To simplify our budget, I track all our expenses on a computer program that allows me to categorize transactions and follow how and where we spend every penny. I take a look at our budget every month to keep an eye out for overspending, and at the end of the year I tally up exactly how much I spent in every budget category.
This week I sat down and looked at our expenses from last year. “This can’t be right!” I kept thinking to myself as I reviewed each budget category. We had gone over budget in several categories that didn’t include any large or planned purchases. And what’s worse, I didn’t notice these overages during my monthly budget reviews. Why did this happen, and how can I prevent this from happening again?
We went over budget in clothing, and I don’t consider myself to be much of a clothes shopper. I took a deeper look at every transaction from the year that involved purchasing clothes. I was shocked! $4 here, $6 there, $5 here…buying clearance clothing every once in a while for my daughter ended up costing way more than I had expected. And, what’s worse, most of the clothes my daughter never even wore!
Since we started an informal homeschool curriculum this year, I budgeted for things like art supplies, books, and educational toys. I don’t even remember what I bought, but I spent double what I had budgeted for the year, simply because the little purchases added up! $0.99 watercolors, a $5 book, an educational toy on clearance…it combined to take a huge bite out of my budget!
In the first few months of this current pregnancy I was very sick, and it prevented me from going shopping or even leaving the house too often. I never went to the store just “to check out the deals”. My husband would stop by the store with a detailed list, and wouldn’t browse the aisles like I tend to do. We have saved so much money the last few months from avoiding impromptu shopping trips. And, the funny thing? I haven’t even missed it!
By keeping in mind that every little purchase adds up, it makes it easier to “just say no” to the deals that you think you can’t live without. Yes, if there’s a sale on something I know I’ll use, we stock up, if there is a need for something we will purchase it, and that occasional trip to Target for an Icee does the body good, but the next time I walk into a store and try to justify buying something because “it’s only a few dollars”, I’ll remember how quickly a few dollars adds up, and I can think of many ways I’d rather spend our money.