Want to turn your budgeting mistakes into successes?
I think we all know that having a solid budget is key to you being in control of your money.
If you are not in control of your money you are likely to be in debt, have no savings and be stressed about all things finance.
Worrying about money every day is not a fun thing to do and quite frankly I am sure you can think of so many better things to be doing with your thoughts.
Having more month than money on a regular basis is stressful.
The problem is we set ourselves a budget, think we’ve done a grand job and then it all goes to pot.
What we need to do is understand our budgeting mistakes and learn from them.
Even better why not learn from other peoples mistakes and bullet proof your budget from the get go?
I have had budgets of all shapes and sizes and for a long time they were not great.
My biggest problem was not learning from my own budgeting mistakes.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
That quote could not be more true! You have to change what you do in order to get a different outcome.
Hoping for something different every month just does not work.
Let’s look at all the budgeting mistakes I have made and the solutions.
Related post: Cut your budget with tips from the experts
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My 30 budgeting mistakes
In no particular order here are the mistakes I have made over the years when trying to balance my budget.
End of month spending = next months budget
I can’t tell you how many times I have done this! I get paid on the last working day of the month so it’s a slightly changeable feast as to when I get paid.
My budget is based on one salary payment and that money must last until the next pay day.
Yet I often pretend spends on the 28th and 29th equal next months budget. Not so!
Solution – at the start of the month work out when you next get paid and allocate your budget for each day/week up until that day.
I am so guilty of this one! £30 a week for 2 adults is doable right? Even if you have always spent more than double that?
It’s not realistic to allocate your money based on what other people spend. You will blow the budget if you do this – voice of experience talking!
Solution – set a realistic budget based on your own circumstances, ignore the budget ninja’s, you are not in their league – yet.
Related reading: What is the purpose and benefits of budgeting?
Not tracking my spending
If you are not tracking your spending you don’t know how much you have left until next pay day.
Solution – track your spending on a daily basis (or at least weekly). Know how much you have spent and therefore what is left
Nothing in writing
Think you have a great memory for figures? Can you remember every budget category and amount?
You might well do initially but this is not the sensible option.
If it’s not written down your budget will either be forgotten or some of the amounts may get mis-remembered.
Solution – write your budget down and refer to it as necessary
When you are in debt it’s very easy to create a very strict budget. You want to pay off your debt as quickly as possible.
But strict budgets are hard and have a high chance of failure.
Solution – Be realistic. If you haven’t paid off £1000 every month on your debt, don’t set your budget with this figure. You may get to that point as you become accustomed to your new spending.
With the advent of contactless payments these days we rarely use cash. When we do it’s for small spends that are easily forgotten.
Also, handing over cash invariably means not getting a receipt.
Small cash payments add up over a month especially when there are two of you.
Solution – either use contactless for everything or draw cash and track your cash withdrawals not your cash spends. At least this way you know how much was spent overall.
This has really helped me fill in a black hole in our budget
Trying to budget alone
If you are single then your budget is your own. If you are part of a couple then your budget will only be successful if you have your other half on board.
Money is a leading cause of arguments between spouses so ensure you can talk without blame creeping in.
Solution – You both need to agree to your budget and one or both needs to track all your spending.
All grocery shopping = essential items
Another major fail for me, many times. It’s very easy to justify all grocery spending as essential.
But when you have 3 freezers full of food and racking in the garage crammed with dry goods, you are only fooling yourself.
(I am talking to myself here!)
Solution – your grocery budget needs to be spent on essential items for that month/next month if you are bulk buying. If you already have 5 packs of chicken, you don’t need a 6th!
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No fun money
Your budget might be tight. You might have debt to pay off. But a really tight budget with no fun money is not sustainable.
After a couple of months it is very easy to feel hard done by. You’re working hard so surely you deserve a little treat?
Solution – build in some fun money, it might only be £20 but it will make a difference to your ability to maintain your budget long term.
Depending on the age of any children you may have, this can be easily dealt with or not so. The older they get the more they argue back.
I am currently failing with this one but trying hard to get back on track.
Solution – involve your children in your budgeting, keeping it age specific. Teens will benefit from understanding budgets and the need to live within them.
