Confession: Last month, I busted my budget by a couple of hundred bucks. It was a crazy month, though! My boyfriend and I took a trip for his birthday. OK, yes, I also blew my budget the month before that, but my cat had medical problems. My point is: every month is a crazy month. You might as well budget for it.
Photo by Tax Credits
If you're like most people, you can relate to this. Something special "comes up" every month, catches you off guard, and you lose track of your spending. As money writer Jackie Beck puts it: there is no perfect month. Birthday trips, cat issues, a higher-than-usual electric bill...it's always something. Every month, she says, it seems like the extra cash you should have leftover is gone. And when this happens, people often give up on budgeting altogether.
Here's a better idea:
Less than perfect months ARE normal...So take them as an opportunity to learn, and adjust for future months. For example, if you're caught without funds for a car repair, make a note to start a car repair fund — and then do it, even if it means you need to make some extra money somewhere or cut back in other areas. If you figure out that you typically spend $300 on birthday gifts through the course of the year, build that into your budget as well by starting a gift fund that you put 25 bucks a month into.
You may have to cut back on other areas to make room for these regular, irregular expenses, but the point is: account for them. It also helps to pay yourself first. This way, you prioritise the things that matter most, so when something comes up, you're already covered. Second, if your budget is too strict, give yourself some breathing room. Contrary to what most of us think, budgets aren't supposed to restrict you, they're supposed to support your money goals. I like the way Beck puts it:
Instead, they should help you do the things you want to do — whether that involves getting your finances under control for the first time ever, or saving up to buy the latest expensive gadget as a treat.
If you notice you keep busting your budget, it's probably time to reevaluate it.
There Is No Perfect Month [MoneyCrush]