Five Ways to Drop-Kick Unbudgeted Spending

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Howdy! It’s a new month and we’ve got money on the brain. I don’t write about the “small budget” part of Smallish often. I probably avoid the subject because I feel so unqualified to approach it. We, um, are not very disciplined in sticking to our budget.

Lately we have been treating our budget like The Code in Pirates of the Caribbean—a loose set of guidelines, really. Oh, we are very good at setting the budget. Every time our income changes we map out carefully where each dollar will go, but as months flow by, money flows out of unanticipated areas just as quickly.

Spontanteous dinner out with family? Yes! We’re in!
Ohhh! A Farmer’s Market! We obviously need more produce.
Ooops. Forgot that activity was starting up this month.
Coffee date with favorite neighbor? Absolutely. $4 ain’t no thang for now.

The dollars sprout wings and fly away faster than a hummingbird following a honey wagon. This month, we are DONE  flouncing through finances.

 

This month, we are DONE flouncing through finances.

 

We are going to own September, money-wise. Caveman and I went over the biggest ways we let our money get out of hand (hah! yes, literally!) and brainstormed how to drop-kick our own unbudgeted spending. This post is for us today, folks. Hopefully these suggestions will encourage you too.

Without further ado…..

 

Five Ways to Drop-kick Unbudgeted Spending

1  |  Look ahead and budget accordingly

Budgets and calendars are like butter and scones; you can’t do one without the other. Look up; look ahead at the next month and budget accordingly. Get the calendar out when you set the budget. Which activities are starting? What membership balances are due? When is date night? Will you be bringing a meal to anyone? How many birthday parties will you be attending? We tried to allot the correct amount of money for this actual month. We’ll be much more likely to hit our target when it is tailored for a specific time frame.

 

2  |  Go over receipts with spouse daily

The days are busy. If you’re like us, it’s all too easy to mention “Oh, I spent $17 today on that thing for the car” and then forget all about which line-item actually covered the expense until the end of the month when we’re supplementing accounts with a rescue-sum. Whoops. This month, we’re keeping receipts. Then every evening (if we can) we will do a budget check and tally up the day’s outgoing money. This way we’ll stay on top of the amount going out—and where it’s going.

 

3  |  Check accounts online daily

In a continuation of #1… while you’re having the receipt meeting, log in and look at your bank accounts online. Do the ‘ol checkbook balance. Move money between accounts as needed. We went one step further and signed up for Mint, a free service that tracks spending and provides pretty visuals to give you perspective of just how out-of-hand that coffee habit is. Keep a close eye on accounts and discover where you’re most likely to splurge. Once we know our weak spots (Target? New books for the Kindle?), we’ll be able to counter-act the temptation.

 

4  |  Get extra cash by selling things

I have several friends who are really great at selling unnecessary items online and then using that cash for special things the budget couldn’t fit. One friend puts the Craigslist Cash in an envelope specifically for a date night. Another friend uses the cash for kids’ extracurricular activities. Me? I’m not very good at selling things online. I’d just as soon donate it to get the junk out.of.my.house.now. But the extra spending money would be welcome, so this month I’m going to try to list a few things to sell. Who knows? Maybe I’ll make enough to take that handsome husband of mine out…

 

5  |  Say no. Just say no to unbudgeted spending

It might be a no brainer, but a list on unbudgeted spending wouldn’t be complete without this gem of a tip: just don’t spend it! Before you click “purchase” or hand over that card, ask yourself:

Do I truly need it?
Can this item wait until next month?
Do I already own something that could fulfill the same purpose?
Is there something of equal value that I could sell to acquire this thing without breaking the budget?

Chances are good that if you wait a few days to buy the item, you’ll find that it wasn’t as necessary as you initially thought. If saying “no” is proving too hard at the moment, just say “wait.” You might end up with the same result. 🙂

 

 So there’s our plan to drop-kick unbudgeted spending this month. And hopefully every month to follow.

What do you think? Would you add any other ways to stick to the budget? Comment and spill them below!

Found this post helpful? Don’t be shy to share. 🙂 …and thanks…

 

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32 Comments
  • SuseFish
    September 4, 2014

    Wow, really great tips thank you. I’ll be signing up for mint too – that looks just what I’ve been after for quite a while.

    • Evelyn
      September 4, 2014

      I’m a really visual person, so the graphs REALLY help me to know how close we are to a limit. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  • reney
    September 4, 2014

    Wow you really have a flexible budget. Memberships due and date nights? My buget is lean and certainly doesn’t have room for that. My membership is stepping outside. Date night consists of renting a movie and ordering in if need be. Every $10 bill I get (they are rare) I save in the ginger jar in my kitchen; it’s often referred to as my “mad money” to be used on a luxury item such as ordering in. Very little of my hard earned dollars is spent on parties of any kind. Social gatherings yes, parties no. I’m really living small I can see that now.

