If you’re looking to increase your savings, there are a few budget busters you should avoid.
What is a budget buster, you ask?
A budget buster is any expenditure that exceeds your budget or puts undue pressure on your financial life. From impulse purchases to that drive-through you hit on your way home from work, budget busters come in all shapes and sizes.
In this post, we’ve compiled a list of the 20 worst offenders that you should avoid if you want to save money.
We all know the convenience of online shopping. You can buy anything you want with just a few clicks and have it delivered right to your doorstep. But this convenience comes at a cost – both to your wallet and your willpower.
When you’re browsing online, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and spend more than you intended to spend.
That’s why, if you’re looking to save money, it’s best to avoid online shopping altogether.
If you absolutely need to make a purchase, just work it into your budget and spend within your limit.
Car payments are the arch-nemesis of your financial future. They devour a large portion of your monthly income and force you to pay interest on a depreciating asset.
So, if you have a car payment, the sooner you can get out of it the better.
Whether that means paying off your loan early or selling your car and buying a cheaper set of wheels in cash, getting rid of your car payment is a great way to gain some financial margin.
Dining out is a budget buster for two reasons.
First, it’s usually more expensive than cooking at home. Second, overspending is easy when you don’t have to make a meal yourself.
If you want to save money, limit your dining out to once a week or less. And when you do go out to eat, keep your spending within a pre-determined limit.
Credit Card Debt
Credit card debt is one of the most insidious budget busters out there. Not only does it come with high interest rates, but if you aren’t incredibly careful, it’s easy to let your credit card spending spiral out of control.
If you have credit card debt, the best thing you can do is to pay it off as quickly as possible.
Additionally, if you really want to keep credit card debt from busting your budget, you can always use a debit card or cash instead. After all, if you don’t use a credit card to make a purchase in the first place, you’ll never have to worry about credit card debt.
Monthly subscriptions can be a great way to get the products and services you need at a lower cost. But if you’re not careful, they can also quickly become budget busters.
To avoid overspending on monthly subscriptions, take an inventory of your current subscriptions. Then, cancel any that you no longer use or are a burden to your finances.
I like to think of it this way: for every $83.33 worth of monthly subscriptions you cancel, you can add $1,000 to your annual savings.
Tempting sales are one of the easiest budget busters to justify and, thus, one of the most difficult to conquer.
Every time you see a “sale” sign, your brain tells you that you’re getting a great deal and that you need to buy whatever it is that’s on sale.
The problem is, of course, that even if you buy something at a discount, you still have to spend money on it. And ultimately, that’s just money that you can no longer put into savings.
For that reason, you should learn to be cautious of sales, and only take advantage of discounts when they happen to be on products you were already going to buy.
In other words, if there’s a sale for an item already within your budget, go for it. But if it isn’t in your budget, don’t let the sale tempt you into spending money that could otherwise go toward savings.
Buying In Bulk
Similar to spending money on sales, buying items in bulk can also be a budget buster.
The allure of getting a reduced “per-unit” price for buying more than you need is hard to resist. But at the end of the day, you’re still spending more money than you would have if you had just bought what you needed.
Only buy items in bulk if it’s something that you know you’ll use and if it’s within your allotted budget.
For example, my wife and I typically purchase things like toilet paper, soap, butter, and coffee in bulk. Since we use all of those things consistently, it makes sense to save up over a couple of months and then buy them in bulk.
However, you won’t see us buying a triple pack of ketchup or a gallon of pickles just because we get more bang for our buck. Sure, the “per-unit” price is better, but the overall cost makes it difficult to stay within our monthly budget.
Overspending On Your Kids
One of the most common budget busters is overspending on your kids.
From clothes and toys to activities and extracurriculars, it’s easy to go overboard when you’re trying to provide for your children.
This one’s particularly challenging to navigate, because as a parent, we all want to give our kids the best life possible. But giving our kids a great life doesn’t mean you need to break the bank and put yourself in a difficult financial situation.
It’s just the opposite.
By setting some boundaries in this category, you can increase your savings and develop a higher level of financial stability–which is equally, if not more important for the well-being of your children.
Student loans are one of the most difficult budget busters to overcome, simply because they can be so large.
With student loans reaching anywhere from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars, these payments can be financially debilitating for a really long time.
With that in mind, if student loans are consuming a large portion of your budget, one of the best things you can do is get on a plan to pay them off as early as you possibly can.
Another common budget buster is alcohol.
Whether you’re going out to the bars or buying drinks to consume at home, alcohol can put a serious dent in your monthly budget.
Beyond that, after a couple of drinks, it’s easy to let your financial guard down and start spending money you shouldn’t be spending. Seriously, alcohol is one of the sneakiest budget busters out there.
