When it comes to keeping your finances on track, following a budget is absolutely critical. But if your budget doesn’t factor in all of your expenses, you may find yourself going over each month without knowing why.
Make sure your budget isn’t missing any of these often-overlooked categories to ensure you’re allocating your money properly:
1. Fun Money
You need to treat yourself every now and then to keep your budget from feeling suffocating—even if that “treat” is something as little as a magazine from the checkout aisle or a fancy latte from the corner coffee shop.
Allot yourself a certain amount of “fun money” each month that you can spend however you please, and you’ll find it easier to stick to your budget in other categories.
2. Eating Out / Entertainment
Along the same lines, you should also allow yourself some money for things like eating out, seeing a movie or grabbing a few drinks with friends. When you budget for these things, you’re able to splurge (within reason) without the guilt.
If you’re not a big shopper, you may be able to leave this line off your budget altogether, but most of us do at least a little clothes shopping, even if it’s just a wardrobe refresh in the spring and fall or a new pair of boots for the winter.
Whatever your spending on clothes (and shoes, accessories and handbags), make sure to include it in your budget. You can give yourself a certain amount each month or put a little aside each month towards your annual purchases.
4. Subscriptions / Memberships
It’s easy to remember monthly expenses like utilities, but things like magazine subscriptions and gym memberships are often overlooked.
If it’s something that will come of out of your wallet, you need to budget for it.
To budget for annual subscriptions, divide your cost by 12 and set aside that much each month to build enough for when they’re up for renewal. These budget worksheets can guide you through this.
5. Non-Monthly Bills
Don’t forget bills that are regular but not monthly. Utilize the same “divide by 12” method to set aside money for your annual payments (like property taxes) and quarterly payments (like your water bill).
6. Gifts/Special Occasions
Birthdays, holidays and anniversaries will crop up every year, so it’s easy to budget for those. Add up all of your annual special occasions and divide them by 12. Factor in not only the cost of presents, but any additional expenses like taking someone out for a nice meal or hosting a party.
Other occasions, like weddings, should also come with enough advanced notice you can work them into your budget for upcoming months.
7. Home Maintenance
Some home maintenance costs are predictable. You know you’ll be cleaning the carpets every spring and buying new flowers and mulch for your garden, so budget for these annual items.
For all the rest (like unforeseen repairs), allocate a certain amount each month to cover things as they arise. (If you’ve been a homeowner for any amount of time, you know that something inevitably will arise, so you may as well plan for it.)
8. Pet Care
Don’t forget your furry friends! Factor in everything from food to grooming to annual vet visits and vaccinations. If you like to spoil your pets, add in some extra for treats, toys and pampering.
You should budget for daily commuting costs (gas, parking, metro passes) as well as any annual travel like vacations or visiting family (which includes gasoline, food for the trip, hotel stays, etc.)
Last, but most certainly not least, be sure to include a line in your monthly budget for savings. Some people make sure they have enough for this each month by “paying themselves first,” or setting up automatic deductions from each paycheck to their savings account so they don’t find themselves “running out of money” before they can put any away.
Major savings to budget for: an emergency fund, goal-specific funds (like saving up for a vacation or your kids’ education), and long-term savings (i.e. retirement). Read more…