    • Evelyn
      September 4, 2014

      Hi Reney,
      Thanks for chipping in!

      Haha, I love how you picked up on those two things because those were items I brainstormed for people who might actually budget for those expenses. 😉 We don’t have line items for either of those things, although date night is important enough to us that we should. We walk and hike a lot (well, “a lot” meaning as much as we can get out in between nap times!) for exercise. Movies, yes, we rent for $1 at Redboxes. Our largest activity expenses recently were swimming for the kiddos and an evening club for our oldest, which was $30 for the year.

      Our budget certainly isn’t built for extravagant expenses, but I’m grateful that ends meet! 🙂 Thanks again for commenting!

    • sunny
      September 5, 2014

      Reney – I’m in a similar situation! I love your idea of setting aside every $10 you get and using it for some kind of splurge (like ordering in!).

  • Jayleen Zotti
    September 4, 2014

    Ooooh … you make it look so easy;0) After paying bills this month, I went on a rampage listing things for sale! It does help that everyone gets an allowance!

    • Evelyn
      September 6, 2014

      Hellooooo Jayleen! Good for you for selling things! I’m the opposite. I was all fired up to sell two pairs of shoes, and you know when it comes down to it I’m like, “Nah…. the time and energy aren’t worth the $10 I’d get for these.” Maybe I’ll try to actually list them online tomorrow! 😀 And yeah… I did make it sound easy, didn’t I? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME??! We are six days in and this. is. hard. 😉 We are totally way over in certain areas. Haha. At least we have the rest of the month to reset course… Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  • Gloria
    September 4, 2014

    Hi, Evelyn! I was a single mom for 16 years before I remarried 12 years ago, so I thought I had cornered the market on being frugal, saving money, recycling, refurbishing, DIY projects. I guess I learned from my grandmother how to stretch a dollar! However, in the months since my husband and I retired in February, I can’t seem to re-align our actual spending with our new (reduced!) income. I write out the budget every month but I still seem to dip into savings every month to keep up! Thanks for the reminders above! I’ve followed your family online for a while now and really enjoy your posts about the Shoebox! We are considering selling our house and living at least for a while in our travel trailer. It’s about 300 square feet, so we’d have to store some belongings and furnishings until we decide where to settle down. This would give us the ability to travel some and also to settle in for a month or two near each of our daughters and grandsons. We’ve been (happily) purging our belongings since we combined two households almost 13 years ago. Streamlining our lives, routines, and belongings is an ongoing process – what we might not be ready to let go of today, might be fine to be gone next week, if you know what I mean!! Anyway, keep us posted – and motivated – on the financial front! Thanks again for sharing your precious family with us! May God continue to bless you!

    • Evelyn
      September 6, 2014

      Hey Gloria! I’m so glad you said hi. I love hearing from readers! Thanks for your encouragement. YOU are encouragement to me! Caveman has mentioned living in a trailer for a couple years on land while we build… and you know, I’m just not ready for that. Maybe I should give it some more thought…. 😉 Haha, that’s a huge plunge, but I’m sure you’ll love the freedom. You’re right–this whole streamlining thing IS a process. It sounds like you’re taking it one day at a time and giving yourself the grace for simply walking the road. Way to be! 🙂

  • Rebekah
    September 4, 2014

    My husband and I use the You Need a Budget (ynab.com) to keep track of our money. It’s a budgeting software that helps us see what money we have, anticipate expenses, plan our spending and track our spending.

    We rarely save receipts but we do write everything down on our “expenditure sheet” we have taped to the fridge.

    For us the biggest way to curb our spending has been deciding what we get to spend in each area, tracking it weekly throughout the month and staying OUT of certain stores. (no more Eddie Bauer until next year).

    • Rebekah
      September 4, 2014

      I just realized that you were asking about “non-budgeted” spending. We have to be pretty strict with our money so unanticipated spending means spending less in other areas. We both have a small amount of personal money that we can use for play so that helps with non-budgeted spending.

      • Evelyn
        September 6, 2014

        🙂 Yeah it was, but honestly we’ve already plowed through more than we’d like in a couple areas… and its’ only the 6th! So yeah, that means scrimping on other budgeted items to try to balance. We can do it! I’ve heard good things about YNAB but have never looked into it. Thanks for the tip!

  • Joe Houser
    September 4, 2014

    Try using a cash system. After you figure out how much disposable income you have after recurring expenses each month (rent, mortgage, utilities), set an amount of money you have available to spend each month on groceries, gas, fun money, et cetera. Then take out cash from the bank each week (based on monthly amount divided by # of weeks) and when you are done spending the cash each week, that is it…no more spending.

