How to Wreck Your Budget

Kofi Gyebi
Founder 400LB Elephant

So, let’s jump into this. Let’s start with the end in mind how to budget. To be debt-free, to build wealth, to have the option to choose where and when you want to work. Maybe you want to take intermittent sabbaticals. Fill in the blank with why you want to be financially independent. Keep that in mind as you read this article.

This post is part of a collaboration of 5 personal finance bloggers. The tips from the other collaborators are below, to view the tips that I wrote, you can click to any of the other posts to find mine!

How To Wreck Your Budget

From Roxanne at https://www.financerox.com/

#1 Banish it to a drawer.

Drawers are where budgets go to die. This is probably the biggest mistake I see my personal finance coaching clients making: They take the time to draft a beautiful and ambitious budget and then put it in a drawer and never look at it again. How can we expect ourselves to stick to a budget if we never look at it and compare it to our actual spending to see how we are doing throughout the month? For example how many budget dollars do you have left? Do you know how much money have you spent? Maybe you need to cut back in one category since you over spent in another? Can you afford that $200 weekend trip you hadn’t planned? Banish your budget to a drawer and you will never know!

#2 Not changing any of your day-to-day actions.

Do you ever get to the end of the month and wonder: “Why didn’t I save any money this month?” It might be because you didn’t actually take any action or change any habits. Our money comes in and goes out every day. In order to capture some and save it for the goals we listed on our budget, we have to act proactively. To save more money we have to take more action. Whether it is a little thing like making the call to cancel that streaming service you haven’t used in months or a big thing like doing a weeklong “No Spend” challenge, we have to take action to make our budget work.

#3 Buy a lot of beverages. 

To wreck your budget, buy all the beverages you can; whether it’s bottled water, alcohol, soda pop, juice, coffee or tea. Your new rule should be that tap water is beneath you. Seriously though, beverages have sneaky ways of wrecking our health and our wallets. They are sneaky because they taste so good and we can consume quite a bit and not really feel full. This affects our wallets too. The average American household spends about $2500 per year on just coffee ($1100), soda pop ($850) and alcohol ($550). That’s $208 per month for what is mostly empty calories!

#4 Expecting yourself to change your entire lifestyle and all your money habits the first month you write a budget.

I’m an ambitious person. When I set a goal, I want to see progress fast. This leads me, and many people, into an expectation that the first time we write a budget, we will miraculously spend $0 on discretionary purchases. I’ts just not realistic. However it takes time to dial in a budget so that it is both realistically achievable yet ambitious enough to hit our goals. We need to be more kind to ourselves and really understand that each habit we have is deeply ingrained and will take time to change. The recipes we cook, the restaurants we visit, the shows and movies we enjoy, the activities we attend with friends and family; basically every aspect of our lives affects our finances. It just takes some time to chip away at those so that we can hit those ambitious budgets. For instance it took about 6 months of budgeting for my husband and I to figure out a realistic budget that fit both our life and our goals.

How to Get out of Debt

https://www.financerox.com/

More about Roxanne: Hey I’m Roxanne from FinanceRox.com! I’m a personal finance coach, blogger, YouTuber and by day, financial analyst and I want to help people reduce their financial stress and find more confidence and joy in their finances by paying off debt and saving more money. Having grown up below the federal poverty line, money has always been my top priority. After graduating with my degree in Accounting, my husband and I went on to pay off $49,000 of debt and bought a $210,000 house in cash. Now we are saving aggressively for Financial Independence and our goal is to hit F.I.R.E. by age 39.

How To Wreck Your Budget

From Virginia at https://happyhealthyabundance.net/

#1 Forgetting to file for reimbursement

Whether you have reimbursable child care expenses through a Dependent Care FSA, health care expenses through an HSA, or your standard work-related expenses for which you can file with your employer, you’d be amazed at the millions of dollars in reimbursable expenses that go unrequested each year in the US. 

