Just before 7:25 a.m. this morning, Punxsutawney Phil released his official, frigid forecast: six more weeks of winter. That’s right, YNAB-nabbers! It’s GROUNDHOG DAY!
Luckily, unlike Phil Connors, you’re not doomed to spend the rest of the foreseeable future in Gobbler’s Knob, living the same day on repeat—though, word on the street is, when it comes to your finances, some of you may feel like you are …
Just like Phil’s big blizzard, these budgeting blunders are keeping you stuck. The good news? Your chance of departure is 100 percent! Now, let’s take a look at the top six slipups—one for each remaining week of winter—and how to clear them up:
1. Unplanned Eating Out
Whether you’re too tired to cook after a long day of work, or are just prone to drop into Starbucks on a whim, several YNABers reported that they overspend on eating out. In a word, to quote an actual YNABer, “Tacos.”
Or coffee. Or takeout. You get the idea—instead of cooking at home, you pay a premium for restaurant food. Maybe you fall for the convenience, or maybe it’s about the taste, but one thing is certain: eating out is wrecking your budget!
The solution? Stock your kitchen with foods that you actually enjoy. When your kitchen is filled with easy-to-eat things you like, it’ll be way easier to stick to your plan! Things to have on hand:
- Ingredients that are a cinch to toss together into a quick meal (more like assembly than cooking).
- Ingredients for meals you love, even if they’re not so quick and easy.
- Prepared foods, like frozen pizza (still cheaper than takeout).
- Go-containers, travel mugs and snacks that are packed and ready to grab as you leave the house.
Brainstorm your best meals, and keep a list so you can repeat your favorites. That’s what Melinda does—and she’s mastered the art of feeding her family of four on an impressively small grocery budget.
And leave some wiggle room in the budget to eat out so that you don’t feel deprived.
2. Not Budgeting for Reality
Many of you shared that you’re constantly forgetting to budget for necessities—even when they’re a regular, repeating part of your life! Or you simply don’t budget enough dollars. This creates a pattern of overspending and puts you in a reactive (not proactive) place with your bank account.
The list of forgotten expenses includes travel costs for work, gasoline, Christmas gifts and even Netflix subscriptions. Yes, subscriptions! But the most common culprit? If you guessed groceries, bing! You’re right. It’s food, again.
To regain control, take a cue from this YNABer, “[I] set my grocery budget way too low. I kept giving up and overspending, on a monthly basis, until I thought maybe I should try adjusting [my grocery budget] to a more realistic amount. Hasn’t been a problem since.”
As for the non-food items, when you come across one, add it to your budget! For help fleshing out a budget that covers everything, drop into our free, online workshop Create a Budget Template.
3. Overzealous Debt Repayment
Is there really such a thing as paying off too much debt? In the grand scheme of things, no. Prioritizing debt repayment is a great thing, but leave it to YNABers to overachieve in this department …
If you’re wondering how this turns into a rub, take it from this YNABer who said, “[I’ll try] to pay down all of [my] debt in one month, and then I have to use my cards to make to the end of the month because I didn’t leave enough to live on.”
4. Mindless Spending
You know you could be putting your dollars to better use when you can’t even remember what you bought.
One YNABer said, “[We stopped going to] Cirque du Soleil shows. We used to go to every one that came to town … but I somehow forget all the amazement, like five minutes after we leave. We skipped out this year, even though it would have been on ice. Probably for the best … I literally can’t even remember the names of the the shows we’ve seen.“
This principle applies to everything from choosing great restaurants, to considering whether or not you really want a new pair of jeans. When you reach for your wallet, pause and decide if your purchase is helping you live a better life, or if it’s just keeping you from your true priorities.
If you’re prone to mindless spending, you’re in luck. The antidote is awareness, and you can read up on it here.
5. Robbing from March to Pay for February
You make a budget. You overspend. Then you wait for payday to cover it? If that sounds familiar, then I think the most comforting thing I have to offer is that you’re not alone. A handful of YNABers chimed in acknowledging similar budget trespasses.
One YNABer said, “[I overspend from my] grocery and restaurant [categories] every month … not fixing either until [the] subsequent month. I always just consider it less available to budget next month.”
The obvious issue is that, with this blunder, you’ll never drink the sweet nectar of financial peace. Go read “But What If You Just Love Spending Money?” and drop into our free, online class Ideas for Cutting Spending. Get inspired to get back on track!
6. Not Budgeting At All
Yes, really. One guilty YNABer said, “[I spend] money, THEN fund the category to balance it back to zero. GIVE. EVERY. DOLLAR. A. JOB!”
Yep, Give Every Dollar A Job. I couldn’t have said it better, myself.
Tomorrow Is a New Day
OK, campers YNABers. If you want a prediction about your finances, you’re asking the wrong person. Your financial fate is entirely in your own hands.
But, I’ll give you a budgeting prediction: It’s gonna take practice, it’s gonna take persistence, and you’ll be so glad you started—it’ll shape the way that you live, and the options you have, for the rest of your life.
Your Next Step
Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?