It’s so easy to make spending mistakes (shopping spree, anyone?), but even if you’re keeping a budget and trying to keep your spending in check, you may still be making some huge mistakes. Luckily, there’s a simple fix for each of them!
Not tracking your spending as thoroughly as you should
Even if you’re already tracking your budget categories, you may not be paying attention to where your money is actually going. Ok, great, you spent $50 at the grocery store, which is well within your budget. Even so, at the end of the month, you went over your budget. Where did the money go? You didn’t eat any more than usual!
Each little expense adds up, and you may need to analyze each transaction to figure out how to really cut corners. Try tracking your expenses for a month (even a week, as long as you’re honest with yourself) and see where you’re really spending your money.
No budget for unexpected expenses
Even the most well-maintained homes still have problems, and it’s important to factor that into your budget. In one week, my four-year-old furnace stopped working and my garage door broke, trapping my car in the garage. I had to heat my house with the fireplace and the oven (and lots of blankets and warm clothes) for three days. It wasn’t fun, but even less fun was the thought of paying for all of those expenses. By the way, that happened in the same month that we had planned on getting our driveway resealed.
Luckily, we have a household “rainy day” fund in our budget, so we didn’t need to starve to pay for our expenses. If you don’t already have a rainy day fund or a household fund, start one now. You never know when something (or more than one thing) will break.
No shopping plan
Do you bring a “shopping plan” with you every time you leave the house? What do you need in a shopping plan? Whether you’re going to the grocery store or outlet mall, you still need to plan your shopping trip. Start by thinking about what you already have, what you need, and what’s on sale. Then, grab your list and coupons and race to the finish, er, check out line!
It’s only pasta and it’s on sale! But do you need it?!? Before you stock up on anything (pasta or Pop-Tarts included), make sure you’re checking your inventory. Check you pantry (or closet, if you’re going to a mall) before making a shopping trip. If you’re shopping online, take five minutes to think about your purchase before clicking your way to happiness (or debt).
Buying at the wrong time
Do you know when to find the best sales? Produce can be “in season,” but did you know that you can buy canned goods “in season?” What about clothes, office supplies, and electronics? Yes, there’s a season for everything. If you want to stock up (or redecorate your family room), make sure that you wait until prices are at their lowest.
Lifehacker has a great comprehensive list of when to buy items, and they update the list every year. For a more specific list of when to buy groceries, Living Richly on a Budget has a monthly breakdown of the best times to stock up. Check them out to save year-round!
Do you make these common spending mistakes? It’s easy to get into a spending rut or fall into bad habits. Luckily, these mistakes are easily correctable. With a little planning, you can be back on track in no time!