I’ve seen it myself – coworkers with a drawer-full of unfiled receipts for which they could have received reimbursement randomly found old co-pay receipts from last years’ medical check-up, and more. As organized as I generally try to be, some things still slip through the cracks. However, if you have reimbursable expenses of any type, set aside time ASAP to sit down and figure out how to file for reimbursement. 

If you don’t file, you’re on the hook for that expense permanently. However if you wait too long to file, it’s possible that the window for eligibility for reimbursement may pass you by. For instance if you have an upcoming trip for work, for example, before you leave set an appointment for yourself on your calendar for the day after you get back that says “File for Reimbursement” with time blocked hour specifically for that task. 

While my story might seem crazy, I encourage you to think about seemingly peripheral purchases that you make. Some people don’t count treat-stops for coffee, bubble tea, or ice cream in their budget, others try to ignore medical bills or cash loans to friends. The truth is we’re all crazy for excluding ANYTHING from the budget – where else could the money possibly come from to cover that expense?

One of my eccentric friends says shoe purchases don’t count (and wow does she have an impressive collection of shoes). In the same breath, however, she complains that it’s tough to make the bills each month. This is the classic behavior of someone who’s not willing to reduce or sacrifice their vice – exactly what I was doing with my Amazon purchases. 

I later came to terms with the fact that I had an online shopping problem and enjoyed getting packages in the mail so much that I was willing to self-sabotage in other ways. So, what are your vices, your “just gotta have it” items? Are you buying anything outside the budget or that you’ve convinced yourself “doesn’t count?” “

#3 Unplanned and short notice outings/events

Short notice events, last-minute invites, and impromptu get-togethers have a tendency to wreck your entertainment budget. How can you possibly plan for something that wasn’t even on the calendar?! 

Better yet, how do you remain cool and “part of the crew” if you always have to say no to these outings because of that dang budget? I felt this tug-of-war strongly for a few years when we first started budgeting – we’d budget out everything – groceries, the weekly family night out, retirement, savings, and utilities. Then Joe at work announces happy hour and you begin to feel like everyone’s going except you. Ugh.

There were times I went and subsequently felt guilty for days because I’d spent unplanned cash. Similarly there were times I didn’t and felt guilty for abandoning my team and missing the opportunity to get to know them better.  And I felt like I couldn’t win until…

I learned about sinking funds! Sinking funds are a line item in the budget specific to costs that seem to pop-up. You can add sinking fund line items into the budget for things like birthdays and weddings, happy hours, and other (currently) unknown events that are probably going to come up. Sinking funds allow you to set aside money for the purpose of covering unplanned, sporadic events such as these with cash, guilt-free. What a relief!

#4 Yearly or quarterly reocurring events that are forgotten and become an “emergency”

Even though events like Christmas, birthdays, insurance renewals, taxes, school supplies, and vet visits occur each year like clockwork, somehow these are expenses that accidentally get left out of the budget month after month. I’ve been there too – realizing it’s October and nothing has been budgeted for the quickly-approaching holiday season is an awful feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Yet, this happens all the time to people. I know you know what I mean – that panic ensuing moment when you realize your Mom’s birthday is in 3 days or when you realize your Anniversary is next weekend. It’s important we show up strong to these events and show these loved ones how much they truly mean to us, and often, that requires some cash to afford a gift. 

My best advice for this is to snag a full year calendar at the dollar store and go through it month-by-month, writing down important dates and noting times of the year when your expenses are typically higher and why. Consider summer daycare costs versus after-school care during the school year, sports seasons’ beginning and end dates, national holidays (like Christmas) and personal holidays (like birthdays and anniversaries), insurance renewal dates, yearly doctor, dental, and vet visits, and other events that may occur only 1-4 times a year. 

Becoming conscious of what events are within the upcoming 2-3 months will allow you to add a budget line-item for that expense and begin setting aside funds. Do this, and you’ll never pre-stress about an upcoming financial deadline or expense or holiday again!”

