happen to be clothes shopping and dessert) so you don’t need to dip into your savings (or even worse, build debt), or else try to find ways to eliminate them to save more. I’ve included a few things below that tend to sneak up on me…

Dining out. This is our biggest budget-busting culprit. I’m usually exhausted by the time the weekend hits, and it’s so much easier to head out for a meal rather than doing all of the work myself, especially when I’d rather spend my free time with my little one. Planning our meals ahead of time has helped to reduce this, and I’ve also found a few tried and true simple recipes that are delicious and easy to make. We’ve also started to share the cooking duties, so my husband and I will take turns in the kitchen depending on our schedules.

Frequent treats. This has been my guilty pleasure lately. Sometimes I feel like my job has conditioned me to crave junk food, because you can almost always find it stashed here, but when it’s not, I’m on the hunt for it. It’s not hard to find, either, since I work on a college campus. I might only be spending a few bucks at a time, but those dollars can quickly add up. I’m much better at eliminating this temptation when I don’t carry cash on hand (why is it so easy to spend?!) or when I pack plenty of snacks from home to eat while I’m at work.

Impulse purchases at the grocery store. I’m not too bad with this one, since we tend to overestimate how much we spend on groceries every month (or more like I avoid the chore that is grocery shopping and we eat random staples from the pantry until I cave and go to the store). I know how easy it is to walk by something that looks appealing, especially if you’re hungry, and just toss it in your cart. To avoid this, make a list of everything you need before you leave the house and stick to it! I also find that our store of choice, Aldi, helps to limit this by only offering a limited number of options for items they carry.

Gas. I’ve always been sure to allocate for fueling costs, but sometimes I forget to update how much I budget for based on the fluctuating cost of gas. When I went on maternity leave, gas was hovering around the $2.00 mark, but it has since gone back up another 50 or 60 cents, and that change needs to be accounted for. Just another reason why you should frequently monitor and update your budget!

Self-care and pampering. This is one of my least favorite things to cut back on, because I love heading to the salon for fresh pedicures in the summer. Is this something I can do at home? Definitely! Do I always feel like doing it myself? Of course not. This is something that I try to budget for, but will eliminate if I need to. If you already account for this in your budget, then by all means, treat yourself! I’ve learned to save enough for hair and nail appointments, but I can only indulge if I stick to my plan.

Is there anything that can or often throws off your monthly budget? Can you account for it or are you better off finding ways to cut back on those expenses? What works best for you?