I’ve talked before about those little emergencies that can absolutely kill your monthly budget, causing you to dip into savings or go into further debt to take care of. Things such as broken appliances, car repairs, water leaks and Christmas seem to come out of nowhere to blow up your budget. My solution to this is to create savings buckets for items that you can reasonably expect to pay for at some point. It’s easy enough, you just put money away each month in a designated bucket, and when that event or “emergency” happens, you’ve already got money in place to take care of it.
What I’ve been running into more and more is what I like to call “budget creep.” Basically, I have a set budget for items such as food, household, etc…but what seems to happen is that we overspend in these areas, even though we’re on a sweet meal plan through eMeals, and haven’t been spending any more than normal on our monthly allocated amount. But I kept finding that we spent $50 or $100 more on food, and our Misc. category was ballooning. I put on my top hat and monocle, busted out the tobacco pipe and started to investigate this seemingly unsolvable mystery.
Enter: Seasonal Budgeting
One of the biggest reasons Michelle and I decided to purchase a home was to entertain and have some epic parties. What I did NOT do was put together a party budget in conjunction with our newfound love for hosting gatherings of human beings. DOH! What I found upon investigating these mysterious budget busting charges was that during the course of the year, our Misc. budget and food budget would increase during certain seasons. Just as the 4 season come and go (well, we have 1 season in the northwest, called rain) our budget ebbed and flowed during each season.
Winter (January – March)
During the winter, we are able to really lock things down and stick to our budget pretty well without any extras. We don’t really go all out for Valentine’s Day, and there are no other major holidays or gatherings in our household during Jan. – Mar. So we don’t need to add much for this season as our expenses were pretty static. Our gas and electric bills go up a bit, though, and we have those written into the budget on our master spreadsheet.
Spring (April – June)
During the spring, our household items budget increases because we’ve got a sweet backyard and a LOT of plants and grass surrounding our house. This means we’re buying fertilizer, plants, Justin Bieber garden gnomes, etc. We also are going to be gardening every year from now on, so we’ll be buying seeds as well for our vegetable garden.
Summer (July – September)
Summertime is really what it’s all about, isn’t it? You get 10 months straight of depressing clouds and then the sun decides to finally show up. People run out of their houses and scream shouts of joy while picking up the neighbor’s cat and kissing him on the face. It’s all about parties, relaxin’ by the sprinkler (we’re too broke for a pool) and Journey. Mostly Journey, blasting through our outdoor speakers … what was I saying? Oh yeah, budgeting stuffs.
In the summer, most of the discretionary spending categories increase. Food budget goes up by almost $100 per month, sometimes a little bit more. This is to accommodate for all the parties we throw, as well as buying bulk items for canning and freezing (we buy 1/4 each year). Our household items budgets is increased as well for outdoor landscaping projects. Since we get a TON of rain, we end of doing a bunch of the planting and landscaping in the summer months. Our gas budget increases a bit due to more travel. And though our water budget increases, our gas and electric drop to accommodate it and even saves us over on average utilities budget.
Fall (October – December)
The fall time starts out slowly, but then builds momentum as we hit the holidays. Mostly, our food budget is increased by about $150 per month to accommodate for parties and get-togethers. Plus, we buy a ton of butternut squash and Michelle makes the absolute best meal on the planet; Roasted butternut squash with red onions, goat cheese, and bacon on penne’ pasta. ~DROOLING~ . The other category that increases is our giving budget. ‘Tis the season for extra generosity
Budgets Are Fluid
I’ve mentioned in the past that I believe all budgets should be living documents. They are not written in stone (though, wouldn’t that be AWESOME? Just nail it above the inside of your front door for best results), and should be adjusted throughout the year. That’s why I recommend having a quick monthly budget sync before the beginning of each month, to discuss any changes that might be necessary. For us, we have all of our expenses for the YEAR on our master page of the budget, so we can easily adjust each month as we see fit. Those then flow over to each month’s tab and we can track our actual spending there. Here’s a quick teaser snapshot of the spreadsheet which will be releasing soon, as it’s been field tested a bit, and I’ve almost got it down. You can see the totals for each category adjust with the months and seasons, and makes planning 1,000,000,000 times easier!
Comments: Do you have a monthly budget? Does it always stay the same, or do you make adjustments each month? How do you make spending decisions? Also, is anyone else still in shock that the Seahawks did not win that game? I mean, C’MON!!! AGGGHHH!! Ok. I feel better now.