One of the most discouraging things that can happen to your budget is when you run into a bump in the road. You’re moving along and making great progress on your finances when something unexpected pops up.
This is why a rainy day fund is so important. It protects you from those big events that can knock a family back into debt. However, emergencies aren’t the most common setback in our budget.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “death by paper cuts?”
It’s the small items that we forget about that can knock us back a step and delay any forward progress we were making. While these items aren’t financially devastating, they’re definitely annoying and can easily be avoided.
Birthdays aren’t annoying if you’re ready for them. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been in the middle of a month and realized we didn’t budget for a friend or family member’s birthday gift. While it doesn’t break the bank, it forces us to go back and revise our budget for the month.
Recently my wife figured out a solution to this problem. She took a 12-month calendar and filled wrote in everyone's birthday. While it took her some time up front, it saves us a ton of time in the long run. Now when we budget she brings the calendar to the table and we are able to see what people we need to consider for the month. If for some reason we still forgot someone, we can add him or her to the calendar and make sure it doesn’t happen again next year.
2. HOA Dues
If your neighborhood has a Homeowner’s Association, then the dues may throw your budget off track. HOA’s maintain your amenities, streets, and overall appearance of your neighborhood. Residents of that community are charged dues in order to fund these actions. Most HOAs collect dues either annually or quarterly and it’s easy to forget it’s coming.
Most of the time you will receive a notice in the mail that dues are coming. However, it’s important not to count on this. If for some reason your notice gets lost in the mail, or your email files it as SPAM, you can be hit with hefty late fees.
A lot of HOAs allow you to sign up for auto draft for your payments. Whenever it’s time to pay your dues, they will automatically draw that money from your bank account. While this helps ensure that you never make a late payment, it’s not going to keep your budget completely safe. You still have to remember that the money is going to be withdrawn.
3. Subscriptions and Memberships
Whether it’s magazines or gym memberships, watch out for any of these irregular payments that may sneak up on you. At our house we have a pest control service that comes and treats our yard every quarter. That means every 3 months the payment is automatically taken out of our account. If we’re not careful, we may not be ready for it.
The ones you really have to watch out for are the free or discounted promotions. You know the ones I’m talking about. “Sign up today and get 3 months of HBO free!” Then, after 3 months is over, you’re automatically billed each month for the premium channels.
It’s definitely ok to take advantage of these promotions; just be careful. They offer this because they know most people will either forget to cancel or become attached to the service and keep it. I recommend setting an alarm in your phone for a few days before the promotion ends. Once it goes off, call the provider to either cancel or renegotiate the rate. A lot of times they’ll extend your promotion just to keep you on board.
4. Vet visits
If you’re a pet owner, you know that your pet is just another family member. In our house, our dogs are considered our children. They get more of the bed than I do (and they’re dachshunds).
Part of being a pet owner is taking them to see the vet. Be careful that those annual pet check-ups don’t catch you off guard. We get the post card in the mail every year and are always shocked that a year has passed. The vaccinations and office visit can add up fast.
If you’re only going for shots, check your local paper for pet vaccination clinics. These are typically held on weekends at a school or in a local store’s parking lot. Vets will simply give your pets vaccines for a low cost. Because they’re only administering vaccines, you are not charged for an office visit and can save a lot of money. If having a pet exam is important to you, then I go ahead and schedule an appointment with your vet. However, if all you’re looking for is updated rabies shots, vaccination clinics may be right up your alley.
If you’re blindsided by one of these common budget-busters, don’t sweat it. There’s nothing wrong with having a brief mid-month budget meeting to make some tweaks. Simply find another area that you can pull the funds from to cover any budget oversights. Maybe this means you drop your entertainment funds down slightly, or put a little less into savings this month. Don’t just spend the money without making the numbers in your budget work. As long as you find a way to fit it in, you’ll live to budget another day.
What other budget surprises can you think of? Share them in the comments box below!
Be sure to snag my budget busters cheat sheet to keep unexpected expenses from derailing your budget!
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