How to Recover When You’ve Blown Your Budget

Happy Monday, friends!!  If you’re a regular reader, you know that my family and I are going extreme with our budget for three months as we work to save for some extra expenses. Months one and two were pretty good, but month three is NOT going so well from a bare budget goal standpoint. Our grocery budget alone, which is normally around $450 a month for our family of six, is already up to $586.02, and we’ve still got eleven days left in the month!  While I realize that this is still a pretty low grocery month for a family of six, it’s MUCH higher than what we usually spend, and much, much higher than what I had hoped to spend for September, which was around the $400 range.

First, I’m going to talk about how we got so incredibly off track, and then I’m going to share tips on how we plan to fix the leak.

What Happened???

September’s grocery planning method is highly reminiscent of our pre-debt payoff days. Back in those days, we had budgeted about $600 a month for food, but when I went back after our debt wake-up call and tracked our spending, I found out that we were actually spending closer to $900 a month for groceries. Here were the mistakes we were making, and they’re pretty much the same mistakes I found myself making this month.

We Have No Plan

I made a really half-hearted attempt at menu planning this month. It’s a crazy month. We’re usually pretty mellow people in the sense that we try not to overbook our schedule by any stretch of the imagination. We like to socialize, but we like being home and hanging out together with no responsibilities other than the usual too. This mellow schedule allows me to have a plan and keep it in place, but we’ve totally abandoned the use of a plan this month due to a crazy schedule.

The lack of a menu plan is sure to make a grocery budget skyrocket well beyond what it could be with a good plan in place, which is why we’re generally diligent about making and keeping a menu plan and a shopping plan to go along with it. If I had to do it over again, I would have made our September menu plan in mid-to-late August in anticipation of our busy month.

We Overbooked Ourselves

This is a sure cause for a blown budget. We have LOTS going on this month that’s caused our schedule to be much busier than we’re used to dealing with.

  • School started, and the kids’ workload is heavier
  • We have social events every day of every weekend this month, three of which are hosted at our home. Many of them are all day long events.
  • We’ve had a few unexpected doc, dentist and other appointments that came up last minute.

Basically, we’re running wild all month long, which has caused us to throw our food plan out the window.  We’ve been eating inexpensively for the most part, but we’ve also been stopping at the store for stuff here and there and just throwing fruit and other things we’re out of into the cart  without a plan. Convenience is trumping the budget since we’re just trying to make it through the busy days.

We’re Working to Combat Stress

Busy schedules stress us out a bit, so we’re focusing on making life as easy to deal with as possible during this super busy season. As such, budgeting  is on the back burner. This may not seem like a smart idea but for now we’re just working to make it through the busy days as sanely as possible. 🙂

The result? A blown grocery budget. Luckily we’re staying on track with entertainment and other expenses. We’re not going out to eat or ordering takeout – we’re just not being diligent about our grocery budget. This is okay once in awhile, but if you’re finding that it’s happening every single month it can really take a toll on your finances.

We’ve diagnosed the problems that are causing us to be off track on our grocery budget. Here’s how we’ll recover.

How We’ll Recover

Now that we’ve made the mistake, it’s time to put a recovery plan in place. These tips should work for anyone working to recover from a blown budget.

Stop the Leak

We realize we’ll still have to spend some money on groceries, but we’re working to stop the leak by eating what’s in the house and buying only what we have to buy for the rest of the month.

If you’ve got a budget leak that is in your control, whether it’s eating out, entertainment, groceries or whatever, the first step to recover is to stop the leak by minimizing or stopping spending.

Commit to Change

The second step we’ll implement in order to recover from our blown budget is to commit to doing better in the future. When busy months are on the horizon again, we’ll make a grocery menu plan and budget plan well in advance so we’re not making seemingly endless random trips to the grocery store.

Repair the Damage

We’re committing to stopping the leak now, but we’ll wait to work to repair the damage after the crazy busy month is done. We’ll do this by working to minimize October’s grocery budget, continue on our super limited entertainment budget and working to find extra income as well.

When you blow your budget, try not to spend too much time feeling regret. Instead, use the tips above to make a recovery plan so you can get back on track.

If you can use the steps above and others like it to help recover from a blown budget, you can turn things around quickly and make up for past mistakes, moving on to a better financial future.

Have you had any blown budget issues lately? How do you make up for budget snafus? 

20 comments on “How to Recover When You’ve Blown Your Budget

  1. I can so relate to this, Laurie! I woke up this morning not having a clue what was for dinner all week. September just tends to throw us for a loop with the new schedules and, for some reason, our weekends fill up into December. Go figure. I am thinking a monthly meal plan is on the horizon for me (I typically do weekly), so I can plan/cook ahead more.

    I love your point about not spending too much time on the regret. Really, what’s done is done, it’s moving forward with a new plan that’s the crucial factor. Thanks for this reminder!

  2. our grocery budget tends to be a regular issue, and we often have to cut back elsewhere (usually entertainment) to make up for it. A mid-month check in is our best tool for staying in budget…right now we’re inverted with entertainment high (we went on a two day vaca) and groceries set to come a bit under. If I can just do a mini grocery trip this week (milk and produce-very doable) we should have a wash.

  3. It happens to the best of us. The most important thing is to stop whatever is causing the blown budget and correct it. So many times we just let it continue or even make it worse and all that does is create a bigger hole to dig out of later on.

  4. The grocery budget is the toughest one for us too. Why do my three children like to eat some much? 🙂 Identifying and addressing going forward is they way we try and handle. It can be easy just to want to give up, but even after a bad day, week, month you have to figure a way to get back on track.

  5. The wife & I went out to eat a time or two since school started back up too. There are a two days a week when we are stretched thin & didn’t plan for leftovers from the day before.

    So, we split a meal to at least save a couple bucks & thankfully the 15-month old doesn’t eat too much (although we normally don’t feed her restaurant food to begin with).

  6. We just had some car troubles that added up to almost $1000. However, it turned out the car was still under warranty for the expensive stuff, so the final bill is only $220. That was Hallelujah Dance-Worthy! I have a question. Some people count detergents and toilet paper and toothbrushes, etc., as part of their grocery bill and some do not. Do you?

  7. I think that the thing to do when you know a busy month is coming up is to budget in anticipation of more spending. With all of those social events going on, it makes sense to me that you had to buy more food than usual this month. I understand the no-plan = more-spending formula. But I also think there’s a reluctance to allow higher spending when it’s in order, and that reluctance leads to a higher rate of spending than would happen if there had been a planned raised rate of spending. Does that make sense and ring true? I hope you’re having lots of fun with these social events : ) All the best as you get back on track.

  8. Ahh the dreaded grocery budget! There are just two of us at home, and I still feel like we spend more than we should. One thing that helps me feel a little more in control of my grocery bill is to make sure I am not wasting food. When I battle the urge to get take out , I remind myself that the food in the fridge is already paid for! Not every meal has to be a high quality dining experience, some meals serve the basic purpose of fuel for our bodies.

  9. So I am not alone in having a crazy month of things going on in September? Lol 🙂 Me too, my friend! I am hoping that October will be a bit easier but this month has been rough.

  10. I think times of transition often lead to blown grocery budgets. We set a high grocery budget, so that we can entertain if necessary, but we’ve only done a bit of entertaining, and we’re bumping up on our ceiling. Unfortunately, the reason is that I’ve consistently forgotten to buy 3-4 ingredients per week, so I’ve had to do more expensive substitutions. Less convenient and more money… the worst.

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