American Dream

6 Solutions to Sneaky Budget Busters

By  | 

If your family is like most across the country, you know how easy it is for budget busters to sneak up and ruin the household budget you worked so hard to create. The good news is that with some planning and careful attention, you can fix, or even prevent, these surprises from occurring in the first place. Here are six common budget-busting habits, and the solutions you need make to stay on top of your household budget.

Fast-Food Fridays

Feeding your family fast food for dinner may seem like a simple solution when you’re tired at the end of a long workweek, but the costs of eating out may quickly consume your budget. In 2013, the average household spent $2,625 on food that was eaten away from home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s just over $50 per week. You can save money by making four freezer dinners for your crockpot on one Saturday per month. Then you’ll have a meal at your fingertips for when no one wants to cook.

Coffee Time

Buying a daily cup of java at your local coffee shop is an often overlooked budget buster — after all, how can just a few dollars a day make much of a difference? In reality, a $4 latte each weekday drains away $20 per week, and yes, that’s over $1,000 for the year. Instead, invest in a Keurig machine or traditional coffee maker and fill up your insulated coffee mug to make it through the morning.

Emergency Repairs

If you don’t plan for unexpected expenses, such as emergency medical bills, home repairs, or car repairs, they can seriously affect your budget. Building an emergency fund should be a priority and a budget item to save toward if you don’t already have at least six months of living expenses saved, according to financial experts.

Expanding Cable Bills

Standard channels, premium channels, additional fees, and service charges are just a handful of ways that your cable bill can quickly expand beyond what you expected. The average cable bill in America will reach $123 monthly in 2015, according to U.S. News. Instead, reclaim your budget by canceling cable and watching your favorite shows online.

Taking Home a Little Extra

If you are living in a state of high income taxes, such as California, Oregon, or New York, moving to a state with lower (or no) income tax rates will allow you to bring home extra money with each paycheck. Imagine receiving a small raise at work, just for moving. Having more in your pocket will allow you the flexibility of tackling those budget issues head-on.

Automotive Woes

If you own a car, you know that they are a continuous expense to keep on the road. To stop vehicle costs from busting your budget, get rid of your car and carpool or use public transit. If this isn’t an option, simply drive less and walk or bike more. This will also help avoid any expensive drive-up coffee shop visits, and will allow you to build more exercise into your daily routine.

Medical Prescriptions and Procedures

While you may not realize it, savvy budgeters know a few tricks to prevent medical budget fiascoes. First, when possible, opt for generic prescriptions to shave dollars off the cost. Also, if you need multiple medical or dental procedures, try to schedule them in one calendar year. If your medical costs exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income, they become a tax deduction, according to the IRS.

With a little creativity, you can avoid budget disasters. Whether you buy ingredients on sale, freeze your favorite meals, or maximize your tax refund to jump-start an emergency fund, a little planning will help you avoid unnecessary budget busters.

Sarita Harbour is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, entrepreneurship, and green living. As a former financial adviser with over a decade of banking experience, she has been writing for American and Canadian digital audiences for the past three years. Her work is featured regularly on Capital One's Spark Business IQ, Forbes, and The Lending Tree, and also appears on sites such as Fox News, Yahoo! Homes, Bob Vila, Equifax Insights for Small Business, and Intuit Small Business. Sarita graduated from the University of Guelph where she studied Psychology and Computer Science, and she holds the Personal Financial Planning designation from the Institute of Canadian Bankers. Sarita is also a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. She lives with her family in an off-the-grid cabin outside of Yellowknife, NWT.