#5 Convenience is nice, but only if your budget can afford it.

“Food” is the #1 budget category people complain about, and even before the current pandemic hit, more and more people were opting for the convenience food delivery offers. Whether we’re talking grocery delivery, packaged meal ingredients, or hot-n-ready meals, ordering grocery/food delivery provides convenience and pressure-relief from the whole meal planning and grocery list kerfuffle, but at a premium. 

If you haven’t allowed space in the budget for delivery fees, meeting minimum delivery requirements, or higher ingredient prices overall, and you’re just ordering to make life a little easier, I caution you. In comparison to my local grocery store visits in person, online grocery shopping (e.g. Amazon Fresh or Imperfect Foods) always costs more. 

Getting hot food (e.g. DoorDash or UberEats) or pre-packaged ready-to-cook meals (e.g. Hello Fresh or Home Chef) is always more expensive than cooking it yourself too, but I doubt I had to tell you that. Some people swear by food delivery and the stress-relief from meal planning and ingredients-gathering it provides, and that’s fabulous! IF they’ve budgeted for it.

Based on my experience, Hello Fresh, Amazon Fresh, and even cool box subscription companies like Imperfect Foods cost as much as 20% more than what you’d pay at your local grocers like Sprouts or Aldi. If the convenience of grocery orders is high on your priority list, that’s totally fine, just make sure you’ve planned the budget wisely around affording this luxury.”

#6 Not accounting for seasonal fluctuations of expenses.  (Literal seasons & seasons of life)

“One of the most subtle, yet most impactful ways to self-sabotage is to ignore the seasonal fluctuations of life. There are physical seasons like Spring, Winter, and Summer, but there are also seasons of life in which someone or something is not only the focus but also requires some significant cash. 

Just as we are resilient, flexible human beings, our money and our budget has to be flexible too. We have to account for the higher gas bill (heating) in the winter in contrast to the higher electricity bill (air conditioning) in the summer or the high daycare costs of having a young child in contrast to the league fees, electronics, and additional you’d provide for an older kiddo. 

There are seasons of life – times when home repairs, events, or medical conditions need a larger portion of the budget. Whatever is in the forefront of your life and your budget now likely won’t require that percentage of the budget forever. When that season of life passes, you’ll be able to adjust the budget and allocate money to the next, most important thing. 

Allowing yourself to adequately adjust the budget when needed, based on life’s seasons, and giving yourself grace through the toughest seasons is key to maintaining a healthy relationship with your budget (and your money) and avoiding what could be a hidden wrecking ball. “

#7 Home or Car repairs you weren’t expecting.

“You never truly know when a hail storm will blow through or when the timing belt on the engine will go bad, so these types of expenses are very common budget-wreckers. One of the top ways to wreck your budget is to NOT save for a rainy day. This means spending all and saving none of your bring-home income and ignoring potential expenses on the horizon. 

Haven’t had to replace your roof in 10 years? That’s great! But that’s also a sign that you may need a new one very soon. Oh, you haven’t had your car in the shop in 2 years? Impressive. That’s probably a queue that there may be car repair services needed sometime soon though. 

The trick to solving this dilemma is to put away a small portion of your budget (2-5%) into mini-savings accounts, separate from your emergency fund. These savings accounts can hold your homeowners’ insurance deductible (in case of that hail storm), $ 800 for new tires on the car, or $500-$2000 for car maintenance and repairs.  

Look around and find things you haven’t paid for in a while or that you will need soon and establish a mini-savings account for it. Ally bank’s savings accounts online allow you to set up “buckets” where you can allocate money and avoid wrecking your budget. Planning well and being thoughtful about where your money is or will be needed is key.”