    I think seeing the cash physically leave your wallet/purse makes you much more conscious of what you spend your money on. My wife, Heather, posted a blog article about this at the link below:
    http://thehouserproject.com/2014/03/03/how-to-use-cash-envelopes-to-curb-your-spending/

    Peace be with you.
    -Joe

    • Evelyn
      September 6, 2014

      Thanks Joe, yes the cash system is a great one. We tried it and had trouble with it, but maybe that’s because we weren’t disciplined enough. We essentially use the cash system but just with our debit account since we don’t have credit. But you’re right, handing over plastic doesn’t hurt as much as fingering paper. 🙂 Great post that your wife wrote, btw. Thanks for chipping in!

  • Cathy
    September 5, 2014

    September is my month to get a handle on my finances too! I think the key thing is keeping it front and centre in your mind. I am single so don’t have anyone else to share the blame for my financial mess. I sit down at the computer every morning and look at my accounts and budget and spending tracker…..seeing those graphs really helps imprint all this into my brain! I also sit down each evening and enter whatever got spent (or earned) during the day. It has only been a week but it does seem to be working. Good luck to you with your budget!

    • Evelyn
      September 6, 2014

      Cathy, good luck to you too! Already 6 days in….. and our task is proving difficult again. But at least we’re being more intentional to stay on top of the finances all together! 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

  • Jo
    September 5, 2014

    Love this! Our budget flies out the window EVERY month, usually by a couple hundred dollars. Yuck and yikes. Thanks so much for the tips!!

    • Evelyn
      September 6, 2014

      hi Jo! Yup, let’s find a NEW same boat together. 😉

  • Debbie
    September 5, 2014

    Nice post, Evelyn! I’m trying to be a little more frugal/disciplined with my spending this month too, so this was the perfect thing for me to read this morning!!

  • Sarah T.
    September 6, 2014

    This is our month too! We moved in July across the country and had eaten all our pantry prior to the move. We had to restock lots of basics last month and more than doubled our budgeted amount. Plan on being right back on track this month… And hopefully under since we are well-stocked now!

    • Evelyn
      September 6, 2014

      Hey Sarah,
      Yeah unfortunately this past week was a “restock” week for us too. We had lots of high priced items like coconut oil all at once. I’m hoping the rest of the month will be pretty slim since we had to replenish lots of basics. Thanks for commenting!

  • Charlee Anne
    September 7, 2014

    Love it! You are way cool for acknowledging that you aren’t really following through with your budget. I am in the same boat currently, but my hubby doesn’t really participate. I’ve tried, but he really doesn’t want to know anything about numbers. It just makes his eyes glaze over and then he falls asleep in the chair anyways. Haha. I’m rooting for ya!

    • Evelyn
      September 8, 2014

      Just keep doing your best. I’m rootin’ for you too! 🙂

  • Paige
    September 7, 2014

    Great tips! I’m always looking for ways to cut spending. Another thing I do is eat at home/bring my lunch to work. I plan meals out before I hit the grocery store so I don’t buy things I’ll end up throwing away later.

    • Evelyn
      September 8, 2014

      We do the same. I try to meal plan as best I can, but it usually turns out to me only planning 3-4 meals and then we either eat leftovers for the other nights or I’m scrambling to create a “pantry meal”. But it gets the job done! 🙂 Thanks for commenting Paige!

  • rebekah
    September 9, 2014

    Evelyn, remember that it takes awhile to form new financial organization habits. do your best this month, do a little better next month and even better the 3 month. When my husband and I got married last year a very wise co-worker told us to just track expenses for 3 months. Even after we got organized with our budget we still have a BIG catagory that I am struggling to even track accurately. (I’m underspending but I know the category doesn’t have nearly the balance it claims.) I am just trying to do a little better next month.

    • Evelyn
      September 9, 2014

      Rebekah, thank you so much for your reminder to grant ourselves grace. You may have seen my comments to other readers… it’s only the 9th and we feel definitely over in some areas. I so needed to hear that encouragement, because you’re right–bad habits don’t disappear overnight, and healthy new ones aren’t made over night. Or in 9 days. 😉 Thank you for commenting and sharing your sweet perspective!!

  • Anna
    September 26, 2014

    A little note to tell you I am loving your blog! So much of it resonates with me. We just sold off our house and everything that could not fit into a small storage unit so we could move to France with only what we could bring on the plane … we are gaining so much perspective in living with less!

    • Evelyn
      September 27, 2014

      Wow, Anna that’s a huge change! How exciting. Where in France did you move to? All the best on your big adventure, and thank you so much for the sweet comment. I love hearing that our own adventure resonates with people out in the big world. 🙂

  • Simplify Life Blog
    June 17, 2015

    Evelyn, I think everyone that has paid a bill and managed a household is qualified to speak on these matters.

    I survived bankruptcy so I wrote about this on my blog and how I improved my credit score. It was easier than I thought.

    I bet you have some good advice for all your readers.

    • Evelyn
      June 17, 2015

      Thanks for your encouragement. 🙂

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