Budgeting is an essential part of daily life.
Budgeting is allocating future income towards expenses, saving and debt repayment
Responsible budgeting should mean that you are able to pay for all your expenses and enable some financial freedom to enjoy life.
However, formulating your first budget, let alone implementing it, can feel very overwhelming to a lot of people.
Especially when they have no understanding of what to do. Many people struggle with common budgeting mistakes that cause a lot of unnecessary stress in their lives.
You can adopt some easy strategies that will make budgeting work for you. Here is a list of common budgeting mistakes and some strategies for how to avoid them.
1. The First Mistake is not to have a budget
Many people worry that a budget won’t work or that it will be hard to stick to and this can make them avoid budgeting altogether.
But if you are spending money, then you need to implement some simple budgeting strategies.
Without doing this, you are running the risk of losing control over your finances which could mean, at the worst, going into debt.
Or at least you will probably not be managing to save for important expenses.
To avoid this: get motivated and start making a list of your income and your expenses. You can even download handy apps to make budgeting simpler.
2. Leaving out important expenses
It might sound straightforward, but it is important to remember not to overlook all of your expenses.
It doesn’t matter how big or small they are but, if you overlook them, they can easily impact your budget and make it stressful to deal with other expenses.
For example, if you overlook an important expense and then spend more money on something unnecessary, then it could potentially throw you quickly into debt.
To avoid this: spend some quiet, focused time going over all your monthly expenses. Even the small ones like a takeaway coffee.
You would be surprised how quickly little expenses can build up. Remember, your budget is not set in stone, so you can always adjust it as you go.
Use a tracking system that works well for you. You could use software such as a spreadsheet or a handwritten journal. Remember to track your expenses regularly. Ideally, it should be daily.
3. Too much guesswork
It can take time and even some trial and error to figure out your monthly budget. Often when people are first trying to figure out all their expenses, they will guess some of it.
This can be damaging to your financial situation because you leave a lot of room for error. If you were to grossly underestimate some of your living expenses, then you could be paying for it, literally, for months to come.
To avoid this: do some preliminary research for your budget. Start tracking all of your spending for a month. This way you will be much more informed about where your money goes.
Many people do not realize how much they spend until they start documenting it. To avoid making some bad estimations and guesses, get familiar with your money flow. Look at your bank statements and make sure you start with your biggest and most important expenses first.
4. Using an entire paycheck for a large expense
Sometimes people make the mistake of using nearly all their paycheck for a large expense which can leave them feeling worried and uncertain about how they will pay for their other expenses during that pay cycle.
To avoid this: Start setting aside money from every paycheck in preparation for your larger, incoming expenses.
These could be loan repayments, car expenses, mortgage or rent payments as an example.
5. Forgetting to have an emergency fund
An emergency fund is a nest egg of money that you have set aside for any unforeseen expenses. These can include medical expenses, housing repairs and car expenses.
Ideally, you should have enough savings that can support you through 3-6 months of living expenses.
Once you withdraw from the emergency fund, the aim is to replace the funds. Having an emergency fund requires planning and budgeting.
If you do not build an emergency fund, you could find yourself in debt if you do not have the resources to pay for an unforeseen expense.
To avoid this: When formulating your budget, treat the emergency fund as a fixed expense.
Work out how much you can afford to set aside for your emergency fund and determine how long it will realistically take you to put the amount aside that you need. By doing this, you will be creating a financial safety net to fall back on, if ever the need should arise.
6. Forgetting to factor in fun
It might seem like a budget should only factor in important expenses and responsibilities such as bills and rent. But it’s important to allocate some of your budget on recreation, entertainment and fun.
If you don’t, then it is more likely that you will blow your budget because you are not realizing the importance of having money to spend on enjoyable activities.
To avoid this: Determine exactly how much you can afford to spend on fun in your life and incorporate that as an expense in your budget. If you are worried that you are unable to afford to have an expense for recreation, try starting small and slowly building up this part of your budget.
7. Failing to reassess your fixed monthly bills
If you have fixed utility bills such as phone and internet bills, it can be easy to fall into the trap of never reassessing if the plan you are on could be renegotiated to suit you and your budget better.
Needs can change and if you are paying too much for a service you no longer really need, then this can be unnecessarily keeping your expenses higher than they could be.