Related post: The Important of Teaching Your Kids About Money
Using a cashback credit card
Cashback credit cards are great as you earn a little cash(back) for every £ you spend on the card.
But whipping out the cashback card every time you are in a shop can lull you into a false sense of security.
It’s not real money, you are not seeing the money being spent. Your bill won’t come through until the following month.
Solution – if you are not a credit card control ninja then leave the cashback credit card at home until you get your budget back under control.
Related reading: What To Do When Credit Card Debt Becomes A Problem
Static monthly bills
When allocating your money in your budget it’s very easy to put a fixed sum for your regular bills e.g. mobile phone, utilities.
But these bills are not set in stone and can vary a few pounds every month.
If I send a couple of picture messages via text rather than messenger that is £1 extra on my phone bill. Most utility bills are recalculated at least yearly.
Solution – don’t set and forget your regular bills. Check your online banking to ensure the bills you expect to be paid are the amount you have budgeted for.
It is often cheaper to buy insurances annually rather than monthly and all too easy to forget when they are next due. Other bills may need paying quarterly.
Solution – All these non-monthly bills need to be factored into your budget. They should not be a surprise.
Set aside money every month in sinking funds for non-monthly or big bills and transfer money across when one of these are due for payment.
Children’s needs can be very expensive or very cheap depending on many factors including age, school they attend and after school clubs.
Many of their expenses are known and regular e.g. childcare and club fees.
But it’s surprising how the extras add up. Non-uniform day subs, Christmas concert tickets, school trips spending money, club uniforms etc.
Solution – Tracking all your spending will give you a great picture of just how much you spend on your children.
With that knowledge you can make decisions on whether you need to fund everything or whether something needs to go.
Depending on your children’s age, involve them in the decision making.
They may not love their violin lessons as much as you think they do!
You can save significant amounts if you switch brands. Whether this is clothing brands or food brands.
Different brands may taste slightly different. Different is not the same as better, it’s just different.
Solution – If you’ve always bought branded yogurt, try the supermarket own. If you usually buy the supermarket own, try the value range.
If your taste buds don’t rebel, make the cheaper alternative your new brand.
Your decision needs to be – is the more expensive taste worth the extra cost? The answer could be different for each product.
Too many financial goals
There is much written about budgeting and how to allocate your money to savings and financial goals as part of your budget.
Too many savings goals will find you spreading yourself too thinly and then the budget will fail.
It’s a great idea to have savings pots for big bills, Christmas, birthdays, holidays, new car, university, later life etc.
But when your budget is tight you need to be realistic.
You might want all those savings goals. But right now your priority is to hit your budget and not overspend.
Those savings goals may be part of the problem.
Solution – simplify your budget and your savings goals.
Extra work expenses
You will have already budgeted for your usual work costs. Such as travel and food (you are taking a packed lunch aren’t you?)
But there are the incidentals that can add up over time.
Colleague retirement and leaving gifts. Birthday cards. Going for a coffee because a colleague needs a chat.
Solution – Allocate a small amount for work incidental costs. Alternatively don’t join in with the gift giving.
Keeping up with family/friends
This is a hard one but it’s also a really important one. Sticking to your budget is essential, especially if you have debt.
Your family and friends may be well meaning but won’t know your whole financial story, unless you tell them.
They may seem to have enough money but you won’t know their whole financial story either.
Family and friends will understand if you say no or take a rain check.
Solution – Be honest with family and friends. Explain you are on a budget and only have X to spend.
Don’t try and keep up with them. Suggest cheaper alternatives if they suggest a meal out.
Wouldn’t it be great if you set your budget and actually spent that exact amount on those categories only?
In the real world you are likely to need a little flexibility. A little wriggle room.
Plans and budgets have a habit of changing and morphing slightly.
Solution – keep your budget on track by factoring in some wriggle room.
Sticking to a budget, especially a tight one, is hard work. Spending money is easy. Not spending money when you’d really like to is hard.
Solution – remember why you are budgeting. Remember the goals you set when you created this budget. It may be becoming debt free or it may be to pay for an expensive holiday.
