Every budget is a work in progress. Even the most disciplined, savvy budgeters can find themselves surpassing their spending limits because of unexpected expenses.
“People’s estimates tend to be off (by) about 20 percent on where their money goes,” says Carol Craigie, MA, ChFC, CFP, managing partner and financial coach with Fiscal Fitness Clubs of America.
The danger, according to experts, lies in budget-conscious consumers forgetting to account for smaller items like subscription services or occasional costs like annual fees and gift purchases.
Jennifer Harper, CFP, director of Bridge Financial Planning LLC, warns against these variable line items. “I’ve never seen someone be surprised at their mortgage payment or rent payment or car payment,” she says. “Everyone knows what those big items are. It really is the small things or the infrequent things that tend to get overlooked.”
Make sure you account for these five expenses to ensure your spending plan’s accuracy and to maximize your savings.
1. Subscription fees and automated purchases
Remember when you subscribed to that streaming platform you haven’t used in months? Or registered for the weekly meal delivery kit that you can never seem to find the time to prepare?
$29.99 per month sounded like a great deal then, but with weeks or even months of disuse, that money can quickly go to waste.
Even if you do use your subscription services regularly, their automatic payment processes make them easy line items to skip over in a budget plan.
If you’re the sign-up-and-forget-it type, online trackers and apps can help. Web services like Truebill and apps like Bobby and SubscriptMe gather all your subscriptions in one place, either manually or by crawling through your bank data for recurring charges.
Harper offers another solution: “If possible, don’t set (a subscription) up on auto-renew. Just unclick that box and then you’ll get an email or a notification when it’s about to expire, and that’s a great way to evaluate, ‘Is this something I’m using enough to justify the expense, or not?’”
2. Annual fees
Often, we think of budget items month by month, which works for fixed expenses like a mortgage or phone payment. Fees that appear only once per year, however, can feel like an unwelcome annual surprise.
“It’s anything that you don’t get a monthly bill for that tends to be the issue,” Harper says.
Folding items like credit card annual fees, membership dues and vehicle registration renewals into your budget in advance or setting aside a separate monthly account for them can mean the difference between being blindsided by a $199 annual fee and staying on top of a more manageable $17 monthly payment.
The key is planning. Craigie says, “If you project forward, you begin to see patterns. … You can see that your license tags are due next month, so don’t eat out or you’ll be behind.”
3. Fluctuating costs
“Projecting forward” can also help with fluctuating monthly costs that are difficult to anticipate and, therefore, often left out of budgets.
These expenses include anything from veterinary visits to rising summer utility bills and oil changes. Take time to examine what the realistic costs will be over the course of an entire year, and there won’t be any surprises when they occur.
“It makes people much more aware of their money choices and upcoming expenses,” Craigie says. “It’s harder to think I have money left over when I look at the budget and see some expensive months coming up.”
4. Holidays and gifts
Between parties, gift exchanges, food and travel, leaving seasonal holiday costs out of your budget can make even the most generous year-end bonuses feel like pennies.
But don’t just save for December holidays — birthdays and other celebrations like July Fourth and Labor Day should be accounted for as well. Do you have a wedding or baby shower to attend in coming months? Budget accordingly for gifts and travel expenses and set aside dedicated funds in a high-yield savings account.
Thomas Duffy, CFP, president of Jersey Shore Financial Advisors LLC, says budgeting for these items takes thoughtful consideration.
Consumers should take into account “how many grandchildren they have, or if they have a particular niece or nephew (whose life) they’re very involved in … if there’s five people on that list and you typically spend $100 on each of them, there’s $500. That’s just for Christmas. They also will have a birthday, now we’re up to $1,000. Do you buy anybody else gifts? Do you have any kids that are going to graduate from kindergarten?”
Each of these are factors to consider.
5. Ancillary travel costs
Travelers may also find budget surprises in ancillary travel costs, Duffy says. While they may budget for flight, hotel and food, pesky expenses like airport parking, gratuity and travel insurance can add up to an unexpectedly high total.
Set a spending limit that includes estimates for these ancillary costs so they don’t come back to bite when you return home. For Duffy, it all comes down to staying “specific about what we spend our money on.”
How to stay on track with your budget
With so many individual items to account for each month, how can you ensure your budget is accurate without giving in to budget burnout? According to the experts, there’s no quick fix.
Using a worksheet like Bankrate’s Home Budget Calculator to project forward expenses for the coming year or simply sitting down with an adviser and going through last year’s bank and credit card statements to gain a real sense of your spending are smart ways to prepare.
“Some categories like home and car repairs have to just be ‘guestimated’ and balances of savings carried over for a couple of years,” Craigie says.
Mistakes still happen, but putting time and effort into your spending plan now can help ensure no surprises set you back in the future.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 6.66%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.09%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.34%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.97% – 8.54%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews! |
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of October 1, 2020.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 11/13/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.97% to 8.54% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.