Posted on June 14, 2013 1 Comment
We talk a lot about how to be frugal, make smart decisions, and meet your savings goals, so I thought it would be fun to highlight a few ways I’ve missed my target budget over the years. In the spirit of learning from my mistakes, here are five easy ways to blow your budget (even when you’re trying to be good):
- Pay too much for housing and furnishings. My rent was too high for what I was earning when I first moved out of my parents’ home. I spent two years building up a savings cushion, only to see that cushion gradually disappear as I spent more than I made each month. Your rent or mortgage should be no more than 30 percent of your income. Above that, you’re really jeopardizing everything you’re working for. My current apartment isn’t perfect, but my rent hovers around 10 percent of my income and allows me to save big for a down payment.
- Attend many weddings in one summer. After college, a lot of your friends will get married. Sometimes, you’ll have five weddings or more to attend in one summer. You can’t very well say no to your close friends and family, so you agree to attend. Then you purchase a dress (an expensive one, if you’re a bridesmaid), new shoes, and some nail polish (after all, you’re seeing all the same people at each wedding… you can’t wear the same dress twice! You also purchase a shower gift. Then you spend money on a hotel room. Next is the actual wedding gift. By the time the summer’s over, you’ve spent like $500 to $1,000 extra each month that the weather is nice, and you have nothing to show for it except a feather light bank account. Even when you employ frugal tactics like borrowing a dress and splitting a hotel room, multiple weddings in one summer are a budget buster unless you have some savings to cover them, or adjust your monthly budget in some other way.
- Take a vacation, and forget to plan for real costs. It never fails: you save and save for your annual getaway, but you forget to account for meals, entertainment, souvenirs, or the crack in the rental car windshield, for example. While on vacation, it’s easy to think, “Meh, what’s another $300? I’m only here once,” only to come back to a spending splurge hangover. Next time, check your budget from the month you took your last trip to make note of your spending patterns. Better yet, take your trip, then catalog your expenses when you return. Then you have a template for your next trip set up and ready to go.
- Injure yourself. MRIs, medications, appointments with specialists, follow-up physical therapy… none are cheap. And is it just me, or is insurance covering less and less of these expenses? The only way to protect yourself from blowing your budget is to have a rainy-day fund set up for something like this. And hope you heal quickly.
- Lose or break your cell phone. What’s that, you don’t have insurance? Your new iPhone will be $800, after rebate. This wasn’t that much of an issue when we all had flip phones, and trust me, I lost a few of those. But now that our lives are run by smart phones, it’s much harder to deal with the subpar replacements offered by cell phone companies for less than $100. I’m not sure I could stand to be away from my phone 10 minutes, let alone wait until my next contract renewal. The best option? Don’t lose or break it in the first place! But if it’s gone, keeping around your old smart phone for a few months or buying a used one off a friend might be a better idea than going without. If you don’t have that option, maybe try getting out for a few long walks while you save up for your new phone.
Ever blow your budget while trying to be good? I’d love to hear about it.