Readjusting your budget in-month
Overspent in one category part way through the month? Just readjust your budget and it will be fine!
No it won’t. If you’ve overspent, you need to acknowledge that overspending.
You are more likely to reduce your spending if you accept the overspend. Hiding it means you are trying to fool yourself.
Solution – don’t readjust your budget mid-monthly. Review at the end of the month. Then adjust if it is needed.
It might be you just need to be stronger and not overspend in this category (that’ll be me and grocery shopping). Or you might have got your budget wrong first time.
Not meal planning
Meal planning is the no.1 most effective way of controlling your grocery budget.
Without a meal plan it becomes very tempting to get takeout or pop to the grocery store two or three times extra to buy what you fancy that day.
If you know what meals you will be preparing and the ingredients required, then you know what you need to buy.
The ingredients you don’t already have in your cupboards.
Solution – Meal plan a week in advance, write your grocery list and stick to it!
Fix not replace
50 years ago the idea of throwing something away because it had broken was frowned upon. ‘Make do and mend’ was something most people lived by.
These days we seem happy to throw anything away as soon as it is broken. And of course buy a replacement.
Solution – YouTube is a great place to search for tutorials on how to fix anything. Just don’t get lost down the rabbit hole of watching too many tutorials and not getting round to fixing that thing!
Budgeting and living within your means is all about decision making. But sometimes we can make poor financial decisions.
You might be able to justify your decision to go on an expensive holiday whilst still in debt but it’s not a great decision is it?
Just because you want a holiday doesn’t mean it becomes a need. A need above paying off debt or not getting into more debt.
Solution – be honest with yourself about the decisions you make. Don’t make poor decisions.
Don’t let overspend on one category blow the whole thing
Until you are a budget ninja you are likely to find you overspend on one category before the end of the month.
If you are like me this can be extremely demotivating. To the point where you think you’ve blown the budget and give up.
Solution – don’t give up if one budget category is overspent. Concentrate on the rest of your budget.
Special occasions can be a total money suck.
With friends and family around you and the many TV adverts all encouraging you to buy the latest must have it’s easy to spend what you haven’t got.
Solution – special occasions are usually known far in advance e.g. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Weddings. Budget in advance, decide how much you are going to spend on this special occasion.
If you have a plan then you are more likely to stick to it than wishful hoping.
Not keeping it updated
Setting a budget is one thing, keeping it relevant and up-to-date is another.
What was the right budget 3 months ago may well not be the case now. Prices go up, extra expenses come out of the woodwork.
Solution – review your budget and update it regularly. Ensure it accurately reflects your current financial position.
Checking bank statements monthly
Having set your budget you may well track everything you spend. But your bank account could be leaking money without your knowledge.
You need to know what is coming out of that account as well as what you know you are spending.
There can be the odd surprise in your bank account, a forgotten standing order or a rogue check that gets presented late. These can derail your budget.
Solution – check your bank statements at least monthly, maybe weekly (online banking and apps make this easy to do on the go).
Don’t budget with money you don’t yet have
Getting a raise or a bonus from work are great but often they are not guaranteed.
You may have had them every year so far but companies change, profit margins can dip.
Setting your budget to include money you don’t yet have is foolhardy.
Solution – set your budget based on what you actually earn, not what you think you’ll earn next month. Disregard bonuses and raises.
Once you’ve received them, then plan how they will be spent/allocated.
Not having a budget at all
Unfortunately too many of us have tried to manage our money without a budget at all. I know there are people who do not have a budget.
If you are in this category then you are probably reading the wrong blog post!
If you have debt or are not saving as much as you want to then having a budget is a good idea.
Solution – create a budget that will work for you. Don’t make any of the mistakes outlined above!
So there you have it, my 30 budgeting mistakes I have made when trying to keep my money under control.
I am sure some of these may be very familiar to you but hopefully not all of them!
Having a budget will help you move away from the feeling that you have more month than money.
With time a good budget will help you pay off debts and build your savings.
Have you got a budget mistake you want to add to this list? Got a tip on how to budget better? Let me know in the comments.
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Last Updated on 4th April 2023 by Emma