Done and done. Johnny and I just now got our October budget up to date. After only a week in, we’d already fallen behind! It’s been a crazy month already. Johnny is busier than ever at work, and I’ve been sick and caring for a toddler so our budget (and inbox and cat and house and hygiene… just kidding on the last one, kinda) got neglected. Not to worry… we were still spending money. We have no problem with that! We just weren’t tracking it. When this happens, as it sometimes does, we log in to Mint and record all of our expenditures to the budgeting app on our phones. And just like that, we’re all caught up.
We’ve found there’s no worse budgeting pitfall for us than falling behind on tracking our expenses. And luckily, it has a pretty easy solution. Even if it is a pain to go back and revisit past purchases (I really ate McDonald’s for lunch on Monday?!), it’s totally worth it.
Here are a few other ways Johnny and I try to avoid common budgeting pitfalls:
If you’re like Johnny and me and you like making lists, you may find yourself faced with over-categorization. You have a category for everything: hair products, kitchen soap and cleaners, outdoor toys, etc. The problem with having too many categories is that it becomes very tedious to track a budget. And sometimes it’s difficult to estimate your monthly spending on smaller categories. To abate this problem, Johnny and I have a category called “Everything Else” (details on it here). In short, we pile all of our smaller discretionary categories into it, and as long as we keep the total spending below a specified amount, we’re good.
Do give yourself personal spending.
I probably sound like a broken record with this tip, but it has really helped us have success with budgeting. Having personal spending has always helped other areas of our budget feel less stifling. Sure, we have to watch our spending in every category, but each month I have a certain amount that’s mine to spend as I please. And I don’t have to consult Johnny about it (and vice versa). And it doesn’t have to be much. When we were getting out of debt, it was only $20 each per month (and it’s not much more now). But that’s enough… I can buy a book, nail polish, etc., without feeling an ounce of guilt.
Do give yourself incentives and specific goals.
When we’re budgeting, we usually try to work toward a specific goal so we have a reason for the madness. For a while, we were paying off debt. Then we were building our emergency fund. Now we’re just working to save more money toward a future house fund.
But that’s not all we do. We also reward ourselves for our efforts. We are mere children in adult bodies, and this kind of thing works for us. And I think it would work for most people! It might go a bit like this: “Okay, dude (we’re tight like that), if we can keep our budget for the next three months, we can each get a new pair of shoes.” Or “If we save more than X amount this month, we can use the excess to buy Y.” It’s simple, but it’s effective… and fun :).
Those are our major pitfalls and how we deal. What are some of yours, and how do you combat them?