Top Budget Busters to Watch Out For
Budgeting is a drag. This is a fact of life. Another fact of life: Budgeting is totally necessary.
Budgeting isn’t fun not only because it means you can’t buy everything in sight, but also because it means you have to spend time looking over your past purchases (which almost always feels like re-reading your fifteen-year-old diary).
But, you’re a responsible adult, and you did it. You set aside a couple (gasp) Saturdays in front of your computer cooking the books and you’ve come up with a plan that allows you to maintain your lifestyle, improve your finances, and keep abreast of your essential payments.
Sometimes, however, you can get busted. Much like any diet, (and a budget is basically a money diet) cheat days can get out of control and the numbers can get way off base.
Check out these common budget busters and how to avoid them. Then you’ll likely have enough money left for those cheat days (because you included them in your budget).
We’re not sure what year you’re living in (is it 2004?) but cable TV is on its way out. While useful for certain sporting matches, playing random episodes of 90s sitcoms (seriously, Netflix, we’re still waiting for the shuffle option), and watching late night infomercials, cutting the cord can save anywhere between $20 to $100 or more each month.
If you’re not already adept with streaming services, this could be an interesting transition but one that can be worth it for saving not only money but time (so many less commercials). Experts recommend finding which streaming services work for you. Sports fans can try ESPN+, while fans of contemporary network and cable TV can opt into Hulu or Amazon Prime.
These services conveniently often release new shows the day after they air on live TV. If you’re looking for original content, Hulu, Amazon, and the mother of all streaming services, Netflix, are probably your best options.
By choosing only what you need, you can save boatloads on a service that provides for modern customers rather than paying for the overhead of a soon-to-be-outdated business model. Just make sure you only subscribe to what streaming services you need, and don’t be lured in by excessive premium packages if you’re not sure you’d actually use them.
By no means is the subscription model perfect. You may pay for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, YouTube TV, and the list goes on. And that’s just your television service.
Other monthly subscription programs like clothing boxes, weekly food services, newspapers and magazines, gym memberships and cloud storage, (just to name a few), can really add up.
Let’s not even talk about all those ‘free’ trials you forgot about and have been getting billed for (hello credit checks, we see you!).
Apps like Subscript.me can help to monitor your spending on subscriptions and make sure that you’re not spending more than you need to—or more than you know about.
Aside from all those app subscriptions that you’ll be tempted to buy, smartphones are a guilty party in the era of FOMO. Having the newest, shiniest, fastest, biggest, or smallest smartphone is about more than just practicality—it’s a status symbol.
While it may seem cool, or even necessary, to update to the newest release, it often is an expenditure that could be skipped. Replacing your battery or screen are easy fixes to phone problems, and buying refurbished phones is always an option.
Reputable sites like Groupon or finding hand-me-downs through friends and family are great ways to maintain a working device without spending more than a month’s rent on something you’ll, in all likelihood, drop twice before one month is up.
We get it. Maybe you live in a big city where eating out is not only a basic need but also a social and cultural endeavor. Maybe you work 10 hour days and the last thing you want to do is think about what to make for dinner. Or maybe you just really hate doing the dishes and you’re still not entirely sure how to clean a cast iron pan without using soap.
The downside to all this dining is obviously a strain on your budget. In order to save without totally cutting yourself off cold turkey, it’s good to consider why it is that you are eating out.
Are you a social diner? Try to organize a potluck with your friends.
Are you a lazy diner (no judgement here)? Try doing some meal prep so that when you get home after a long day, all you have to do is throw some pre-chopped ingredients in a pan. Having a freezer-ready back-up plan is totally an option as well.
Hate the dishes? One-pot meals are incredibly common and easy. Fun fact about cast iron pans: They’re actually super easy to clean with just warm water — yep, that means you’re also saving on soap!
Note: We would be remiss if we didn’t mention going out for coffee. Afterall, coffee is what’s keeping millennials out of home ownership…right? But in all seriousness, morning and midday coffee are a common case of small costs that can grow almost insurmountable when done daily. By making coffee at home (or waiting until you make it to the office), you may be saving up to or beyond a whopping $2300 per year .
In this world of rocks and hard places, of course groceries land on this list alongside eating out. But never fear: Most budget-busting elements of grocery shopping seem to stem from improper planning and excessive spontaneity in the aisles.
Things to avoid can be extreme bulk purchases that you and your family (or roommates) can’t keep up with. An entire pallet of canned beans will keep forever but an entire box of cereal? Not so much.
Home goods like laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo, and paper towels are great contenders for bulk buying so long as you have the space to hold them. Don’t forget to double check your fridge and pantry before you go out so you don’t double stock on items you already have.
Especially tricky can be shopping for produce for one. While there’s no perfect solution here, meal planning will be your friend. To avoid waste, keep your produce list to a minimum and try to use each item in, more or less, everything you make that week.
Another pesky budget-busting grocery problem is the impulse buy. This could mean candy, cookies, chips, or bread (mmmm, baguette), often because you’re too hungry to think clearly and even the frozen peas are making you salivate. By having a quick snack at home before heading to the store, may save you a boatload on these spontaneous buys that can add up fast.
We all have our bad habits when it comes to shopping. Maybe you do it too often or maybe you’re more spendy than you can afford.It can really help you to save some dollars if you find ways to cut back on this (often) unnecessary over-spending.
Buying clothes at thrift and vintage stores is a great way to update your wardrobe without completely breaking the bank (not to mention the environment).
Another buster in the shopping department are flash sales. These sales can hit you unsuspectingly as you scroll your newsfeed, read your email, or walk down the street.
The only way to save yourself from this adrenaline rush and perceived value (Sales 101) is this maxim: Just Say No. This often includes unsubscribing from store email lists that are repeat offenders with “biggest sale of the year” subject lines (that tend to come more than once a year).
Cash only? That’ll be a $2 fee. Taking money out in Europe? That will probably run you about 1 – 3% of the transaction amount. These things add up and they add up really fast. A great way to fight the cost of convenience is to find a financial institution that offers no fees. SoFi Money® has zero account fees and will reimburse all ATM fees worldwide. We work hard to give you high interest and charge zero account fees. With that in mind, our interest rate and fee structure is subject to change at any time. See our terms and conditions.
This one is the one that hurts the most when it comes down to the wire. It’s never something fun and, often, it’s not something cheap. This includes dental problems, doctors bills, car accidents, home flooding or fires, and so on.
The only way to prevent this is… well, you can’t. The best thing you can do is set up an account to prepare for the unexpected. SoFi Money is a great place to hold on to these savings for the metaphoric rainy day.
Budget Busted No More
SoFi Money offers a great way to stay on top of your spending with options to save for emergencies, avoid excessive fees, and it also offers a great home base for your budget planning without feeling too much like homework.
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