10 Overlooked Expenses That Ruin Your Budget

Does your budget blow up in your face every month? Chances are good at least one of these expenses is responsible.

Drafting a picture-perfect budget is only half the battle if you want to keep your spending in check.

Following rules is the other half — and that can be challenging if you underestimate expenses or forget to incorporate a few pieces of the puzzle into your spending plan.

Here are some commonly overlooked expenses that can cause you to throw in the towel on your budget each month:

1. Auto maintenance and repairs

At some point, if you don’t take care of your car, it won’t take care of you. So be proactive in order to avoid costly repairs down the road.

If a mechanic brings a major problem to your attention, don’t ignore it. Instead, get a second and perhaps third opinion. Then, take care of it.

Take a look at “Get Free Car Repairs With Secret Warranties” to soften the blow to your bank account.

2. Children’s extracurricular activities

Use a calendar to plan out your children’s extracurricular activities. That way, you can set aside the funds needed to pay up when the amounts are due.

The same rules apply to family fun. Plan ahead and always remain on the lookout for cheap or free fun.

Check out “14 Ways to Have More Fun for Less Money” for ideas.

3. Pet care

Furry friends have needs, too. And, sometimes, those needs aren’t as cheap as you think. So don’t forget to factor in the costs of routine care as well as doctor visits. Also, take a look at “28 Ways to Save Big Bucks on Pet Supplies.”

4. Regular monthly fees

Are you responsible for obligations payable quarterly, semiannually or annually? If so, it’s best to divide the total by 12 to get the monthly amount. Then, store the funds away so you won’t be caught off guard.

Examples of such expenses include homeowner association fees, alarm fees and subscription dues. If your HOA fee is $300 quarterly, $100 should automatically be set aside each month to take care of the expense when it arises.

5. Special events

Your lifelong friend has decided to tie the knot next month, or your child’s friend from school is having a birthday bash. Do you have the funds on hand to cover the travel costs or go out and purchase a gift?

If not, you may have to borrow to make it happen. Or, you can respectfully decline to attend.

6. Health insurance

Monthly premiums for health insurance can be expensive, and that’s before co-pays and deductibles.

To cover these costs, you can either go into debt and pay interest, or plan ahead and have money set aside.

7. Road trips

Do you have money set aside to cover an extra tank of gas if you need it? Make sure you do — you never know when you’ll need to make a quick trip to tend to important business, or to check on a loved one.

8. Service calls

The water heater can suddenly die, or your furnace may go on the fritz. So make sure you tuck away money for these unpredictable failures.

9. Utility consumption

When temperatures reach extreme lows, you may crank up the thermostat to stay comfy and wind up overextending your budget. A better alternative: Find more cost-efficient options, as we discuss in “15 Low- and No-Cost Ways to Reduce Your Winter Energy Bill.”

10. Food

Perhaps you stop by the bagel shop to grab a bite to eat because you were running behind schedule. Or, you take a co-worker up on an offer to have lunch. If you don’t have the funds available for extras, another category of your budget will take a hit.

What is the biggest drain on your monthly budget? Sound off in our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth, and post questions and get answers.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • grandmaguest

    Excellent advice. These are the 12 items that I must admit I overlooked in my youth and always seemed to break my budget. Thankfully it didn’t take me too long to figure out what I needed to do. I have since set up several “special” savings accounts* and religiously fund them. They are: *Home repairs and upkeep, auto (I also use this one to continue keep putting my “car payment” into long after the car is paid off so that I have a very large down payment and never carry more than a 3 year loan), insurance (home, car, health, etc), and finally an emergency fund to cover anything I might have missed…..you never know. Oh yes, I even have a smaller account set up for travel that I fund a little every month. In the beginning it may have not been much money in each one each month, but it’s amazing how fast those few dollars will add up if you are able to not go into debt to pay for some emergency.
    It took me years to fund these but I feel really secure in that I can pretty much meet any emergency that might come up. And as far as insurance…..I pay by the year, which saves me a few bucks on those monthly or quarterly fees most companies add on.
    I realize that this is a long term project, but well worth the effort in the long run.

