My budget got off track in June. There’s absolutely no denying that. When I looked at the numbers at the end of the month, I saw unexpected expenses had crept in. And on top of that – I’d spent more than I planned on eating out with friends and getting coffee. Years ago, this overspending, especially in the coffee and eating out categories would have sent me into a spiral of self-doubt and left me feeling defeated. But now…I’m not even worried about it. It may sound crazy, but it’s true. It caused me to pause and consider what July needed to look like, and I’ll admit that I got a little bit anxious for a few minutes. But then I got to work.
You see, budgets aren’t fixed like people often think. They are fluid. And mistakes are going to happen. We’re only human after all. And the mistakes need to be considered. But what matters more is what we do next. Once we’ve gone over budget it can seem easiest to just give up. But what if I told you, it was easier to reset and keep moving forward? It is! This is because you’ve already created a foundation. You won’t be starting at zero this time. Ready to get back on track? First, take a deep breath…it’s time to start again. Now, let’s talk about resetting your budget when you get off track.
One of the first steps to resetting your budget when you get off track is to acknowledge what happened. I’m not suggesting you beat yourself up about it. That will be counterproductive. Instead, as you are reviewing your numbers at the end of the month, if you notice you got off track, just acknowledge it. Our tendency is to hide the fact that we stumbled or to ignore it. But this doesn’t help you grow. And it certainly doesn’t help you get yourself back on track. When you claim the fact that you got off track, you also claim the power to do better going forward. After all, budgeting isn’t a set it and forget it process. It is fluid and you need to stay in control and shift your targets as life changes.
Once you’ve acknowledged what happened, the next step to resetting your budget when you get off track is to find out why. To do this, you’ll want to become an archeologist and do a little digging. This means sitting down with the numbers to discover where you got off track. Did you overspend while out shopping with friends? Were there birthdays or holidays you didn’t factor in? Or was it something else? Sometimes overspending is tied to emotion. If you are going through a difficult time at work or personally, shopping can offer a distraction. Your brain also a hit of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, when you make a purchase. This can lead to overspending.
It’s important to understand where the money went. But it’s equally important to find your personal triggers that led to overspending. This can help you make different choices in the future.
After you’ve done some digging and know where the extra money went and why, it’s time to consider adjustments to your budget. This is particularly helpful if the conditions that led to overspending haven’t changed. For our family, one area of spending that goes up when we are busy or stressed is eating out. If when I look back at a previous month, I see an increase in eating out spending, it could be an indication that we are stressed. If the stressor is still present in the next month, I might shift some of our grocery budget to eating out. We are cooking less at home if we eat out more. So, this shift frees up money to eat out while minimizing food waste. This helps us stay on track with our budget while giving us the flexibility we need.
It’s important when adjusting help with resetting your budget when you get off track to remember things still must balance. You can’t increase spending in one area without changing anything else. If you increase your shopping budget, what can you decrease? Adjusting doesn’t change the goal of budgeting. You still want to spend less than you make. But, understanding that budgets are flexible, and you can adjust can help you stay on track. When you think of your budget as being set in stone, it’s not accounting for life. Life happens, and your budget needs to take that into account. If it doesn’t, and you constantly go over budget, you’re likely to give up. So instead, once you’ve gotten off track, sit down and think through why and adjust where necessary.
So often, people are reactive when it comes to money. Things happen, expenses come up, and people react. When you’re resetting your budget when you get off track, it helps to become more proactive with your money. Yes – emergencies happen and can’t be planned for. But often expenses that “take you by surprise” aren’t surprises at all. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, school field trips, you know about them in advance. You just must look ahead. Each month, as you review the previous month’s spending, also look ahead. What irregular expenses are coming up? Looking ahead to find these expenses can help you prepare. You can shift money from one category that doesn’t have expenses coming up to one that does. Taking the time to look ahead can help you reset your budget successfully. You’ll also feel more in control of your money when you aren’t just reacting but are planning.
Finally, when you are resetting your budget when you get off track, give yourself grace. You aren’t a failure. You aren’t bad with money. You’re human. And that means sometimes you will stumble. I’ve been obsessively budgeting my money for over twenty years…and some months are better than others. The thing about budgets is they are targets for what you want to do with your money. And the thing about targets is sometimes you miss. But if you dust yourself off and work to do better next time, you’ll reach your goals. As long as you are willing to learn from getting off track, the process is still working. Be patient with yourself. Trust the process, and yourself. And remember, each month is a new start!
Any time you fall short of a goal, it can be tempting to give up. Budgeting is no different. But remember, you aren’t where you started anymore. Missteps are part of the journey. But, resetting your budget when you get off track is possible. Start by acknowledging the issue. Then dig deep to try to understand it. Remember budgets aren’t fixed, adjust where necessary and start looking ahead to see what’s next. And give yourself grace. You’re learning and improving. It will get easier over time. Take a deep breath and start again.
Want to learn more about the Do’s and Don’ts of budgeting? Check out my blog post 3 Common Mistakes People Make When They Start to Budget.
If you are looking for some help resetting your budget when you get off track, financial coaching might be the answer. Set up a free 30-minute clarity call here.