I try to be an open book about our budgeting process.  For example, I post our monthly zero-sum budget each month and do my best to share the ups and downs as the month goes on.

And most of the time, there is honestly nothing exciting to report.

Sure, we occasionally dip into our miscellaneous category for excess grocery spending here and there.  And yes, we are sometimes stuck eating boxed food and can goods for a few days towards the end of the month.  And everyone once in a while I forget to budget for some random expense and end up transferring an additional $50 over into my account to pay for it. 

But then there are other times we fail completely, and that’s exactly what happened in November.  Let me explain.

Budgeting: When Everything Goes Wrong

The month of November started off without much fanfare.  I was pretty excited about the fact that I put $3,000 into my Vanguard SEP IRA and Roth IRA, but didn’t expect anything unusual to happen.

Then I got a surprise flat tire and ended up having to get new tires and order a new aluminum alloy wheel to replace one that was cracked.  And even though I saved $780 by ordering my wheel off the internet instead of from the dealership, the entire ordeal cost me a total of $441.  Ouch.

But that’s not all.  I got a $52.50 bill for our final lawn treatment that I had completely forgotten about.  Then my printer ran out of ink and we had to spend around $40 replacing it.

All of those events combined meant that went a total of $683.50 for the month of November.  Gulp.

How We’re Recovering from Our Epic Budget Failure

First of all, I’m pretty disgusted with the fact that we went more than $680 over budget, especially since at least part of it was avoidable.  However, I always try not to wallow in our mistakes since it basically accomplishes nothing and gets us nowhere.  I’m also keenly aware that these types of situations are exactly why we keep a health emergency fund.  And although I would prefer not to ever touch it, it’s always nice knowing those funds are there.  Regardless, here’s how we’re recovering:

  • We’re double-checking records to make sure we don’t leave anything out for December- The lawn care bill is something I am generally happy to pay, but I hate surprises.  I went through our records before creating our December budget to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything out.
  • We’re going to check in with our grocery spending at least once per week in December- I’m usually really good about this but I was extremely busy last month.  For December, I am going to tally up our grocery spending at least once per week to make sure we are on track.
  • We’re renewing our pledge to save as much as possible- We all know how easy it is to get off track when you don’t pay attention.  Since I plan on having a lighter work load this month, I hope to set aside some time to create some new spending and savings goals and reassess some of the spending decisions we made in 2014.  I think we did pretty well, but it never hurts to take a look back on each year and looks for ways to improve.

But then we got back from vacation and I quickly realized that we spent around $150 more than we had budgeted for.  And the worst part is that I actually thought we were on budget while we were there.  Since there was no use stressing out about it, I sucked it up and moved on.

Going over budget sucks.  It stresses me out.  And even worse, it makes me feel like a failure.  But that’s not a good attitude to have.  Here’s why:

There was a time in our lives when we wouldn’t even have known we were over budget in the first place.  During those early years of our marriage, we simply spent without thinking of the long-term consequences or formulating any long-term goals.  We failed this month, and it honestly sucks azz, but at least we know.  And isn’t that an accomplishment in itself?

Now we’re in a much better place and, even more importantly, we’re tracking our spending so closely that we’re aware of how and when we get off track.  I definitely plan to do better in December, but I also know that life happens sometimes.

Epic budget failure is probably inevitable from time to time, and all we can do is prepare for it and go out of our way to make the best financial decisions we can.

And in my opinion, it’s only a failure if you do nothing about it.

Have you ever experienced epic budget failure?  What did you do to improve the situation?