We’ve all been there. You set up your cute little budget at the beginning of the month. You know exactly how much you’re going to spend on everything from toilet paper to car insurance. Every dollar has a purpose. Then you get invited to dinner or a party and suddenly you start spending money like you won the lotto.
When reality sets in and you realize that you’ve ruined your perfectly planned budget. Here are a few things you can do to get back on track.
Stop the spending.. now!
Once you realize that you’ve broken your budget it’s important to stop the spending. I’m good for convincing myself ‘well I broke the budget so I might as well buy this too.’ That kind of thinking just puts you deeper in the hole and you’ll end up regretting it later. Whatever you need to do to make yourself stop spending, do it. Maybe you need to temporarily hold your account funds, or place the rest of your money you are allowed to spend in cash so when it runs out it’s over. If you struggle with self-control get an accountability partner to hold you to not spending any more.
Rearrange some funds
Examine your budget and see if you can move some funds around to cover the categories where you have over-spent. I have different categories in my budget for food, housing, gas etc. See if you are underspending in any other category and try to repurpose those funds. I usually can control my spending on gas and underspend there sometimes. If I go over in my food budget for the month I usually just account for those funds with the extra gas category money.
If you’re overspent on your budget then you shouldn’t be splurging on anything that isn’t a non-negotiable. Don’t add guac on you chipotle bowl this week, or even better, skip the bowl all together and make it yourself. When you do not have any excess in you budget then you have to get creative. I call this “putting myself on punishment” I don’t enjoy cooking so I like to eat out or buy prepackaged meals. If I overspend my budget one of the first things I do to cut spending going forward is start cooking because it usually costs me significantly less to cook. I also stop doing things like going to happy hours, unnecessary travel and shopping for non-essential items. This helps to remind myself that if I want to be able to eat out and not cook then I need to be more responsible with my spending.
Make the money back!
All this talk about cutting back on spending and having to give up the things you really enjoy isn’t fun. One of the best ways to bounce back after breaking your budget is to just make the money back! You can do a side gig to get a few extra dollars this month or you can pick up a part-time job. You can even come up with a strategy to ask for a raise at your current job. Budgeting isn’t always about sacrifice and doing without. It’s about managing what you have. When you have more to manage then you can do more of the thing you love.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
This is the most important thing to remember when you’re feeling bad about not sticking to your budget or discouraged about reaching your financial goals. It’s ok. Even playas mess up from time to time.
I have broken my budget too many times to count but I have still been able to meet my financial goals because I learn from my mistakes and always get back up when I’m knocked down.
It requires some self-control to cut back on the things that you enjoy so if you are having trouble staying focused remember why you have a budget in the first place. Maybe you’re saving for a car, a house, or your own retirement. Maybe you’re saving a nest egg so you can take the plunge into becoming a full-time entrepreneur. Remembering your long term goals can serve as motivation to keep going.
Sometimes you break your budget, but you don’t have to completely get off track when you have a small setback. Saving and budgeting is a marathon, not a race. So stay the course.