I overshot my budgeted spending allowance this week.
The damage is not severe (I am only a mere $20 over my spending limit) but I’ve decided to treat this seriously and ensure I stay more on track during the coming weeks. It may not seem like a big overage but I’m trying to pay off debt aggressively. The only thing I can do besides increase my income (which I have been doing) is to control my spending.
Step 1. I don’t get paid again until Friday, which means I won’t be paying myself my spending allowance until then. As of yesterday I began a strict no-spending week. This should actually be fairly simple. I have a full fridge and a full tank of gas, so barring an outlier event there’s nothing I need to buy this week. The no-spending week will end Friday (so I suppose it’s a no-spending business week, then). I’m at work all week so there’s less free time to slip up anyway.
My second step is to assess what went wrong, so I can avoid breaking my budget in the future. I’ve done what many of you suggested in comments on previous posts and started tracking my spending. In fact, I track in such great detail that it’s become a family joke. My mother was so offended by my writing down the $2 I spent buying her a coffee that I haven’t heard the end of stories about how “cheap” I’ve become. (It’s not about counting the squares of toilet paper I use, it’s just about knowing exactly where my actual money goes. That way I have some data to look at and see how specific decisions are affecting my macro situation.) I’m glad that I’ve stuck to my guns, because tracking my spending has highlighted some key behaviours to fix.
For the last week I’ve been working late and feeling under-the-weather. The result has been that I’ve cooked and cleaned less. In the morning I’ve been sleeping until the last possible millisecond. These factors have led me to hit up Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s on the way to and from work far too often. I felt okay about each of the purchases because I was never spending more than five bucks at a time. The fact that I had slack room in the overall budget lulled me into feeling OK about the fact that I had gone over my groceries/household limit (this is the category in which I record all food purchases). I bought gas and, after entering the number, I realized I was over my total budget for the pay period.
This is no justification for over-spending, of course. I’ve just realized that when I’m feeling sick or tired I get lazy, and when I’m lazy I spend. Since the 18th of January I spent $30 on coffee and fast food (I’m sure my heart and my waistline are suffering as much as my wallet), so I wouldn’t actually be over my spending limit if I had just stuck to eating the groceries I purchased in accordance with my budget.
Besides taking steps to rectify the problem (going $20 over my budget), I need to adopt some new behaviours to prevent recurrence of the same issue. On one of my days off every week, I will — from now on — cook two freezer-friendly meals. If I do this I won’t have to rely on preparing food before or after work, just in case I don’t have the time or motivation. Also, I will limit myself to $4 per week for coffee. This way I am not denying myself Timmies entirely, it’s just a lot more reasonable than blowing money on coffee at the rate of $520 a year. (Oh god I just used the latte factor.)
Now, what to do about the $20? Well, thankfully it seems I have over-budgeted the amount I need to pay fixed bills each month, so I have extra cash in the bank. There was no overdraft or credit card being misused here. I’m not going to let it slide, however. I knew there was a possibility of having some extra money left over every month, but the plan all along was to put any surplus toward debt. Therefore, on Friday, I will take $20 from my spending allowance and put it straight onto my Visa card.
Wish me luck on my no-spending week!