Check you out! You’ve morphed your flabby budget into a zero-based budget of steel. Or did you? Somehow you forgot to include your car insurance premium, kids’ dental exams, and that new pair of shoes you need for work. Suddenly, your hunk of a budget isn’t looking so hot with all those unexpected monthly expenses.
Instead of stressing, make a plan! Create a simple, big-picture budget with some common (and easily forgotten), once-in-a-while expenses. Then, come back to this cheat sheet as you plan your monthly budget.
1. Oil Change
Whether you’re a die-hard nerd who changes the oil in your car precisely every 3,000 miles or a free spirit who thinks oil change stickers are more of a suggestion, you do have to change it eventually. So mark your budgeting calendar now. This is also a great time for a quick tire rotation and car inspection.
2. Car Insurance and Registration
A paid-in-full premium may mean an awesome policy discount, but it also means 11 blissful months without a bill—which makes it easy to let this slip through your budget. Try saving a little each month so you’re not flipping couch cushions when your annual bill comes due. And don’t forget to budget for those yearly car tags too!
3. HVAC Inspection
It’s better to clean and maintain your HVAC now than to try and get someone out for repairs after it’s already failed—especially in extreme temperatures. The spring or fall is an ideal time to work this into your budget.
4. Gardening Supplies
A well-manicured lawn and garden is a great way to spruce up your home and neighborhood, but not if it uproots your entire budget. Flowers always smell better when they’re paid for with cash.
5. Pest Control
Having your house chewed up by tiny bugs or covered with spiders usually decreases its value. Whether it’s once a quarter or once a year, call in the professionals or do a DIY job to get your home protected from termites and pests.
6. Child Care Fees and Extracurricular Activities
If you have a child in daycare, you’ll likely have to pay to reapply each year and hold their enrollment spot. If your kids are already in school, be aware of season-specific camps and workshops, along with the fees, uniforms and snacks that go with each. Don’t forget about field trips and school pictures!
7. Organization Dues
If you’re involved in a professional or civic organization, like Toastmasters International or Junior League, you know the benefits of being part of a passionate group of like-minded business leaders and volunteers. So, make sure you keep up the good work by keeping up with your dues.
Needing a haircut is a sneaky thing, isn’t it? One day your kid is having a great hair day and the next, you’re wondering where their eyes went. Here’s the thing: hair grows. You know you and your family members will need haircuts sometime. So why not put aside a little bit of money each month? That way when it’s time to tame the mane, you’re prepared.
9. Pet Care
All of a sudden, your furry friend won’t eat, drink or play. Looks like a trip to the vet is in the works. Annual exams and shots are easier to budget for since you know they’re coming, but what about those vet trips that happen out of the blue? You might want to create a line item in your budget for your pup or feline friend. This can save you when you have to take an unexpected trip to the vet—or even when you just run out of cat litter.
You always budget for your date nights, but never seem to remember to budget for that all-important babysitter. You know, that hero who comes over to entertain your children, keep them safe, and make sure they don’t burn down the house while you’re out with your spouse? Go ahead and budget in babysitting costs when you plan your date nights in the monthly budget. Or better yet, get a family member to watch the kids or swap babysitting nights with another couple for free!
11. Annual Checkups
No amount of laughing gas will ease the pain of an unbudgeted dental cleaning. This one can hit hard since it affects the whole family. Scheduling a single week or month for when you all go to the dentist or eye doctor makes it easier to remember and budget for.
12. Medicine and Vitamins
Catching a bug that knocks you out of commission is a real bummer—not to mention it throws your budget for a loop. You weren’t planning on getting sick, after all. And now you’re pharmacy-basket deep in cough syrup, vitamin C, fever reducer, and chicken noodle soup. File this one under one of the most annoying, unaccounted for monthly expenses.
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So, what’s a bedridden budgeter like you supposed to do? This is where your “miscellaneous” budget category comes in. Keeping a miscellaneous line in your budget can save you time and time again! Just remember not to shrug off impulse buys as a “miscellaneous” expense.
Surprise parties are fun, but not when it’s, “Surprise! Another niece needs a cash-filled belated birthday card.” Mark your big-picture budget with approaching holidays, birthdays, weddings, baby showers, and all other special occasions. Then go ahead and squeeze a monthly gift line into your budget. That way, you’ll know how much you can spend and when to spend it.
14. Seasonal Clothing
It’s sad but true: buying seasonal clothes can really sneak up on us. Which is kind of ridiculous since we all have calendars at our fingertips these days. Kids grow, fabric fades, and seams rip. You know winter is coming, so it really shouldn’t surprise you if you suddenly need a jacket.
It’s everybody’s least favorite thing! (Well, unless you’re a tax preparer.) If you’re a business owner, freelancer, or working a side hustle, don’t let taxes sneak up on you. It might be a good idea to set aside a little bit of money each month for your taxes. Use a tax pro and skip the stress when it comes to figuring out your taxes.
16. Subscriptions and Memberships
If you’re an avid reader, movie watcher, online shopper, or subscription box user, this is one fee you’ll gladly pay. Luckily, subscription companies are great about sending a ton of not-so-gentle renewal reminders. But instead of waiting for your favorite subscription to stop coming, work it into your big-picture budget today. That applies to things like your gym, Costco, and Amazon Prime memberships as well.
How to Build Forgotten Monthly Expenses Into Your Budget
First, remember to give yourself some grace. You’ll forget to include some of your monthly expenses in your budget—especially when you’re first learning how to make a budget! Next, sit down and make a list of your commonly overlooked expenses. Then, think about how much that expense usually costs you. Now it’s time to decide which of these categories it falls in:
Create a Budget Line Item
If it’s an expense that keeps coming up and falls into one of your budget categories already, then you might just need to beef up that category a bit. Or, you might need to add a new line item in the budget for it altogether—like pet care, babysitter, etc.
Use the Envelope System
With the envelope system, you use cash for different categories of your budget, and you keep that cash tucked away in envelopes. You can see exactly how much money you have left in a budget category just by taking a quick peek in your envelope.
Start a Sinking Fund
With a sinking fund, you save a small amount each month for a certain amount of time before you make your purchase. You determine how much you save by taking the total amount to be spent and dividing it by the number of months you have left until you need it.
For example, if you want to spend $1,000 on Christmas and it’s August, that leaves you about five months to save. Put a line item in your budget that you want to stash away $200 per month until the end of December.
To set up your sinking fund, open up a separate savings account or just use the sinking fund feature in your EveryDollar app. This is a great way to save up for Christmas, a vacation, or even to cash-flow a wedding!
Use Your Emergency Fund
There are some unexpected monthly expenses that will truly be an emergency. It can be anything like your car’s transmission going belly up, the air conditioner breaking in the middle of summer, or your pet needing an emergency surgery. This is why the very first Baby Step is saving up $1,000 as fast as you can. You need this buffer between you and life. After you’ve paid off your debt (everything except the mortgage), you’ll start saving up for a fully funded emergency fund of 3–6 months of expenses.
Before you dive into polishing up your budget, step back and take a breath. It took a lot of work to get this far, so don’t let a few financial hiccups knock you down! Outsmart once-in-a-while monthly expenses by looking at the big picture before you budget. Then, plan each month the smart way.
But you can make a plan if you don’t open up your budget. Log in to your EveryDollar account now and give your monthly budget the once over. Did anything slip through the cracks? You might want to think about upgrading to EveryDollar Plus (it links to your bank account) so you don’t miss anything.