Published in: Banks | Sept. 26, 2019

3 Reasons You Keep Blowing Your Budget

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Are you spending more than you planned? Here are some reasons why this might keep happening to you. 

Senior woman looking at laptop with frustrated expression

Image source: Getty Images

Setting a budget should help you control your spending, ensure you don't end up charging more on your credit cards than you can pay back, and allow you to allocate cash to important financial goals. 

Unfortunately, a budget can only do that if you follow it -- and far too many of us end up blowing our budgets and spending more than planned. If you repeatedly have trouble sticking to your spending limits, your budget likely isn't doing you very much good and you need to figure out why you're not following it.

That's easier said than done, but there are a few common reasons why people blow their budgets. 

1. Your budget isn't realistic

Budgets only work if you can actually follow them. If you're budgeting $50 per month for food for a family of four, you've set yourself up for inevitable failure.

This doesn't mean a budget should just be a list of all the spending you'd like to do; but you need to set limits you can actually stick to.

The best way to make sure your budget is one you can live on is to track where you're actually spending your money and then make realistic cuts.

If you currently spend $200 a month on fun activities, it would be unreasonable to drop your entertainment budget to $0. But it might be doable to cut that amount in half by planning to spend a few extra nights a month at home or doing free activities. 

It's also imperative to make sure your income can actually stretch far enough to give you a reasonable standard of living.

If you simply aren't making enough, then no budget is going to be one you can live on. When you notice that even with those unrealistic spending limits, the numbers still won't add up, you'll need to look into more drastic measures such as picking up a side gig or moving to a cheaper place. 

2. You don't have buy-in from your loved ones

Friends and family can influence your behavior in major ways. If your significant other or your close buds are constantly encouraging you to go out and overspend, or to buy things you can't really afford, it can be really hard to say no all the time. 

If you find yourself in this situation, you need to have a serious conversation with the people you care about. Let them know that you have financial goals you really want to accomplish and gently tell them that you'd prefer they not encourage you to overspend.

Make a list of free activities you can do together, such as taking long walks or attending outdoor concerts or art openings. 

When it's your partner who’s not supporting your budgeting efforts, this could lead to an even bigger conversation because getting on the same page about money is essential in a romantic relationship.

You may need to set some shared goals and find ways to compromise -- or you may have to take a close look at whether you're really financially compatible. 

3. You haven't developed a good plan to control your spending 

For some people, sticking to a budget is really difficult because they have trouble controlling the impulse to spend, even when they know they shouldn't.

If this sounds like you, you have to break the buying cycle and adopt better habits. There's a lot of ways to do this.

You can have a no-spend week or month where you buy nothing but the necessities so you get out of the consumer mindset. Or you could institute a 24-hour rule where you wait 24 hours before making any purchase over $50 or $100. Switching temporarily to cash-only could also be the answer so you don't just charge stuff on your credit cards.

The key is to find some way for you to stop your troublesome spending. This is going to take some trial and error until you find a system that actually works. Don't give up, because you'll never stick to a budget if you can't control your shopping impulses. 

Sticking to your budget is possible

If any of these reasons resonate with you, now you know what to do to better stick to your budget. You can make important changes to your budget and spending habits today so you can better follow your budget in the future.

It may be hard work, but putting in the effort will make it much easier to achieve important financial goals. 

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