“I Blew My Budget” – Here’s How to Recover


When I first started trying to get my financial life in order, I knew that one of the first things I had to do was start budgeting. I wanted to pay off my debt fast, and I knew that in order to do that, I had to set a budget, and stick to it. While I'd always had a loose form of a budget while I was in University, I only really started to budget with actual categories after I graduated. I had an idea of what I could afford to spend in different areas of my life, and I started the month sure that this budgeting thing was going to be a huge success. Then I blew my budget and felt like an epic failure.

I went over budget in many, many different categories. Because I had misjudged my ability to control my spending and as a result, all of my impulse buys and lazy convenience purchases showed up as glaring red overages in my Mint.com account. I ended the month feeling terrible and dejected, something I wasn't used to feeling.

Here's What to Do When You Go Over Budget

But, instead of chucking the budget idea and writing the whole thing off as a bad experiment, I started the new month with new resolve, and made a few adjustments to improve my chances for success. Here is what to do when you go over budget:

Adjust Categories

Instead of ending up way over budget in some categories and under budget in others, I would adjust categories throughout the month, to make sure that I spent the same total amount in a month, but maybe more on groceries one month and less on gas, if need be. This way, if I had to go over budget for some reason on one category, I could just take funds from another category to even things out.

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Know How to Stop Spending 

Eventually, I became very good at putting the breaks on my spending halfway through the month. If I could see that I was going to go over budget on groceries if I continued at my current spending pace, I would put the breaks on, and force myself to use ingredients that I already had in my fridge/freezer/pantry, instead of buying more. The same goes for entertainment, personal spending, etc. If a budget overage is in my future, I have no problem declaring a spending ban for that category.

“I Blew My Budget” Is No Excuse for Using Credit 

One thing that I really, really try not to do and hate myself for doing, is going over budget with credit. Using a credit card to finance your budget overages pretty much guarantees that you don't have a way to pay off that balance.

This is never acceptable because carrying a small balance made up of budget overages is how major credit card debt gets started. What is only $100 one month becomes $200 the next month, and before you know it, you're several thousand dollars in debt!

Having a budget – and sticking to it – is a great way to help you achieve your financial goals. Budgeting frees up extra cash for debt repayment, savings, or whatever else you want to spend it on. There are lots of easy ways to stay within budget, and going over budget isn't the end of the world – unless you put it on credit!
Like this post? Share on PinterestHere is what to do for those moments when you think, "Crap. I blew my budget!" First, don't panic. Second, stop spending money. Seems easy, right? See the rest of the steps over on FBL!

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  • MJ @ The Flying Couponer
    August 14, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Credit cards are never a good option unless you have an emergency. I don’t have a budget but I don’t spend money that I don’t have. Great post!

  • Shelli
    August 13, 2013 at 4:29 am

    I agree that running a credit card balance is not an option! However, if I run over a budgeted amount in one area, I try to make up for it in another area — before the end of the month. Example: My husband and I aren’t big spenders for movies or eating out but I still budget a small amount for it every month. That “extra” $80 at the end of the month can be used for higher-than-expected utility bills.

  • Michelle
    August 13, 2013 at 2:46 am

    Budgeting is one of the most challenging and annoying skills you can learn. The thing that makes me crazy is that it is a constant state of adjustment. I think the key is to have a decent savings account (not er fund) but a decent buffer in the event that you run over budget.

    • Marissa @ Thirty Six Months
      August 13, 2013 at 3:39 am

      You’re absolutely correct, Michelle. Budgeting (or sticking to your budget/plan) is definitely a challenging thing to do especially that temptations are everywhere in this day and age. But I guess it really depends on the person. As the saying goes, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

    • Jordann @ My Alternate Life
      August 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      I totally agree Michelle, learning to budget is a key skill. I actually don’t keep any savings buffer, because I find the temptation to blow through that to be too much. Things might change once I’m out of debt though and have a little more disposable income.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF
    August 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I don’t worry too much about going over budget in individual categories unless it becomes a pattern and then I keep a closer eye to limit my spending or increase the limit. We offload much of our irregular spending to our targeted savings accounts, anyway, so the budgeted spending is fairly stable. I leave about $40 a month unbudgeted for overages. If we ever spend in total more money in a month than we had available, we dip into general savings to cover the difference. Nearly all months we have money left over at the end of the month, though, and that goes into savings to make up for the over-budget months. Carrying a balance on the credit cards is definitely not an option!

  • Adam @ Money Bulldog
    August 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I couldn’t agree more here, using credit to fund an overspend is never ever a good idea! You’ll just do it again and again and before you know it your card will be maxed out and you’ll be paying it off with another card.

    • Marissa @ Finance Triggers
      August 13, 2013 at 3:41 am

      I completely agree with you, Adam. Stay away from that because it will only worsen the financial situation you’re in.