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Budgeting can be a frustrating process, especially if you’re just getting started – you think you’ve got it all figured out then some unexpected expense pops up and suddenly that’s it – budget blown.
The key thing to remember, is that budgeting is an ongoing learning curve – and each time these unexpected expenses pop up, they’re just preparing you to budget better next time around, so don’t get too disheartened!
Is there a way of minimising the risk of blowing the budget though? Surely we need a win as well as constant ‘lessons’? Well, yes – and as is the key to most things, a good budget relies on good preparation. So here are 5 things you can do to make sure you don’t blow the budget.
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Whether you have a physical diary or you use your mobile. Go through each month of the year ahead and input key dates. The idea is you are giving yourself a complete view of each month and seeing in advance any events which are likely to be needed to be costed into your budget. Think about:
– Birthdays & Anniversaries
– Half Terms & School Holidays
– Seasonal Holidays such as Easter, Halloween and Christmas
– Any days out/trips you already have planned – holidays, shows etc
– School events – trips, uniforms, school photos etc
– Car costs – services, mots etc
– Healthcare – dental checkups (in case treatments are needed), pet vaccinations etc
These are just some ideas to get you started, but as you can see, if you just thought about your fixed bills and food shopping, you would quickly find yourself over budget as you spend money on these kinds of events.
If you go over your current month budget because of one of these kind of events, stick it in your diary retrospectively so you know to prepare for it next year.
When you’ve gone over budget, have you reviewed it to find out where? For us, our biggest downfall is food – we might stay in our shopping budget but then we will waste money on convenience food and takeaway instead of eating the food we bought.
Knowing that this was a big area we needed to work on, I challenged myself to do a complete stocktake and use up what we had before buying more. I also made a meal plan based around the ingredients we already had in.
Having an idea of what we were going to make for tea in advance made us less likely to reach for the convenience food or log into Just Eat and actually stick to the food we already have.
What’s your biggest weakness?
Takeaway coffee? – could you take your own reusable mug with you or a flask?
Clothing? – could you try shopping in a charity shop or on ebay for a month instead?
Beauty Treatments? – could try doing it yourself or going longer in between your appointments?
Knowing where our weaknesses lay is beneficial because we can create a plan to avoid self-sabotage so that we don’t blow the budget. Assess your spending habits and figure out how you can improve them going forward.
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This is a biggie, especially when you have kids. You’re always looking for things to do and activities to keep them entertained and let’s face it, it isn’t cheap!
Even a day at the beach, which might seem like a budget option, suddenly becomes costly when you factor in fuel, parking, ice-creams, fish and chip lunches, buckets and spades etc.
Try to think of what you could do as an alternative – could you still go to the beach but pack up drinks, food and toys to take with you so that you don’t spend a small fortune when you’re there.
Maybe you could have a beach day in your garden instead? Children have brilliant imaginations – with a little creativity you can easily keep them entertained without spending any money.
Pinterest is a goldmine for free and fun activities – so have a look and get some ideas.
If the temptation of physically walking around shops is too much for you, then do your shopping online. Make a list and stick to it.
Make sure you do a search beforehand to make sure that item you’re buying isn’t cheaper elsewhere and hit up a cashback website like Topcashback or Quidco to make sure you’re taking the free money that’s sitting there available to you.
It’s not good creating a budget for the month and then not looking at it again and forgetting about it. Check in with your budget every few days, even daily if possible. Tick off the direct debits as they go out and keep an eye on the other transactions going out of your account. This will also make you aware of any unplanned or forgotten bills that go out so you can claw back the money from another area in your budget.
Checking in with your budget regularly gives you more clarity and visibility of where you are financially and minimises the risks of surprises. If something is not as it should be, you can tackle it promptly.
For example, I had an amazon prime charge go out of my account last month which I didn’t remember signing up for. I hadn’t used the benefit, so queried it as soon as I saw it, and it was quickly refunded.
Finally, if you’ve tried to make sure you don’t blow the budget and it doesn’t always go to plan that’s okay – draw a line under it and start again. You’re still much more in control of your money now, than the days when you never checked your accounts or budgeted for anything.
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I started Katie Saves while on Maternity Leave to document our adjustment to living on less. Now back in work - I blog about all things money with a little life organisation thrown in for good measure. Join me!