Do you ever completely screw up your budget? You have a few days or weeks when you manage money perfectly and then all of a sudden you just massively blow it out of the water?
This happens to everyone at least once. Even the most perfect of budgeters have a moment where they flat-out don’t manage money well.
And the aftermath is the worst part. Especially since the emotional repercussions of a blown budget can create an uphill climb.
Luckily, a blown budget isn’t the end of the world. These tips will help you manage money like a pro, even when the circumstances are not what you intended.
3 ways to manage money after a budgeting mishap
1. Return it if you regret it
If you regret the purchase and are able to return it, do it. This is the easiest way to erase the thing you now believe to be a mistake.
Be careful. Returning it in person means you have to go back to the scene of the crime. And stepping foot in the store again could lead to more unplanned purchases.
Even worse, if you only get a store credit in return, you might feel obligated to immediately use the credit. In that case, you might be better off keeping what you bought.
Also, keep in mind that buying, regretting, and returning can become a vicious cycle. Be careful not to view returning things all the time as a real solution to the problem.
2. “Borrow” from other budgeting categories to come out even
If you’re sticking with whatever you spent the money on – or if it’s not a thing that can be returned (such as a dinner out) – “borrow” from another area of your budget. Then you can come out even at the end of the month.
For example, say you overspent on groceries but underspent on entertainment. Remove the difference from your entertainment budget to break even on the overall budget.
You can do this literally if you’re on the envelope budgeting system. Or you can make these adjustments on whatever app, document, or spreadsheet you use to manage your money.
Don’t have any tools to manage your money? Remember: you make what you measure. Start tracking your spending now.
Borrowing from other categories is a great way to find flexibility in how you manage money. However, it can become a crutch if you’re not careful. If you find yourself doing this every month consecutively, re-do your spending plan.
3. Go on a no-spend week to get ahead
If you don’t have any flexibility in your budget to borrow from other areas, create it. The best way to do that is to go on a no-spend week. This can help you break even or can be used in addition to the tip above to get ahead.
Here’s how it works: If you have a certain amount of money budgeted for coffee or lunches out, then forego both for one week and make your coffee and lunch at home. Or, if you had money planned out for a night with friends, turn it into a night in.
Seven days of not spending a dime, even when it’s money you had budgeted for spending, can make up for money management mishaps.
You might even find that you enjoy your no-spend week and make it a reoccurring event. Some people do this once a month or quarter for practice (and the quick and easy boost to their savings).
Once you’ve stopped the bleeding, it’s time to dig deep
Once you’ve used these quick fix strategies to get your budget under control, it’s time to dig deep to find out why it happened.
You may not be able to stop the past, but you can learn from it. And even though everyone has a budgeting slip up occasionally, everyone does it for different reasons. Discovering your reason is the key to managing your money effectively.
It could be that you were using retail therapy on a bad day, that you rebelled against a too-restrictive budget, or that you simply lost track of your spending for the month.
Whatever it is, once you understand why, it’s a lot easier to prevent it from happening again. Here are a few additional strategies to help with managing your money:
1. Build an emergency fund
First things first: any time your budget is feeling the squeeze, build or buff up your emergency fund. An emergency fund is important for preventing turning to credit during an unexpected event.
There are many opinions on how much money to have in an emergency fund, but a good rule of thumb is saving three months to one year of living expenses. Since this can take a long time, the important thing is to focus on slowly and sustainably growing this fund.
And if you need a little extra support, go to the America Saves accountability pledge. You can even sign up for text message tips to help.
2. Create a “splurge” budgeting category
Since an emergency fund isn’t supposed to be used unless absolutely necessary, you could also try creating a “splurge” budgeting category. This category creates a little room for the occasional splurge.
With a splurge budget, you don’t have to feel restricted by your spending plan. Instead, you can see it as the thing that keeps you on track with the occasional pat on the back.
You can even partake in National Splurge Day. A little reward can go a long way in managing your money sustainably.
3. Discover the best savings strategy for your personality
One thing you’ve probably noticed is these tips require saving money. It goes without saying this is easier said than done.
So how can you stay motivated to save money? Hack your personality.
U.S. News & World Report illustrates several personalities and ways to save more based on each one. This includes the goal-setter, the gambler, the nervous Nellie or Norman, and the lazy saver. So how does U.S. News & World Report say each one can save more?
- The goal-setter can create different savings accounts for different topics.
- The gambler can fulfill their need for risk by setting aside small amounts of money (that aren’t needed) to play with.
- The nervous saver can seek out high-yield savings that might make them feel a bit safer.
- For the lazy saver, it’s all about automation.
Customize your money management system
The moral of the story? We’re all different. Therefore, your money management should be customized to your needs and your personality.
Once you do that, you’ll be able to handle a blown budget and create a more effective money management system moving forward.
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