I love my budget. Many people cringe at the mention of the word budget, but a budget defines parameters for spending for us so that we have plenty for everyday life, our future needs and sharing with others. I have been budgeting for the better part of seven years so I have grown quite skilled at estimating unexpected and different expenses at different times of the years leaving few financial surprises.
Having been a parent for almost eight years, I thought my budget for the summer was well prepared for expected expenses. It was not.
We spent more on groceries and almost triple on our eating out expenses than a normal non-summer month. Why did this happen? We ended up being on-the-go more than usual and many times last minute because our schedule was flexible. Although we ate out more, our grocery expenses were also higher than normal, and I would have expected the opposite. We had family that visited with special dietary needs, all three of our kids were home more to consume more food, and we bought some dry goods/snacks in preparation for a planned vacation.
The expenses did not result in debt. How did we do it? We had budgeted a significant amount of babysitter funds that we did not need covering other unexpected costs.
For those striving to budget for the summer this is how I handle surprise months to avoid debt:
*Make a note for next summer of possible unexpected expenses in your current budget system. If the expenses are expected to be more than your monthly income, funds must be saved in anticipation for the expense.
*Anticipate unexpected expenses as much as possible and leave funds unbudgeted to cover extra expenses.
*When possible, do not spend all money in every budget just because you allocated it there. If it is not needed, do not spend it. It can create margin for other areas of extra expense. We often need extra for our gas budget because it is often difficult to predict a spike in prices which could blow my budget. Some months our gas budget is less than planned due to lower market prices. An under budgeted category often helps balance out over expense in other areas.
*Look for free fun things to do in your community to avoid spending funds you do not have. Visit your local library or attend their free programs. Take a bike ride and visit your neighborhood pool if you are a member of one. We pay a mandated yearly fee so our pool is an expenses that is paid for in advance and a great source of entertainment for the kids that does not result in extra cost through the summer.
*Encourage kids to eat fresh foods when home to cut down on grocery costs. We have a rule that snacks in a wrapper may not be consumed at home. Individually wrapped foods are more expensive and are saved for when we are out and about only. It requires a little more planning on my part to have fresh snacks available, but it is often healthier and less expensive.
Writer Bio: Summer Bolte
I spend most of my time and days with my three kids, husband and dog. My kids frequently play near me as I garden, cook, DIY and volunteer. My most unusual paying job has to be feeding fruit flies in a research lab, and my most fulfilling job was being an oncology nurse for seven years.