Why your budget (probably) isn't working and eight steps to fix it. (#4 and # 5! are key)

why is my budget failing

I hear it all the time "I just can't make a budget work" or "I just can't stick to a budget" or "I feel like it's really unrealistic to stick to a budget."

That last one is my favorite. I have heard it all and to be honest, I have said it all.

Our family lives on a budget. My husband sits down each month and makes that budget. But we haven't always stuck to it. And recently we have wandered away from it, only to find ourselves sprinting back.

I could make you a list of reasons you should be budgeting. But instead, I want to talk about why your budget probably isn't working. And believe me, as the free-spirited spender of my household, I am speaking from experience.

1. It's too restrictive. 

So the reason a spending freeze works for a lot of people is because it's just one month of extreme frugality.

Cutting your budget bare bones and eating PB&J will work for a few weeks, but in the long run, if your budget is too restrictive and doesn't allow for "extras" it won't work long-term.

2. You don't budget for fun. 

Okay, so this one and the last one are sisters. You have to budget in a little bit of fun. Not much, don't go overboard but plan to budget $6 for movie rental at the Redbox (or get them FREE). Or budget a few bucks to go on a coffee date, or get an ice cream cone.

It doesn't have to be extravagant, it just needs to be realistic.

3. It's not an honest budget. 

Your family needs more than $50 a month for food. And you need more than $35 a month for gas. And your haircut always costs more than you remembered it costing and diapers are expensive.

You have to be realistic in your expectations of how much things cost. Break out your last grocery receipt and get a good picture of what food really costs, call your hairdresser and ask how much a haircut really is.

4. You forgot something. 

When starting the budgeting process, it's easy to forget things like oil changes, orthodontist appointments and soccer fees.

That's why you need a detailed budget form. I recommend the Dave Ramsey budget forms. They are really detailed (and FREE!) and include things you probably forgot like car maintenance and club dues.

5. You didn't buffer! 

It's really easy to forget to budget for the unexpected. BUT IT'S UNEXPECTED??? Yes, but unexpected things happen. And I don't mean emergencies like someone needs an ambulance ride.

But things happen like your toddler wakes up from a nap on Sunday with a raging ear infection and you have to pay your copay. A buffer of $50 will help you not go into panic mode because you didn't budget for an urgent care visit.

6. You had a life change.

If you had a baby, bought a house, moved to a new city or changed dietary habits your budget might change.

Our kids now eat real food (meaning they aren't on a bottle/nursing or on baby food) and our grocery budget has definitely increased as we buy more fresh produce and dairy. That's fine. I am happy to buy my kids healthy food, but our budget has had to increase and change in that area.

If you move to a new city where the cost of living has increased you will need to make adjustments. And if you've had a baby or expanded your family that will change as well. However, babies do not HAVE to be expensive.

7. You and your spouse aren't seeing eye to eye. 

Jason and I do not have a perfect marriage. We do not always agree and we sometimes argue.

But, when it comes to budgeting we try (very hard) to be on the same page. We are a team. We are in this together and we can't work against each other if it is going to work. 

Sit down and have an honest discussion about what you want and need financially in your marriage. It is tough. You have to be honest with yourself and with your spouse.

If your spouse refuses and won't budget with you, or even talk about money, there might be a bigger issue there. I am not a marriage expert or a therapist, but you might need to seek out help if budgeting is an issue that is tearing at your marriage.

8. You haven't set any goals. 

Okay, you can't just throw numbers at your budget and see what sticks. You have to have a plan.

Right now we are trying to pay our house off early and build up our savings after purchasing our home.

We set a savings goal each month and we work toward that.

What about you? What are struggling with when it comes to budgeting?


What about you? What are struggling with when it comes to budgeting?