4 Mistakes That'll Make Your Budget Impossible to Follow
by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on April 9, 2021
You can't afford to make these mistakes, since they'll make it really hard to stick to your budget.
A budget should be your financial foundation. When your spending and saving decisions are dictated by a budget that you thoughtfully create, you stand a much better chance of achieving big financial goals. You can also spend without worrying that you're going overboard. And you can reduce the chances you'll end up in credit card debt due to living beyond your means.
Unfortunately, if you don't stick to your budget, you won't get the benefits it can provide. And if you make these four key budgeting mistakes, following your budget over the long-term will likely be impossible.
1. Not tracking spending before making your budget
Far too many people make a budget without a clear idea of their current spending habits. This can lead to a budget that's so unrealistic it's impossible to actually live on it.
For example, if you budget $25 a month for gas when you're currently spending $200 for your commute or you anticipate spending $100 for groceries when your family of four spends $600 now, you'll be setting yourself up for failure.
Tracking your spending before you make a budget gives you a realistic idea of your starting point so you can assess where you're overspending and where cuts are actually feasible.
2. Not consulting with your spouse
Whether you and your partner have separate or joint savings and checking accounts, your budget needs to be a collaborative project. That's because the way your spouse spends will influence your own money habits. If you budget nothing for dining out, for example, and your partner plans to eat out four times a month, there's going to be a problem.
By working together to set financial goals and make a budget built around them, you can maximize the chances you'll both spend and save responsibly. And you can hopefully reduce money fights as an added bonus.
3. Not preparing for unexpected expenses
When your budget allocates every dollar toward planned expenses, you will blow your budget as soon as something unplanned happens.
Surprise costs inevitably crop up with great frequency, whether it's a doctor's appointment you didn't anticipate or a field trip for your kids that you forgot you had to pay for.
Make sure you leave yourself a little wiggle room in your budget by including a line item for "unexpected." If you don't happen to use that money over the course of the month, you can save it for next time.
It's also important to have an emergency fund with several months of living expenses saved in it. This can help you when major unexpected expenses happen that you can't work into your everyday budget.
4. Stripping all the fun from your budget
Finally, if you don't budget for any entertainment or for the little splurges you enjoy, it's inevitable you'll eventually bust your budget.
No one can -- or should -- live a life devoid of all activities they like just because they cost money. Instead of setting this unrealistic expectation for yourself, budget a reasonable amount for things you enjoy doing. That way, you won't blow your budget to do them, and you can spend guilt free on them while knowing you're making responsible financial choices.
By avoiding these four mistakes, you can hopefully make a budget that is easy to stick to -- and you'll be in a much better financial position because of it.
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