How to Get out of Debt

https://happyhealthyabundance.net/

More about Virginia: I’m a mom of 2, a financial coach and professional podcast editor. I started www.happyhealthyabundance.net because my financial journey toward a better life for my family morphed into an insatiable desire for overall happiness and abundance. I’ve designed a life focused on true peace (mentally, physically, and financially) and want to share this with moms all over the world to help them achieve their ideal abundant life too. The more moms I can help, the more children’s futures are changed, and the accumulation of these changes for future generations is exponentially magical.

I dream of a world where moms are empowered financially, where their kids grow up with money no longer being a taboo subject, and where mothers and children have the mindset and knowledge to manage their money in a way that brings them happiness their whole lives.

How To Wreck Your Budget

From Rochelle at https://www.rochelleadamson.com/

#1 Making the same mistakes but never asking for help

How many times have I done this!? Whew! Time and time again, I would make the same mistakes expecting some miracle to happen with my money. Maybe it would double in size overnight or walk itself out of the malls & back into my bank account. Nope! That’s not how life works. The next time you make a money mistake, revisit how you got there and be determined to not be in that predicament again. Educate yourself to find solutions for your pitfalls. Read some finance-related books, test run different types of budgets, etc.

#2 Not sharing my budget goals with anyone

If you fail alone, who will hold you accountable so that you avoid making that same mistake again? Do whatever you have to do to see change…grab a close friend to confide in. Someone who seems to make good money decisions & who will keep your money moves in confidence. Talking it out is one of the best things I’ve ever done to win with money.

#3 Unaware of the actual monthly bill amounts

“Oh my phone bill is about $100 this month”. This is dangerous talk right here. What if your actual bill is $110? Now you have underestimated your bill and set yourself up to possibly not have enough funds needed to care for your needs….and what’s more? If that bill is on autopay, it’s possible you could overdraft your account. Stop the mayhem by getting a hold of ALL your monthly bills. Take a screenshot if you’re on the go so that you can edit your budget to match when you have free time.

#4 Using credit cards irresponsibly

This is one of the many ways to fall into debt without even realizing it. Too many times before, I can remember swiping my cards into the thousands with no real thought or plan as to how I would pay it off. Above all I was in over my head before I knew it. Avoid this pitfall by using debt responsibly. Identify your needs and create a budget that covers them so that you don’t even need a credit card. If you are a natural spender, find creative ways to get credit cards out of your sight (and reach) such as freezing them or cutting them up. In contrast if you are concerned about your credit score through this process, keep the cards open but don’t use them. If you choose to use credit responsibly, do so with the intention of being in control at all times.

#5 Refusing to change my budget when life happened

How many times have we counted our chickens before they hatched? Sure it’s great to budget but what about life events such as sudden job loss? I remember my job from years ago, cut hours in what was supposed to be our “busy season”. Meanwhile I made no adjustments to my budget and just “hoped for the best”. I don’t have to tell you what happened. Use every opportunity to tweak your budget to really make it come to life. You shouldn’t be afraid of or bored with your budget. Stay excited to look for creative ways to simplify your budget and live on less so that when the unexpected occurs, you are less likely to freak out.

#6 Not checking my bank account everyday

My husband used to think I was a psychopath for checking my bank account so often. Forget everyday. I check it at least 2 or 3 times a day. Subsequently I notice deposits tend to occur in the mornings and withdrawals tend to happen in the evening or late at night. Plus I don’t like surprises so the thought of waking up to a negative bank account is just not in the cards for me anymore. Currently I use a zero-based budget so that there are no surprises. I also keep a $100 buffer in my account. It’s the same $100 I’ve had for months that originated from savings. Choose a banking system that is easy to access and that meets your needs without too much effort so that you can always know what’s going on with your everyday money. Leave the surprises for when you find that dollar down in the couch when you’re looking for the remote.

