We all want to have tons of money, am I right? Life will be so much less stressful without money worries. I am here to tell you, a budget is going to be your way to not have money stress anymore. Your budget is your plan to make sure you know where your money is going.
However, even the best-laid plans can sometimes go awry. I have found over the years of budgeting, there are a few speed bumps that come up over and over again that can totally throw me off my budget.
As time has gone on, I have learned how to combat these common pitfalls and stick to my budget month after month.
If you are struggling with budget sabotage, this is totally for you!
Why Your Budget Is Failing and How to Fix It:
1. Your food purchases are out of control.
This is definitely the number one budget buster for most folks. I swear, I make a budget, then my pantry just laughs at it and says, “Just wait until the end of this month when you are $200 over budget!”
Most people budget for food based on a guestimate of what they will spend in the month. This guestimate is based on their average food expenses in prior months. Once that number is decided, groceries are purchased and life is good.
BUT, then you have a late night or you are super tired and that drive-thru is so much less effort than figuring out what to eat at home. You and your husband just want to have some quality time so you decide to go to a restaurant together. You forget to pack food for your kid’s sporting events so you go nuts at the concession stand and everyone has pizza, hot dogs and nachos for dinner.
Life happens and before you know it, you have spent your entire food budget and sometimes almost double that amount on other food. You swear you will do better the next month and try again. I lived this pattern for my entire first year of budgeting.
How to fix it:
The answer to this problem of going over your food budget is super simple.
Have a plan.
Alright, there may be more to it than that. You have to be committed to not going over your food budget. You need to have some level of self-control to say no to the drive-thru and no to restaurants.
This becomes way easier when you meal plan. This was a game-changer for my family. Meal planning reduced our grocery budget from $700/month to $250/month for a family of 4.
There are two ways to do this.
Meal plan yourself.
This is totally doable, but you have to keep it simple. If you try to get too fancy with this when you are first starting out, you are will get overwhelmed and give up. I guarantee it. If you want to try it on your own, start with some of my basic plans.
Have someone else meal plan for you.
After meal planning on my own for a while, I got bored with my meals and couldn’t find the creativity to come up with new meals. This is when I found Tonya with Meal Squeeze. It is a super affordable meal plan service (really, it’s so much value for the low cost!), with creative and delicious meals.
I am in love with this meal plan because the meal plan and shopping list is done for me with zero effort on my part.
2. You have a sudden need for entertainment.
We are all creatures of habit. My husband and I are avid movie lovers. Going to see a movie was our thing. No plans on a Friday? We’ll just go see a movie!
When you are living on a budget, there can be this feeling of monotony like you are stuck in a rut doing the same stuff all the time. Or should I say, not doing anything all the time?
When my husband and I first started budgeting, we went extreme and cut out all fun from our lives. We thought all entertainment cost money so we just wouldn’t do anything.
This is a common misconception that can lead you into doing nothing….ever. This will make you resent budgeting and totally quit. OR, you will do what we did and just go totally overboard the other way out of frustration, and do every paid activity you can think of.
Variety really is the spice of life. You can only do the same thing for so long. It is super unrealistic to think you can just hunker down with no entertainment for a long time without going completely nuts.
How to fix it:
Entertainment doesn’t have to be expensive. If you start paying attention to some alternative options, you will find the possibilities for new activities that don’t break the bank (and tons are free!) are everywhere.
Check out your local area activities (concerts, boat parades, festivals, etc.) for free or super cheap events and put them on the calendar and in your budget. This creates anticipation for a fun event that will keep your hunger for entertainment satisfied. Once you schedule something fun, you won’t feel so deprived.
Get back in touch with nature. Something as simple as going for a hike on a new trail can be stimulation enough to get you through another week of working and budgeting without losing your mind.
Get a little bit creative on what adventure means to you. Check out a frisbee golf course to try something new, look for an old drive-in for a cheap movie night or find a $1 bowling night. Once you start looking for cheap activities, you will find there is an abundance of them available.
Who knows? You may just find a new hobby you really enjoy!
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3. You have kids you don’t want to disappoint.
If you have children, this can be a huge issue and budget buster. We all want to give our kids the world, but that doesn’t mean we have to, or even should. Kids are very basic. What they crave the most is our time and attention. The activity you are doing doesn’t really matter that much.
