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Budget. Like it or not, it has to be done. Things like mortgage, rent, utilities, council tax etc, are regular or fixed expenses. We know they’ll be coming out. We allocate a set amount of money to our weekly food shop, and our petrol costs. But what about those unexpected expenses, and those that we don’t think about that cause us to overspend? I’ve listed 13 reasons why we overspend below, which you should be including in your budget. Can you think of any more?
It comes around EVERY year, and yet so many of us still neglect to prepare for it, then end up in debt thanks to our plastic friends (Not your friends. They woo you with promises to enhance your life and make you feel amazing, then they turn on you and reveal their true selves in the form of debts that need paying back, with interest. And yet, we keep on letting them back into our lives!).
It’s time we decided what we want to spend on Christmas, and budget accordingly. If you allocate £50 per month from January, you’ll have £600 to spend on gifts and festivities by the end of the year. If you can’t afford £50 a month, then you need to reduce your proposed spend. Do you really need to be buying presents for everyone in your family? (you don’t). It will only end up sitting in a drawer and then given away, or worse, thrown away. Skip this step instead and throw your money in the bin now. I dare you.
We all deserve one, and we all need one. But, how many times have you paid for your holiday on your credit card, with the promise that you’ll pay it back over the following months? It’s time to start saving. If you can’t afford a holiday to the Med, it’s time to downgrade and look at some fun trips closer to home, like camping. It’s a lot of fun, and personally I’m one big advocate. I grew up with camping, although we had a caravan when I was a kid, and I can’t wait to own one one day (when I’ve paid off all of my debt!).
People have them! Friends, family, husbands, wives. But, do you budget for it? What about when your child comes home from school with yet another party invitation? That’s another expense that you won’t have thought of.
I’ve allocated £15 per month for birthdays, including cards, but it will need reviewing at some point. You don’t have to buy everyone a gift though. You could just buy them a card. Although if you really want to gift them something, give a homemade present such as jam or pickle. Alternatively, if you’re quite crafty, how about something really personal to them?
4. School trips.
The blasted things. There you were all organised for the month with your finances, and your child’s school pops an email over with an upcoming trip. In two weeks. That you need to find the money for. Have a little think about how many trips they’ve had over the course of the year, and the relevant cost, then add it all up and divide by 12 to give you a monthly budget for school trips. That way you (hopefully) shouldn’t be caught unawares.
5. Clothing and shoes.
Does anyone actually budget for clothes and shoes? I always forget, then realise that the kids need new shoes, or they’ve outgrown their trousers, tights and socks. So it’s a trip to Clarks (I don’t scrimp on good quality footwear, as I think it’s important for growing feet) and Primark. Which yet again, wasn’t included in the budget so is another unnecessary expense. I currently allocate £45 to clothes. It’s not a lot, but it sees the kids suitably clothed.
I rarely go to the hairdresser and wish I went more often, but I’ve been stuck in the mindset of not spending money on myself for so long, it’s hard to get out of it. Even so, an occasional trip to the hairdresser should be allowed for. Especially if you have fidgety children, who won’t sit still (I’ve tried to cut my kids’ hair myself, only for them to end up with a scare-cut). Switch to a mobile hairdresser if you can’t afford the salon. Their prices are much more affordable, and they’re often parents themselves who are trying to work around their own children.
7. Cleaning and laundry products.
I generally include these in my weekly food shop, but it’s worth thinking about what you spend a month on cleaning products, and allocating a set amount to this per month. Think washing powder, softener (or make your own), de-greaser, window cleaner, air-freshener, bleach, toilet cleaner, limescale remover etc. Some of these you may only buy once in a blue moon, and of course there are always the trusty household products kicking about to use for cleaning (distilled vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, soda crystals, lemon juice) which will save you money, too.
8. Pet food & toys.
You probably include pet food in your budget, but what about treats and toys? Dogs certainly need toys to keep them occupied. We can’t be with them all the time, and when they’re bored, lonely and frustrated, they eat things. Like your youngest’s leather Clark’s shoes she left lying around. Budget for toys and training treats, and even your pooch can have a steady supply to keep him or her going each week.
9. Days and nights out.
When I sat down the other week and looked at our spending, I was shocked to see how much we’d been spending on evenings out and drinks in. An evening out in a pub, if you’re drinking, is not cheap. Even the (very rare) night out I had at the cinema with my mum and sister turned out expensive. We used the Meerkat Movies promotion, but we also ate out at Wagamamas. When hubby and I eventually get some spare money in our budget, we’ll be allocating a set amount each month for social events. Of course, there are family day trips out that need to be accounted for, too. So if your budget allows it, allocate a certain amount per year to family days out and set that money aside accordingly each month. And ensure you look for the best deals when choosing a suitable day out.
10. Car maintenance/breakdown.
If there’s one lesson we all need to learn, it’s to not wait until we’re hit with a bill for new brake pads and discs or new tyres, but to budget for them accordingly. Breakdown cover is also usually paid for yearly, and if you’ve arranged to pay by direct debit, that might come out when you least expect it (I speak from experience) and you’ll find yourself short. Set up a separate account for car maintenance and breakdown cover, and have the payments taken from that account instead of your current account. Better yet, ensure you’re getting the best deal each year. This requires organisation and reminders though!
Do you have any software subscriptions? Remember that these often auto-renew, so be prepared. Of course, your antivirus software will need to be kept up to date, too. It’s another expense you’ve probably not thought about. Add it to your monthly budget, as it’s essential.
12. Other annual subscriptions.
Think about club memberships. We’ve got a Caravan and Camping Club membership, which is less than £40 a year, but it comes out once a year by Direct Debit. I’d forgotten about it, and something like that should be coming out of our ‘holiday’ account. Other things to consider are magazine subscriptions or any online subscriptions you might have.
13. Cash services.
If you employ a gardener, or a window cleaner, the chances are you pay them by cash, and don’t even think about it. Add it into your monthly budget, and you won’t find yourself telling the window cleaner you can’t afford to pay them this month. Or, better yet, cancel the contract and do it yourself.
I hope these have got you thinking about some of your own irregular expenses, I’d love to hear about any that you often forget about. The comments may help to jog other readers’ memories, too.
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