by Matthew Perry
(last updated February 21, 2009)
A working budget assigns enough money to each of your categories that your stomach is satisfied, your car still runs, your house payment is made, and maybe your nest egg grows a little. Unfortunately, you may end up at the end of a month with your budget completely shot to pieces. You just couldn't resist that two-for-one special, and then the car broke down and your aunt Mildred came to visit. It happens; learn from it. A busted budget may be a disturbing blow to your confidence, but hopefully you won't let it stop your budgeting experience.
Self-discipline can help with one part of the over-spending equation. When the summer gets hot, cool treats become extra tempting. Although they appear insidiously inexpensive, ice cream and slushies add up after a time or two, so that by the end of the month you've spent far more than you'd anticipated. The same principle works with lattes, donuts, and fast food.
To keep this from happening, try to anticipate your cravings and take control of them. Instead of buying a snack whenever you want one, try setting a goal, such as not buying any snacks for a week, with your favorite snack as a reward at the end. It's much easier to be strong if you're rationing your fun rather starving yourself for it.
To make your budget work for you, you need to plan as well as possible. Do all that you can to keep from being taken by surprise. Remember any upcoming special events well beforehand, as well as other irregular expenses like magazine subscriptions, and plan for them in your budget. Some expenses (like your car dying) usually can't be predicted with exactness, so you may want to set aside a certain amount of money in your budget for unforeseen expenses.
The beginning of your budgeting experience will probably be the most turbulent because you will not have had time to build up this emergency fund, but keep it up. Unforeseen expenses are not the same as unacceptable expenses, and they can be recovered from.
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