Breaking News: when I don’t have a planned budget, my spending is all over the place.
I haven’t bought “stuff” – anything on my no-buy list – but the amount I’ve been spending on experiences and food needs to get back in check if I want to finish this year at a reasonable level of “on target” for my budget. My biggest issue, right now, is that I’m not taking the time to slow down and figure out the planning side of things, but instead going with the flow of whatever else is going on for the people I’m spending time with. This isn’t to cast blame on those that I’ve spent time with, it’s more of a “I’m already busy and didn’t know what the plans were until I got to my destination, so I didn’t have a limit in mind.” I’m treating this blog post as the outline for what I’m going to do to reflect and plan for the rest of the year. The key point I want to make is that this is what I’m trying, and it might not work for everyone else – I’m solely doing this as an accountability thing for myself.
I’m taking the time now to reflect on what I could have done differently so that I can reduce the likelihood of this happening again. The first, and most pressing element, is that I haven’t really taken the time to look over my spending since early August. Not knowing where I am makes it that much harder to know where I should be spending the money (and if I should be spending at all). For example, do I even have any “for fun” money left for the year? Should I re-calibrate to reflect that things are going back to normal and that $75 a month might not cut it? Or should I be more careful with the decisions I’m making regarding spending?
Next, I’m going to recognize that it’s okay that I didn’t predict (couldn’t predict!) what the rest of this year was going to look like back in January. I made the budget I had in light of what routines and behaviour patterns I already had, and I can make adjustments along the way – so long as the choices I’m making will not impede my greater goals (being able to fully fund my graduate and doctoral studies).
Next, I’m going to compare the numbers from projected and actual spending, and see if categories need to be broken down differently in the future. For example, in my first year of tracking my spending, I had one category called “shopping,” which included everything from gifts for others, supplies for work, clothing, and groceries/food. Those subcategories are all rather different – and need different amounts of money allotted to them – so I want to look over whether this sort of thing is happening again.
The goal is that, in the same way that I did a massive inventory of all my stuff at the beginning of the year, I want to know what I’m doing with my spending so that I can feel back in control of what I’m doing. With the awareness I already have, I want to go into November and December (two very full social calendar months) with a plan in place rather than all of my fun stuff being tinged with a sense of dread about how much it all will cost.
Fingers crossed the damage isn’t too bad – though I know it’ll be a bit before I have the results of combing over my budgeting and tracking from this year/quarter.