About · Press · Contact · Write For Us · Top Personal Finance Blogs
Featured In:

8 Sneaky Budget Busters and How to Avoid Them

By Jacqueline Curtis

budgetAh, that fresh new budget smell. You know the one – it’s laced with the good intentions of making a commitment to spend better. You might print it out and stick it to your fridge, or simply vow that you’ll live by it faithfully from now on.

Of course, after the honeymoon period, there’s a slip-up. Not a big one, but something that makes the importance of your budget diminish just a little. Over time, it slips your mind more and more, until soon, that well-intentioned budget is completely forgotten because it was just too hard to stick to.

If that sounds familiar, join the club. Many people can devote themselves to a strict budget for a short amount of time, but sticking to it takes commitment and resolve. Most importantly, keep in mind that a budget doesn’t automatically mean restriction – it means having control over your money and spending it wisely, and realizing that little expenses can quickly add up.

Sneaky Budget Busters

By avoiding some pesky spoilers, your budget should be more accurate, which means feeling less restricted and more dedicated to your spending and saving plans. Here are expenses that can cause major financial damage:

1. App Purchases

Chances are, you’ve got a smartphone. If it keeps you company when waiting in the doctor’s office or acts as entertainment for the kids in the car, you’ve probably purchased more than your fair share of music and apps. But have you ever planned for app purchases in your budget? While it’s true that $1.99 here and $3.99 there doesn’t seem like a big deal, it all adds up.

Solution: Download free versions of apps, and turn off the “In-App Purchases” option on your phone, which can protect you from being charged when you upgrade to a new version of an app you’ve already bought. Or, if you’re really dying to make a purchase, add up your iTunes or Google Checkout emails for the month and include it in your budget to keep you on track.

2. School Fees

Between tuition, book orders, and supplies, school can continue to be a drain on your finances, even after back-to-school shopping is over. Since no one wants their kids to be left out of fun events and activities, chances are you’ll end up writing checks and sending cash more often than not.

Solution: Add a line in your budget for school fees. Of course, it’s a floating cost, since some months you’ll pay out more than others. Just assess the fees you pay in one month and use that as a gauge for future budgeting. If you don’t have the money, learn to say no to the PTA, or offer your services instead of your money.

3. Charitable Donations

Many people have already budgeted for annual donations made to their church, community, or favorite charity. But what about the charities you donate to at the cash register in the grocery store, or the money you flip into a charity bucket as you leave the mall? Those expenditures can add up. While you may feel guilty when a cashier asks, “Would you like to donate $5 to charity?” it’s okay to say no.

Solution: Decide how much you can afford to give to charities and stick to it. If you set your monthly budget at $10, you can say “yes” to a dollar here or a dollar there without spending over your limit.

donation jar

4. Flash Sales

If you’re one of the millions of people who get flash sale notifications from daily deal websites, you know the adrenaline rush that follows. A deep discount and limited quantities? It’s practically a recipe for whipping out your wallet and overspending on stuff you probably don’t need. Sure, flash sales and daily deals offer great discounts – but can you afford them?

Solution: Unsubscribe from your daily deal emails and only surf their flash sale sites when you’ve got fun money in the budget. Having emails sent to you daily is way too tempting.

5. Bank Fees

When was the last time you added a line for bank fees in your budget? Unfortunately, there’s a good chance you’ve never noticed them, since maintenance fees, overdraft fees, and annual fees are automatically deducted from your bank account without your consent. The result is checking your account balance and wondering where your perfectly budgeted money has gone.

Solution: Swap your current account for no-monthly-fee bank accounts, offered through banks and credit unions across the country.

6. Expired Perks

Whether it’s your cable company offering six months of “free” movie channels or your favorite magazine offering a trial subscription, failing to cancel these accounts after the promotion ends can cost big bucks. Many companies put your account on auto-pay, which means once your trial period is over, your account is instantly charged for the remainder of the contract or year.

