One of the things about making a budget is that it often looks good on paper, but falls apart in practice. Sometimes it’s because you’ve set unrealistic amounts, such as saying you’ll only spend $100 on gas for the month, when you commute to work every day. Sometimes it’s because you just don’t realize what you actually spend because you spend it in little bits and pieces. Maybe you think you spend $100/week on food, but an extra few dollars here and there every few days can bump it up by another $100 or more.
I know that sometimes I forget to take things like bank service charges into consideration. This is a huge mistake because bank fees are often significant, especially if you get charged per ATM or Interac use. Other bank accounts don’t charge you a monthly fee if your account stays above a certain balance. Drop below the threshold amount and suddenly you get charged $10 or more per month.
Another miscellaneous category that I continually underestimate is gifts. (Ever wonder how I come up with topics? This morning I was informed that it was my sister-in-law’s birthday.) I don’t know why these things are always a shock. I know that people have birthdays every year and that Hanukkah comes around every winter, but I’m better prepared for the horrendous expense of Passover (easily another whole post in and of itself) than I am for birthdays. Even Hanukkah isn’t so bad, because I pick up little things throughout the year so I’m not buying 8 presents each for 4 little girls all at once in November or December.
Birthdays just seem to jump up and bite me. Part of the problem, of course, is that I had my children at inconvenient times (just kidding). One child is born just after Passover, another 6 weeks later (just about Shavuot). A third is born in the fall, after all the High Holy Days and Sukkot. The fourth is born just after Hanukkah. Then there’s my spouse, in-laws, etc. I’ve added it all up before and come to the conclusion that I should be putting away $100 every month towards gift giving. It just doesn’t happen because I don’t have an extra $100 that isn’t already committed elsewhere.
So, when another birthday rolls around, I pull money from somewhere else to buy the present, the card, the paper or gift bag. And then when the other thing comes up (like having to buy fuel oil) the money isn’t set aside so I put it on the credit card. Then I pay off the card with money from somewhere else. It’s just a giant game of musical chairs and eventually I always get caught short.
Another area I tend to underestimate is how much money the dog really costs. It’s not just $18.95 a month for a bag of his food. He goes through another $10 in treats at least. Plus there’s the annual physical, the lab tests, the rabies shot, tags, a new extendible leash every so often. Plus, did I mention that Dog is a poodle? Uh huh. Poodles have hair that needs to be cut like people hair. I take care of it some of the time although I’m not very good at it. But we also get him professionally groomed 3 or 4 times a year and he goes away for Passover every year. That’s a lot of money. But again, I don’t notice it because it’s not all at once or every month. Then I have a $200 vet bill and I choke.