Disclaimer: The statements made in this post are the opinion of the author. They should not be viewed as financial advice. Please consult with a financial specialist before making any financial decisions.
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We’ve all been there. You get to the end of the month and you’ve spent WAY too much.
But, it isn’t the end of the world. I mean, you’re still breathing right?
When you get into your finances, it can become as engaging as any professional sport when you tally up your score for the month. So seeing that you’ve lost can be disappointing.
Just remember, it is going to be okay.
What Happens When You Overspend?
There are many different ways to look at overspending. One thing to remember up front is that the first month you do a budget you’re going to suck at it. That is just life. It will be very wrong.
But, what most people don’t realize is that even people that have been budgeting for years slip up from time to time.
So don’t freak out.
When you overspend it just means that you have less money in savings, or you’ve increased the debt balance that you carry on your credit cards. While this is not ideal, it is easy to bounce back from IF you get back to your budget the next month.
How Do I Fix Overspending?
There are certain steps to take to help you balance your budget when you’ve have a month of overspending.
1 Identify if you overspent on a regular or irregular expense.
Overspending on regular vs irregular expenses require very different responses. If it is an irregular expense that you hadn’t saved for, then all you need to do is adjust your savings each month to account for this expense later.
Overspending on regular expenses means that either there is a problem in your budget or you didn’t follow your budget for that month. This is a bigger problem because if this continues then you can end up in a lot of debt very fast.
Do not let overspending on a regular expense last more than one month.
2 Know what triggers your overspending.
Overspending is a habit or even an addiction. That means that we can treat it the same way. Usually we overspend the same ways again and again become something triggers us. If we remove the trigger, then we stop overspending.
For example, let’s say your friends at work want to go out to eat everyday for lunch. You know that if you go out to eat for lunch you will end up buying a meal with a soda and probably a snack from the vending machine later. Total cost is $12. To avoid this you can pack a lunch and tell your friends that you’ll eat it with them. Or whatever else you can think of. Be creative.
There are many things that can be a trigger: bad emotions, people, places, and Amazon are among the most common. (The sad part is I’m not joking on the last one).
Look for what happens just before you overspend then avoid those situations.
3 Pay off your credit card after EACH transaction.
For many people, the solution to overspending is to use cash. Aside from being extremely inconvenient, you are also missing out on a lot of benefits of using a credit card correctly.
The easiest way to ensure that you only spend as much money as you have available is to pay off your credit card as soon as you’ve purchased something (so your card balance is always $0). Then once you’ve run out of money you have to stop spending.
Charging a credit card makes it easy to overspend. Paying it off everyday gives you to best benefits of paying in cash and card.
4 Put money aside each month for those months you will overspend.
This is different than saving for irregular expenses. Irregular expenses are not every month, but they are expected. Besides irregular expenses, however, there are unexpected expenses. For example, you break your arm and need an X-Ray.
By setting aside money on purpose you can be prepared with cash on hand to cover your expenses when you overspend. This includes when you lose your head and spend all of money on a single trip to Costco (I know I’m not the only person who’s done that).
Putting extra money aside every month into a rainy day fund will help keep you out of debt in the long run.
5 Adjust your budget to avoid overspending in the future.
If you overspend consistently in one category, that means you probably need more money in that category. Unfortunately, the fastest way to fix this is to take money from another category.
The problem with this is that now you have less money to spend on the category you took from. So be careful to only take from a category you can cut back on.
If you consistently overspend on food, you can take some money from entertainment, or clothes, or even eating out. You shouldn’t, however, take money from your mortgage or rent payment. That’s a recipe for disaster. But also don’t take from your gas budget unless you can drive less.
A budget can be flexible to your needs. Just remember you can’t add to one category without taking from another.
Overspending happens to everyone, so don’t freak out WHEN it happens to you. Just take the time to rethink how your last month went and move one. Small changes to your habits over time are what makes your budget work. So just keep at it. And don’t forget to track your spending (it will help you avoid overspending in the first place).
What types of things do you overspend on? How have you fixed it? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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Find a list of all the definitions used on this blog here.
Budget: Assigning each dollar of your income to a certain role or category. Categories include housing, car, food, utilities, entertainment, and so much more. This is meant to be a tool to stop you from overspending.
Irregular Expenses: Expenses that come out of you budget every other month, semi annually, annually, or other time frames. This can include insurance payments, taxes, clothing, doctor’s bills, memberships, etc.
Regular Expenses: Expenses that come out of your budget consistently every month. This includes expenses that don’t change like mortgage and car payment, as well as expenses that do change like your food bill and utilities.
Rainy Day Fund: Money set aside in case your income doesn’t cover all of your expenses.