6 Mundane Monthly Purchases That Always Cause You to Go Over Budget
You might be forgetting some expenses in your budget—those random, miscellaneous purchases you probably don’t even think about. Those little items, which don’t seem like much in the moment, can add up over the months and throw off your planning. We’re not going to tell you to cut them out. Instead, make room for these items in your budget.
1. Drugstore Trips
We’ve all been there: You squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste or use the last Q-tip in your house. So you run to the drugstore to pick up just the essentials until you remember you probably need makeup remover wipes and some more Advil. Before you know it, your $10 shopping trip turns into $100. Since these purchases are inevitable, try creating a “drugstore” bucket in your budget, adding a small amount from each paycheck.
Everyone needs a little TLC: Maybe yours looks like a trip to Sephora for your favorite blush and foundation, or an hour browsing the bookstore (and some purchases on the way out). Or maybe it’s your monthly mani-pedi, massage, or hair trim. Whatever it is, don’t worry, because self-care is good for you and necessary. You just need to budget for it. Take a peek at last year’s receipts or bank statements to figure out how much you should allocate each month.
3. Medical Bills
Besides monthly medications (make sure those are in your budget!), doctor copays, and unexpected prescriptions can have a major impact on your monthly spending plan. You want to be prepared for random medical costs—if you have pets, think about surprise vet trips as well—so consider budgeting a small amount each month into a separate checking account so you’ll be ready for that copay or prescription. That way the expense won’t come out of your budget all at once.
4. Subscriptions and Memberships
Chances are, you’re subscribed to at least a few services that automatically withdraw money from your bank account each month. Think magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, music services like Spotify, website hosting fees, credit monitoring services, and extra cloud storage space.
Figure out what you’re being charged for and add these fees to your spending plan instead of watching the money go poof. While you’re at it, take stock of what you’re actually using and cancel whatever you don’t use often enough to justify charges. Try using an app like Trim, which connects your credit card to find all your subscriptions and recurring charges, and then sends you texts to tell you how much you’re paying. The app even cancels services for you if you want.
5. Miscellaneous Travel
If you don’t already have a general travel bucket budgeted, you should start. Last-minute flights for events like funerals and weddings are much less stressful when you know you have the cash set aside for them, and taking vacations becomes a breeze when the money comes out of a pre-allocated fund.
Make sure you’ve included the extra costs that add up on trips, like airline luggage fees, car services to and from airports, (overpriced) snacks, hotels for unexpected weather delays (which airlines don’t have to cover), and more. Road trippers, take into account gas, snacks, and meals, car maintenance for emergencies, and services like AAA.
6. Clothing and Shoe Care
While you probably designate money for clothes and shoes in your budget, you may be forgetting expenses beyond that first purchase. Add in alteration costs, the cost of waterproofing your shoes for winter, and trips to the cobbler to resole your shoes. And don’t forget to budget for dry cleaning.
7. Spending on the People in Your Life
Make a list of everyone you'll be grabbing birthday gifts for and calculate your total gift allotment for the year. (Then tack on some extra for an unexpected baby shower or wedding registry.) Divide by 12 and start contributing that amount to a gift fund each month—and make sure that amount is accounted for in your budget. Boom: No more scrambling when you get that invitation to your co-worker’s daughter’s bat mitzvah.
Finally, you can almost guarantee that friends and family will pop in for visits over the year. Set aside money to cover expenses for extra nights eating out (or buying more groceries), visiting tourist attractions, and so on. Even though you’re not taking the trip yourself, you'll be glad you have a buffer when you need to be a tourist in your own city.
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