Staying on Budget
Going over budget is never a good thing. Not only does it mean that you have to find the money somewhere else, it also means that you’ll experience a setback on your progress towards your current goals. There are two main reasons why people over spend: they didn't budget enough money to start with or they didn't anticipate certain expenses. If you've been diligently budgeting for a while, going over budget probably isn't a result of irresponsibility, it may just be poor planning.
Good budgeting requires attentiveness. As time progresses, certain parts of your budget will need to be increased, while others can be decreased. Take Alison and I, for example. We've had the same budgeted amount for food since very early in our marriage. Now that Benedict is eating all solid food, our grocery budget is starting to get tight. So, it's time for us to take a hard look at how much to increase our budget by. We also tend to run low on Household Goods money due to a number of small appliances that have needed to be replaced. A better technique would be for us to allocate above our normal monthly budget to cover those replacements.
If you're overspending in your budget, it most likely is in either your grocery or household goods categories. That's because most of us underestimate the amount that’s needed in both of those categories. Nutrition is important, so while we should be frugal, we can't starve ourselves because it typically leads us to eating out. When you see a trend of overspending in the same category month after month, it's time to accept reality, make a modest increase, and then move forward.
It can be helpful to have a prioritized list. For example, Alison and I categorize each household goods item as need versus want. We buy the needs immediately and the wants at the end of the month with the leftovers. A “need" would be soap, toothpaste, and other essentials while a “want" would be a replacement blender or other kitchen appliance. This approach ensures that we have enough for the essentials throughout the month.
It's important to not make unilateral changes. The monthly budget committee meeting is where all of the decisions should be made. It's too much of a burden for one spouse to have to be the keeper of all of the information. Work with your wife, make smart decisions, and fix the problem.
Overspending can be the result of irresponsibility, but its more likely that a family who budgets consistently simply has a planning issue. Ensure that your budget levels are appropriate for your family's situation and get back into the black.