Is your little princess dying to meet Cinderella at Disney World? I’m sure she is! But, do you know what is probably just as much fun? Spending time dressing up like princesses and having a spa day at home with tasty treats.
I know so many parent who go into debt, or stay in debt, because they don’t want their children to feel deprived. They want to be able to go on vacations every year, get their children the very best of everything and put them in every activity they want to do.
This is crazy! Unless you have no debt and can afford to do all of these things, you shouldn’t be living like that.
I guarantee you, your child will be more appreciative of you being able to help them pay for college than if they got to meet Goofy at the age of 2.
How to fix it:
The majority of what drives us parents to give our kids every experience and every nice thing in the world (aside from loving these little monsters so much) is guilt. We feel bad when we “can’t provide” as a parent. This is totally wrong!!
We shouldn’t feel guilty when we prioritize paying off the car over going to Disney World. This is a responsible decision that is financially healthy for your family. Instead of punishing yourself when you can’t do everything you want to for your child, get a little creative.
If you can’t give them the real experience, give them an imaginary experience. Have playtime at home that gives a wonderful experience of what they could be doing, but it is a fraction of the cost. Don’t stress about not having an extravagant birthday party. Later in life, they aren’t going to care if you had everything “on theme” for their third birthday. It just doesn’t matter.
Give yourself some grace. You are more than enough and you do not need to buy everything and experience for your child. Your time and attention are paramount. The rest are just bonuses.
4. You bring a pet home.
As a veterinarian, I see this happen ALL THE TIME. A wonderful family adopts a new dog without really planning for it. They come to see me to get everything checked out and current, but they can’t afford to spend what it costs or they are stressed out because they weren’t prepared for it.
Pets bring us so much joy, but they can totally blow your budget if you haven’t prepared for them. This goes for a new pet and all that comes with it, or even a long-term pet that has a sudden emergency or illness.
How to fix it:
The easiest ways to not have any issues financially when it comes to pets are to know how much money you will need before you get a new pet, and always have an emergency fund for your pet. This will eliminate surprises and allow you to provide excellent care for your new family member.
5. Not preparing for something you knew was coming.
This is a super common problem that is totally avoidable!! This one makes me a bit crazy. It just takes a little bit of planning to make your life one million times easier.
What am I talking about? Everyone falls prey to this at some point during their budgeting life. Let’s use your office Christmas party as an example. You know your office has a Christmas party every year in December. Everyone is expected to buy gifts for everyone else, plus you will need to get something for your boss.
It’s June so you aren’t thinking about this at all. Suddenly December is upon us and you have no money for gifts for your office. You HAVE to get the gifts because it is expected, but without saving for it, you are totally going to blow your budget this month. You have no other option aside from not getting gift for everyone, but you just can’t do that.
Not planning for expected expenses is a common ailment to a lot of budgeters. If you know your life insurance premium will be due every March, why wouldn’t you prepare for it? Otherwise, March comes, you don’t have the money for the life insurance policy and you are instantly stressed and panicked.
How to fix it:
One of my favorite things to keep my budget on track is a Sinking Fund. I have so many sinking funds. These are little individual saving accounts for different expenses I know I will have at a certain time in the future, but they don’t happen every month.
For example, I have a sinking fund for:
- Christmas (gifts in general)
- My kids’ life insurance policies
- My quarterly water bill
- Our pest control annual plan
- Car Registrations
- A new screen door for the back of our house
If it is an expense I know we will have in the next 12 months, but it isn’t happening every month, I create a sinking fund for it. Then I put money into the fund every month so by the time the expense comes, we have all the money for it. No stress. No panic.
The important thing with budgeting is to not be too hard on yourself. I am a constant work in progress, so it’s okay if you are too. Nobody does this perfectly all the time. The point is to really work to adjust your lifestyle, start being smart with your money and making healthy financial choices.
These common pitfalls can be major reasons you are failing with your budget. If you find yourself struggling, just stop and reassess. See if there are any fixes you can be doing and give yourself some grace!! Just keep moving forward. All steps forward no matter how small are still steps forward.
What is your most common budget buster?
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