I recently went back and looked at my family’s monthly budget, and boy was I surprised by how unrealistic some of my assumptions were. Like many homeowners and economists who thought that home prices would continue to increase, I was unrealistic in my own budget assumptions.
Originally, I had budgeted only $200 in grocery expenses for my family of four. After looking at old grocery store receipts, I found out that my family and I were actually spending more like $400 a month on food.
Looking at receipts for the past month or two have really opened my eyes to what we spend every month and where we can make changes to the budget to more accurately reflect our true spending. My wife and I recently bought our first home, and I am quickly seeing that I need a house maintenance budget line item for all the things on my ever growing to-do list. I was joking with the associate at Lowe’s the other day that I should just apply for a part-time job since I am there so much.
Looking at old receipts and truly studying where you spend your money can help you find spots in your budget where your money needlessly leaks out. Do you find yourself having more week left at the end of the money? Maybe you are more money than you allocated in your budget for things like eating out, going to the movies, etc. Looking at your budget written down where every single dollar is allocated for the month and looking at what you actually spent every penny for the last few months can help you find where you are making your mistakes or spending too much money.
Other areas of your budget where your spending assumptions may not be accurate are:
- Eating costs
- Gasoline (especially when gas prices fluctuate)
- Electric bills (consider using bill smoothing which makes your bills the same every month and leaves the guess work out of your bill)
- Car maintenance (Many people recommend setting aside $100 per car for repairs, etc.)
- House maintenance
What other bills have snuck up on you or have not always matched the assumptions that you made in your monthly budget?