The best way to combat this is by setting a monthly alcohol limit for yourself. This limit should include both going out for drinks and alcohol you purchase at the store.
Seriously, you’d be amazed how setting some clear boundaries in regard to your alcohol spending can greatly improve your budget.
Excessive Housing Costs
One of the biggest (and most painful) budget busters is excessive housing costs.
This can include anything from paying too much in rent to having an unnecessarily large mortgage payment.
Whatever the case may be, if your housing costs are eating up a large portion of your monthly budget, you might want to consider moving to a cheaper place.
We’ve all been there before–we see something we want and we buy it without giving it a second thought.
These impulse purchases might not seem like a big deal at the time, but they can really add up over the course of a month, year, or even lifetime.
If you want to protect your monthly savings, you need to eliminate impulse purchases from your budget.
Think of it this way, if you were to invest $500 today in a mutual fund that earns 10% every year for the next 40 years, that money would grow to $22,630.
So, in essence, if you were to instead spend that $500 on some sort of impulse purchase, you wouldn’t be costing yourself $500… you’d be costing yourself $22,630.
In other words, impulse purchases are extremely harmful to your financial future. Avoid them.
Cable is one of those monthly expenses that, for a lot of people, just isn’t worth it.
With so many cheaper (and often better) alternatives to cable TV, there’s really no reason to be spending $100 or more every month on this service.
If you want to save some serious cash each year, consider cutting the cord, and purchasing a couple of streaming services instead.
Or, dare I say, you could just go without TV altogether.
If you’re paying for a gym membership that you rarely use, then you’re wasting a ton of money.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that everyone should drop their gym membership. In fact if you consistently use your gym membership, it might be one of your most important expenses. After all, you can’t put a price on good health.
But if you only go once or twice a month, then you’re probably better off just working out at home.
If you need some guidance, there are tons of great workout programs and videos available online that don’t cost anything.
Or, you could go just for a run, do some push ups, rep out some crunches, and never have to pay a dime.
Food Delivery Fees
While food delivery services like Uber Eats and Grubhub can be convenient, they’re also one of the biggest budget busters out there.
Even something as simple as paying a few pizza delivery fees each month can eat away at your food budget.
So, if you do choose to order some food, save yourself and your budget a few bucks and go pick it up yourself.
Gambling can be a dangerous budget buster for a lot of reasons.
First, there’s the potential to lose money, which is obviously not ideal.
But even if you’re lucky enough to win some money, it’s hard not to turn right back around and gamble your winnings away. Beyond that, it’s incredibly addictive!
Ultimately, if you’re into the idea of keeping and saving your hard-earned money, then I would avoid gambling at every turn.
Home Remodels And Repairs
While it’s important to keep your home in good condition, the costs of home remodels and repairs can qadd up quickly.
And, especially in the case of a remodel, there’s really no reason an expense like this should bust your budget.
Unless you’re dealing with a true emergency (for which I hope you have some money sitting in an emergency fund), I recommend putting any home repairs or remodeling projects on the back burner until you have saved enough money so that they fit nicely within your budget.
We’ve already discussed car payments, but even if you own your car outright, there are still a number of automotive expenses that can quickly add up and eat into your budget.
Between gas, maintenance, repairs, to insurance, there are a lot of potential costs associated with owning and operating a vehicle.
And, if you’re not careful, these costs can really add up.
So, if you want to save some serious cash, consider scaling back on your automotive expenses.
Take the bus, carpool, or ride your bike whenever possible.
And make sure you’re getting the best deal on things like insurance and repairs.
Vacations and travel can be great, but they can also be one of the quickest ways to blow your budget. If you aren’t careful and thoughtful about your vacation spending, these kinds of expenses can get severely out-of-hand.
In particular, if you use a credit card to pay for all your travel expenses, you can end up buried in a mountain of debt (and financial regret) when you get home.
To avoid this, I recommend saving up and using your debit card for all of your travel expenses.
This will help you avoid debt, spend within your means, and hopefully, stay within your travel budget.
There are a lot of potential irregular expenses that can really put a dent in your budget.
And, unfortunately, these kinds of expenses often come when you least expect it.
So, to avoid being blindsided by an irregular expense, I recommend allocating some money each month to cover these kinds of costs. In fact, you should consider creating a “miscellaneous” category in your budget to protect you from irregular expenses.
Budget Busters: Final Thoughts
There you have it: 20 of the most common budget busters that can really put a damper on your financial goals.
If you can avoid these pitfalls you’ll be well on your way to saving some serious cash.
Can you think of any other budget busters that should have made the list? Be sure to drop your thoughts in the comments below.