As surprising as it may seem – a lot of people out there don’t have a budget. If you’re someone that does – kudos to you! Sometimes despite our best intentions, our budgets just don’t quite work. If, try as you might, there never seems to be quite enough money left at the end of the month and you’re always running a bit short, you might have a leak! Take a look through our list of top 5 “budget leaks” to get back on track:
Paying for more than you need. Double-check your cell phone and cable packages: Are you actually using everything you’re paying for? Data charges and channel/satellite package costs can run quite high but if you’re not even close to using what you’re dishing out for contact your providers and see about making some revisions. It’s generally good to do this once a year or so, plans and offers change – make sure you’re getting good value!
Getting charged fee after fee…after fee. Do you frequently forget to grab cash at your branch and resort to the $3 per withdrawal ATMs? Make payments a few days after the deadline and wind up with late charges? Pay for bank account feature you never access? Those ‘convenience’ fees can accumulate to anything but convenience! Grab your bank statements and try to plan ahead for cash withdrawals, look into alternate bank account options and mark payment due dates in your calendar.
Accumulating little costs. OK, it’s unlikely that the occasional fancy coffee out will break your budget completely – but a few times a week is likely to siphon enough of your budget to be noticeable. Same with things like parking (downtown Vancouver anyone?), your favourite weekly guilty-pleasure magazine, regular Friday happy-hour cocktails, and anything else you can think of! You’re the boss of your budget and if you decide you want these things it’s fine – just make sure you actually budget for them.
Letting interest build up. You know this one friends: Using your credit card and not being able to pay the balance in full is going to cost you. Unfortunately it will continue to cost more and more if you’re only paying the minimum. Keep pesky interest charges off your back and don’t use your credit unless you know it’s to your advantage, and not to the bank’s. If you want extra incentive, check out the portion of your statement that shows just how long it would take to pay off your card making only those minimum payments.
Forgetting to plan for the unexpected. At some point in time, big or small, irregular expenses AND emergencies will occur – the best way to keep them from derailing your budget is to plan for them! Whether it’s an annual insurance premium, an inconvenient trip to the dentist or unwelcome vehicle repair, regularly set funds aside to deal with those eventualities. Allocating a small, consistent portion of your budget to an ‘unexpected’ fund can save you a huge headache later.
If it doesn’t seem like your budget is successful, always check for gaps and try again. No matter what your income and expenses look like, a sound budget can save huge hassle and provide great piece of mind.