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.”
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.