    • KaraLynn

      My husband and I have multiple accounts also. It helps especially for the yearly expenses because the interest has been accruing all year. It may not be much, but it’s something. This system has enabled us to buy some nicer things that we would have never been able to when we had overwhelming debt.

      • grandmaguest

        I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that set up this type of system and I’m glad it seems to be working for you as well as it did for me. I have the money automatically moved into my accounts so I never even had to think about it.
        I may be retired now, but I still have it done with my smaller income. I’m hoping when it comes time to replace my old 2001 car I will be able to pay 75 to 80% (if not all) of it in cash. Having that money already set aside is a wonderful feeling.
        I congratulate you on taking charge of your finances! Way to go!!

  • Rebecca P

    Just 10?

  • Keith Nagel

    So your best advice is “be sure to put money aside for this” . Not really a helpful article, just click bait.

  • kay

    How do you overlook, health insurance, your pet and food? Who doesn’t budget for child related expenses, changing your oil and buying gas and recurring monthly expenses? What are people putting down when creating a budget? The rent/mortgage. The rest largely fall under the emergency fund.

    • LagunaLady27

      The author believes these are commonly overlooked. Maybe they are, but by whom? Certainly anyone with a computer program, credit card statement or checking account would notice them.

      • whattarush

        Either it’s amazing that this author thinks people are unobservant about their own bank or credit card statements or it’s amazing that some people really don’t remember that those kinds of expenses occur! That certainly isn’t me!

    • Malcom Treadway

      I’m one of the first Boomers, born in ’46. I’ve got a computer and a credit card and its handy monthly statement – and they’re all very useful -but ferchrisake, anybody with a pen and paper and a brain can construct a budget. I think the author wrote this for HIS benefit: perhaps on various post-it notes stuck to the refrigerator door.

  • An initial monthly budget is probably going to be about 60-70% correct and will take about three months to be as accurate as possible because impulse purchases, repairs, etc get left out. Since only 1/3 of American households have a written budget I can see where lots of items get missed.

  • DR Benkert

    Too bad they don’t teach basic finance and planning in schools, too hung up on diversity and climate change.

    • LagunaLady27

      Too hung up on keeping their jobs. If they don’t teach what is on the test, they are gone. Sad.

    • disqus_Ariver

      Our school system does teach budgeting, rent vs mortgages, how to apply for mortgage, realistic cost of living in different earning brackets & a whole lot more in a year long required class called Success 101.
      It was an eye opening experience to discuss mortgages with my 14 yr old!!

  • Haven’t never had a conventional credit card, such as Visa or MasterCard, to rely on for emergencies, I have been a manic saver since I ran off my ex-wife, who had maxed out two of the four ‘store’ credit cards (Sears, Penney’s, Ward’s, Chevron) that I ever had. I put them (Penney’s & Ward’s) away and haven’t seen them since. I imagine that I will see them someday when I get around to cleaning out my storage unit.
    On payday, I pay any regular payments that will come due before the next payday rolls around, then I put away cash in $500 increments, in a place where it will be immediately available, which is to say, not in a bank. I used to buy PMs with this money, but they got more difficult to sell, so I just leave the horde of those alone, and place my entire emergency stash in cash.
    Think of it this way. You are the checkout stand at the grocery, everything rung up and bagged. Your plastic, regardless of whether it is debit or charge, has been declined several times. When you go to the ATM across from the checkstand, same situation. After you apologize to the cashier because you can’t pay for what you plugged her line up with, you head to the bank, from which you got no answer on your cellphone.
    The bank is closed and there’s a governmental-looking notice on the door, where the phone goes unanswered, as well. You have some pocket money. What do you do?

    • DR Benkert

      I’d move to a city where that stuff doesn’t happen!

      • It will happen anywhere a federally-regulated bank has control over your money. The only way to avoid it is to avoid banks and use only cash.

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