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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 important pieces of the puzzle into your spending plan.
Following are some commonly overlooked expenses that can cause you to throw in the towel on your budget each month.
1. Auto maintenance and repairs
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At some point, if you don’t take care of your car, it won’t take care of you. So, be proactive 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 a third opinion. Then, take care of it.
Take a look at “13 Steps to Find an Honest — and Qualified — Auto Mechanic” if you’re in need of a reputable mechanic.
2. Children’s extracurricular activities
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Use a calendar to plan out your children’s extracurricular activities for the year. 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.
3. Pet care
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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 “20 Ways to Save Big Bucks on Pet Supplies.”
4. Regular fees
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Are you responsible for obligations payable quarterly or annually? If so, it’s best to divide the total by three or 12, respectively, to get the monthly amount. Then, store the necessary funds away so you won’t be caught off-guard.
Examples of such expenses include homeowner association fees and subscriptions. 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
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Say your lifelong friend has decided to tie the knot, or one of your child’s friends from school is having a birthday bash. Do you have the funds on hand to cover the cost of being a bridesmaid or to purchase a gift?
If not, you may have to borrow to make it happen or decline to attend. Or, you can budget money for special events so you’re covered when one pops up.
6. Health care
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Monthly premiums for health insurance can be expensive, and that’s before copays 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
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Do you have money set aside to cover an extra tank of gas if you need it? 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
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The water heater can suddenly die, or your furnace may go on the fritz. So, make sure you tuck away money for such unpredictable failures.
9. Utility consumption
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When temperatures outside reach extreme lows, you might 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 “19 Cheap or Free Ways to Cut Your Winter Energy Bills.”
10. Impromptu food
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Perhaps you stop by the bagel shop to grab a bite to eat because you’re running behind schedule. Or you take a co-worker up on a suggestion to go out to lunch.
If you don’t have the funds available, another category of your budget will take a hit.
What is the biggest drain on your monthly budget? Sound off by commenting below or on our Facebook page.