To avoid this: Regularly check your reoccurring bills to determine whether you are able to downgrade to a cheaper plan. Remember that your needs and expenses can often change, so don’t forget to look over all the expenses in your budget.
8. Not working with your partner
If you are a couple, then it is vital that you are on the same page when it comes to your budget. There are a lot of financial responsibilities when it comes to running a household. If one person makes spending decisions without first talking about it with their partner, it has the potential to blow the budget.
To avoid this: Make sure you and your partner regularly talk about your budget and make decisions together. Agree on a time and place that works for the both of you to talk. It is also advisable to set financial goals that you can both work on together.
Always be transparent about your spending, and sometimes be willing to compromise and make allowances. Open communication with your partner can ensure your budget is maintained, thus alleviating stress in your life.
9.Confusing wants with needs
Sometimes people mistakenly classify something that they want as an essential expense. An essential expense, or need, is anything that you are financially responsible for: rent, bills, mortgage repayments etc.
Travel and eating out are not generally classified as an essential expense, even if you feel that it is a very important part of your budget. The trouble with confusing your wants with your needs, is that it will increase your spending exponentially.
To avoid this: Pay attention to all the expenses in your budget. Ask yourself if there is any expense you can live without and be honest with yourself. This will simplify your budget down to your essentials.
Then you can determine how much money you can allocate per month for non-essential expenses. By doing this, you will have more control over how much you spend on the things you want.
10. Leaving no room for error
When first formulating their budget, many people make sure all their earnings are allocated to aexpense. This can be very exhausting and stressful because it doesn’t enable any breathing room within your budget.
It will also make it easier for you to blow your budget entirely, because you are setting unrealistic expectations for yourself.
To avoid this: It is highly recommended to set aside a specific amount of money every month that serves as a buffer. As a rule of thumb this should be anything between 5-10% of your monthly expense total.
It will give you some breathing room and, if you don’t need to use the money, you can put it towards your retirement fund, or you could make an extra repayment on a loan.
11. Expecting too much from yourself and your budget
It’s easy to want to meet all your financial goals as soon as possible, but it’s important to remember to be realistic about what you can achieve and how long the goal will take.
A common mistake is to want to achieve everything too quickly and then getting disappointed or feeling like a failure if it didn’t work out the way you expected.
To avoid this: Be honest with yourself and make sure you are setting financial goals that you can achieve in that month.
Always reassess your monthly budget. If you are finding that you are easily managing to meet your goals, then you can set some new financial goals. You want to avoid feeling the pressure associated with setting unrealistic expectations.
Setting achievable goals will make financial success far more likely, which will motivate you to stick to your budget.
12. Failure to update your budget
Even if you are meeting all your budget expectations, and your financial life is feeling well-managed, it’s still important to sit down and go over your budget with fresh eyes every so often.
Sometimes people can go for years and years without ever changing their budget because they adamantly believe it to be the best system for them. As we know, circumstances always change and so it still is important to go over your financials and see if there are any ways that you are missing out on maximizing your budget potential.
To avoid this: Set a reminder to review your budget every quarter, this way you can see if there are any changes that you may have overlooked.
Also, make a rule to review your budget if you experience any changes that will affect your budget. Even a solid, working budget needs to be thoroughly looked at and updated from time to time. Sometimes you will unexpectedly discover there are ways that you could be spending.
13. Not including your retirement fund in your budget
The final common mistake people make when it comes to their budget is forgetting how important it is to make a regular contribution towards your retirement fund. Because it isn’t an immediate need for many people, it can easily get overlooked when it comes to their budget.
To avoid this:Firstly, make sure that you have a thorough understanding of any employer-sponsored retirement plans that you might be entitled to, and make sure you are receiving your fair share.
You can also contribute to your own retirement fund yourself. The easiest way to do this is to have a personal retirement savings plan that you contribute to yourself. You can organize it so that a regular payment comes out of your bank account every month.
Armed with this information about common budgeting mistakes and how to avoid them, you can start to move forward with your budget. Remember to keep track of your expenses, reassess your financial goals regularly, and don’t set unrealistic financial expectations. A budget is not something that is set in stone. It should change just as your life changes. By being mindful, informed, and responsible you will be able to create healthy financial habits that will enable you the confidence and flexibility to enjoy your life.