5 ways to mess up your budget

A budget is essential if you want to be in control of your money.



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People love to tell me that budgets don’t work. There have even been a few experts—people who should know better—who have said that budgets are a waste of time. That’s either because they’re lazy or making so much money they don’t have to worry about the nickels and dimes. Then there’s the rest of us.

A budget is essential if you want to be in control of our money and your life. But there are some things people routinely do to blow their budgets, at which point they start to sing the “budgets don’t work” blues. It’s not the budget that isn’t working. It’s you messing with the budget that’s the problem. Here are five of the most common ways to mess up your budget. If you’re guilty of any of these, it’s time to shape up!

  1. Shopping without a list. If you go shopping without a list and leave yourself open to marketing temptations, you’ll blow your budget. There will always be stuff that jumps up and catches your attention. If you don’t have a list to keep you on track, oy! And as for going grocery shopping while you’re hungry, really? You’re still doing that?
  2. Using an ATM like a wallet. If every time you run out of money you hit up the ATM and pay anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00, you’ll kill your budget by 1,000 cuts. If you’re a frequent ATM user, take your last bank statement and add up how much all those fees amounted to. How can you say you don’t have the money to save if you spent $150 on bank fees?
  3. Carrying unassigned cash. If you aren’t tracking your cash spending, if you don’t have limits on how much cash you’ll use, or if you walk around with a wad in your pocket and then wonder where it all went, you’re a money moron. This includes all the folks who earn some of their money in tips and have no plan for how they’ll use that money. Instead they watch it disappear as quickly as it appeared.
  4. Not having a curve-ball account. People tell me about their “emergency” tire replacement, home maintenance expenses or medical costs. Really? You didn’t think those tires were ever going to wear out or that roof would have to be replaced? And because we have provincial health care or you have a company medical plan, you never gave a thought to the drugs (like Aspirin or cold medication) that aren’t covered?
  5. Neglecting your expenses. Yes, there are co-payments. There are also deductibles on insurance claims. If you don’t have a plan for how you’ll cover these, they’ll blow your budget. Hey, it’s not the budget. It’s your lack of planning.

5 comments on “5 ways to mess up your budget

  1. Gee, Gail

    How did you know? This last 2 weeks have brought us the need to buy new tires for one vehicle, a $300 deductible for vandalism to my car while parked at the university and the need to pay a deposit on our son's university registration. Good thing I have that emergency savings account! Oh, and his Prom tux rental is ready for pickup – that's another $200….

    I was raised by someone who lived through WWII in Germany, suffering displacement, near starvation, and no education. She was an amazing saver, of money and things (nearing hoarding sometimes) and she taught me well. I am trying hard to teach our son to be wise with his money as he reaches adulthood. I know he will do well.


    • A tip is to start small with debt while he is young. Help him get a credit card with a $500 limit. Let him use it how he likes, which means that he will most likely put a charge on the card with the intention of paying it off and then find it's harder to do than he thinks. Having a small debt will teach him lessons on how to use debt before he begins school and has a much higher limit available to him. Encourage him to pay off the credit card as soon as he has money to apply against the debt and teach him how holding a balance on a credit card will double every 4 years.


  2. Why must these articles talk down to its readers??? they are obvious and poorly written and with a sarcastic "i told you so" tone


  3. Excellent tips Gail. I had stopped using my debit card years ago and opted for credit instead but, having the easily availability of credit or cash in my wallet makes me much more prone to overspending on all the little things. I am debt free and save a large portion of my pay check but, it is very easy to spend more than I plan to in a short time where I would like to use more of the extra money to contribute to my TFSA, RSP or travel. It seems I must change some of my attitudes on using credit cards and keeping "unassigned cash" in my wallet. Your tips here are very valuable. Thank you


  4. i think some of it is ok to understand. but saying weird uneducated type talk like "money saving moron" or whatever she used is actually quite pathetic and uninteresting. there is certain groups of people who can carry money and not budge on what they do. also there is people who can go shopping without a list and do better than with a list. u see all the stuff at the store which opens up imagination and new things u didn't know before you got there.

    also the shopping while hungry can be beneficial too because u get what u need. u know what your body needs at that moment and u can't escape that. if you're ignoring your body and what it wants you're not getting the point of eating in the first place.


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