#7 Keeping my grocery budget too low (or not having one at all)

Me….and me. Yes I’ve done both of these. I don’t know what it is about buying groceries that used to stress me out so bad. Could’ve been the $1000 bill at the cashier. That’s right. For a family of 3. With no shopping list. Just rolling up & down the aisles picking up anything that looked interesting. Bringing it all home to no meal plan. Shoving it all in the fridge with no intention of meal prepping. Stop the madness like I did. Choose to shop monthly for one big haul like we do or keep things small and shop more often so that food doesn’t sit on your shelf, withering away and drawing the attention of a feisty fly that used every piece of his being to fight to get in your house and head straight for those bananas.

How to Get Out of Debt

https://www.rochelleadamson.com/

More about Rochelle: Hi, I’m Rochelle, owner of my travel company, ActuallyTravels and part-time nurse. I get to live life with my best friend & hubby of 15 years, Micah. We are parents to an amazing 8-year-old girl, Eva.  And I love budgeting so that I can travel and travel on a budget. My free time is spent talking about the journey to debt freedom, life after debt and how to win with money no matter where you are in the process on my side of YouTube. 

How To Wreck Your Budget

From Dani and Mike at https://BucksAndDough.com/

#1 Buying the fancy clothes to get your workout on

Look you will not get stronger and more in shape if you have the fanciest and most expensive clothes. You can work and sweat just as hard if you are wearing a pair of shorts that have a hole in them and are stained then you will in a pair of brand new $100 shorts. This is to say you don’t have to look like a workout model to get a personal record (PR) on your back squat. If you think you have to fill up your drawers with the fanciest clothing to make you feel motivated to work out, then you need to reelevate the reason why you want to start getting healthier. Just start getting your heart rate pumping and start feeling better.

#2 Not asking for your receipt when you purchase things

So if you don’t have a receipt, how are you going to be able to keep track of where your money is going? Short answer, you wouldn’t. You will just be wondering where all your money went at the end of the month. Start getting a receipt, plug it into your budget, then you can throw it away. If you don’t track where your money is coming in and out at, then good luck getting ahead with your money. Next time you are asked “Would you like your receipt?” your answer should be yes of course. Then when you get the chance, which should be within the next half hour, plug it into your budget. Easy. As. That.

#3 Leasing that nice car, thinking it is less expensive

By leasing a car, you aren’t gaining any equity in your car. When you are done with the lease, you don’t get any money back. If there is damage to the vehicle that will come out of your pocket. In most states, when you put money down on a leased vehicle you will need to pay taxes on that amount. For example in most cases, it will cost more to insure a leased car. For a financed or leased car, you have to include the name of the lienholder or leasing company as a named insured. Your best bet with a vehicle is to pay cash and not have to worry about a loan or leasing.

#4 Paying for a storage shed to store things you haven’t paid off yet

Storing things in a storage shed that you have to pay for monthly and then having to pay your monthly bill on the thing that you are storing is not going to help you save money and increase your net worth. That is like paying double of what your monthly payment is for that item. Stop paying to store something that isn’t paid for. And most of the time when things are in storage, they don’t get used as much as they should be. So if you get rid of the stuff in the storage shed then you also get rid of that monthly payment of the shed. A win-win!

How to Get Out of Debt

https://BucksAndDough.com/

More about Dani and Mike: We are Mike and Dani also known as the Bucks & Dough Crew! We’re a couple on the path to financial freedom through real estate and Entrepreneurship. And want to help others get out of the normal life and be more conscious of money. We strive to keep adventure in our lives through a budget because what’s life without a little adventure. And we both grew up in Minnesota and met in Duluth Minnesota. Since then we have moved together to Ohio and Montana and found ourselves back in Central Minnesota. We’re currently turning our house into a duplex, rent our house out on Airbnb, Dani runs a Nature Camp taking kiddos hiking biking and kayaking called Dani’s Nature Camp and Mike is a realtor specializing in hunting land and recreational properties. We love adventure and are the happiest outside.

FOR DISCUSSION:

***Which of these have wrecked your budget?

***What are your favorite budget saving tips?

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