Solution: It’s okay to take the perks – just be certain you know when they expire. Set a notification on your phone for the day the perks expire so you’ll remember to call and cancel. Or, if you don’t want the channels, see if you can negotiate for a credit on your account for a few months instead.

7. Movie Rentals and Streaming

Renting a movie is usually touted as a low-cost entertainment option. Although it saves you from paying for expensive movie theater tickets and concessions, failing to return a movie can totally derail your budget. A $1-per-day rental is only a good deal if you return it after one or two days – keeping it for a couple of weeks can really add up. The same goes for streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Netflix which require you to pay a small fee for new releases. A couple bucks each weekend shouldn’t go unaccounted for, even though it may seem small.

Solution: Always return your videos on time. You can set a reminder on your phone if you typically forget. Even better, go for cheaper – or free – streaming options.

coffee

8. Coffee Breaks

Can’t live without your cup of Joe? The occasional treat of a boutique coffee may be costing you more than you think. A $2 cup of coffee every weekday can cost you up to $520 per year. Plus, once you head into the café, you’re often hit with the smell of pastries and other money-sapping goodies. Before you know it, you’re buying a danish and splurging for an extra shot of caramel in your drink – not great for your wallet or your waistline.

Solution: While budgeting for your coffee breaks can help you control them better, so can staying out of the coffee shop altogether. Bring your own coffee from home, or head to a fast food place for the same type of coffee on the cheap.

Final Word

You can’t predict every little thing that happens throughout the month, but you can prep yourself and your budget for the contingencies. Knowing where you tend to slip up and spend extra money means you can give your budget a little extra padding or plan ahead to avoid those busters that throw you off course.

What budget busters do you struggle with? How do you avoid them?

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis is an experienced style expert, and she focuses on getting high fashion on a tight budget. She writes for several online publications, including her own fashion blog, How Not to Dress Like a Mom, and specializes in fashion, finance, health and fitness, and parenting. Jae grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Utah with her husband, two kids, and prized shoe collection.

Related Articles

  • William_Drop_Dead_Money

    Good warnings – thank you! My wife and I have found another one: unplanned trips. Living in a city, we never used to think before jumping in the car and “running an errand.” Since we’ve started making it a rule to not go anywhere unless we can make 3 stops, we’ve saved at least $10 a month on gas (and that is conservative). it’s amazing how you can cut down on trips just by being intentional about it.

  • BillGuard Blog

    I think “flash sales” are one of the most common types of budget-buster. It triggers our impulse to snag something because it’s a great deal, and only available for a limited time. It easily lends itself to impulse shopping. Unsubscribing from daily deal websites is a great way to resist the temptation that comes from seeing a flash sale pop up in your inbox.

  • http://mydebtucation.blogspot.com/ Mario

    I have yet to buy an app for any smartphone. I don’t even register a credit card with the app store so that I’m not tempted

  • Weimom

    I tried really hard with the coffee addiction but even after “borrowing” my dad’s Keurig machine, I’ve found myself spending about the same amount of money on coffee with the machine as I do for a nice and good tasting cup of coffee at Starbucks. I’ve decided to bring my own mug (save $0.10) and use their gift-card subscriber acct which gives me free refill benefits as well as freebie coffees instead. The machine coffee just doesn’t taste the same which I believe is a factor of machine and brewing temperature. I tried the coffee pot too (another failed attempt).

The content on Money Crashers is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional financial advice. Should you need such advice, consult a licensed financial or tax advisor. References to products, offers, and rates from third party sites often change. While we do our best to keep these updated, numbers stated on this site may differ from actual numbers.
Advertising Disclosure: We may have financial relationships with some of the companies mentioned on this website. Among other things, we may receive free products, services, and/or monetary compensation in exchange for featured placement of sponsored products or services. We strive to write accurate and genuine reviews and articles, and all views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors.
Links monetized by VigLink
Close