We’ve all experienced the overwhelming stress of unexpected expenses. It’s never fun, and if you’re like most Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck it can be down-right scary. But it doesn’t have to be! A budget that accounts for those surprises will bring peace of mind and the freedom to really enjoy this beautiful new year!
Welcome to this new monthly “Budget Busters” blog series to help you plan ahead and avoid those unexpected expenses!
January is one of the best times for a new beginning and if you’re budget has been out of whack thanks to all the holiday spending, now is the perfect time to get it back under control.
Even though we have made great strides in paying down debt over the last couple of years, my husband and I have a date on the calendar for this upcoming weekend to rehash our budget priorities and plan our 2014 goals. In order to get ready for it, I made a list of our non-regular expenses for January and areas we may be able to cut back our budget.
If you’ve never done a budget before, Dave Ramsey has some great resources and here are a few of my favoritemoney management tools.
January Budget Busters
Higher insurance premiums often increase at the beginning of each year. Every year, our health insurance through my husband’s work has gone up slightly. Fortunately for us it’s not a major increase but it’s definitely something to remember to budget in.
Insurance deductibles start over and any health care expenses you have will likely be out of pocket until your deductible has been met. With cold and flu season being at it’s peak and 3 kids in school, setting aside some money to pay for doctor bills and prescriptions is a must for our family!
Heating bills increase as the temperatures plummet. Our natural gas bill, here in Northern Illinois, is always highest in January and February. If you find budgeting for variable bills challenging, check with your utility company to see if they offer a budget plan to allow you to pay the same amount each month.
Christmas debt needs to be paid. If you weren’t able to plan ahead for a debt free Christmas, be prepared for those credit card bills to arrive in the next week or two.
The added costs of your New Year resolutions need to be accounted for. Your new gym membership, running shoes, and workout clothes are sure to add up. You’re worth it though…so budget in those resolutions and stick to them!
Emergency savings should be a priority. According to CNN money, 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have money set aside for emergencies. Ideally you should have 6 months savings for emergencies, but challenge yourself to get at least a small emergency fund started of ($1,000-$3,000) if you don’t have one already.
Other possible January budget busters:
- January birthdays and anniversaries
- Vet bills and/or rabies tag for the family pet
- Car expenses like tires and batteries which notoriously go dead in the cold.
- License plate stickers for your car
Car, homeowners, life insurance policies
- Added child care expenses for winter break, Martin Luther King day, or other days when the kids are out of school
- Cable bills have a habit of increasing drastically as soon as any limited time offers end, so watch those bills to make sure you’re not paying more than you need to. Ours recently did, so we’ve decide to stream our shows through the Roku and/or xBox instead and were able to cut our bundled cable/phone/internet bill down to just internet, which will save us $86 per month.
Planning Ahead for February’s Budget:
Will you be hosting some friends for a Super Bowl party? Don’t let entertaining eat up a good chunk of your February food budget, stock up now on freezer and pantry party supplies that may be on sale after the holidays.
Set aside some money for any Valentine’s Day gifts, babysitter, and money for a special evening out.