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The Budget; Let's Keep it Real

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Vonnie wanted to host a holiday family gathering for her side of the family, as there hasn't been one for a number of years.  Even with asking those attending to contribute supplies, we knew we would have to conserve our discretionary funds for the preceding weeks to pull off a gathering of that magnitude.

Sitting down on a Thursday night to verify our planned spending for the upcoming weekend, we decided that we were allocating zero funds for entertainment in order to have the funds needed for the event.  

Then real life happened. 

On Friday night, my son was invited to go to an open gym with his friends. His allowance wasn't quite enough to cover the cost, so we gave him some additional funds so he could hang out with his friends. We've become concerned lately with how much "screen" time he's been having, and wanted to support him doing something social with his friends, as well as being physically active. Cost: $9. 

That same weekend we decorated the family Christmas tree. We actually enjoyed an afternoon of all-out holiday home decorating. We wanted to end a fun family day with a nice dinner, so I went to the grocery store and picked up some supplies to cook an extra special meal. Cost: $16 

We had planned to go grocery shopping, but we were having so much fun holiday decorating on Saturday that it took a little longer than we thought and grocery shopping didn't get done. After church on Sunday, given the lack of groceries at home, we decided to hit a lunch deal at a local restaurant. Cost: $14.75 

All things considered, we didn't do too badly, but we did overspend by $39.75. Looking back, this was simply a budgeting error. While it was certainly possible to lay a goose egg for entertainment spending, history tells us that we have never successfully done so. 

It was unrealistic for us to think that we could spend zero discretionary funds over the course of an entire weekend.

The good news is that we were able to re-adjust our budget to absorb the overspending.  Unfortunately, to do so we had to cross a couple of items off the list of things to get for the planned holiday gathering. 

We'll never be completely successful with our budgeting until we are completely honest about our spending habits, and subsequently factor that information into our spending plan. I'm all for cutting spending to save funds for a special event, but we have to be realistic about how far we can take it. 

The next time we try to do something extreme with our budget, we have to dig up this experience and keep it real!

Related Links: 

Creating a Realistic Budget

That's Where a Budget Comes In

Find the Power in Tracking Your Expenses


Travis Pizel, Customer blogger for CareOne Services Inc.Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles

To connect with Travis on Google+ click here


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  • Staying on budget with unexpected things that come up is soooo hard.  I personally have found this even harder being out of debt!!  I can't wait for you and Vonnie to be debt free so maybe I can learn from the two of you.  I have a harder time saying no now than I did when I was in debt.  UGH!!  Keep up the open communication and keep sharing you help me in so many ways!!  Thank you!

  • II think that being out of debt would change my mindset a little in thinking I should be able to do more.  The fact is, when there aren't a stack of credit card bills staring at you each month, the "line" of what you can and cannot do moves.  You've been accustomed to where that line is for such a long time you're just going through an adjustment period trying to figure out how far to move the line.

    With our DMP completion getting closer and closer, I've been thinking a lot about this......I expect to go through the same adjustment period.  It's a good problem to have, huh Monica?  :)

  • "The Best Laid Plans..............."   Truth is, we all realize "life happens," and we just have to prepare ourselves for flexibility.  I've been in the same position,  I've kind of stringently set a budget that turned out to be so unrealistic.  Looked good on paper, but life happened; someone got sick, car had a flat, unexpected expense here or there.  I'm trying to leanr the lesson that the PLAN is great, but sometimes life will cause a detour in the plan.

  • I think you got it right!!!  It is about learning to adjust and figure out how far to move that "line".  

    Without a doubt it is a much better problem to have than to wonder where the funds are going to come from each month we do overspend!!  The freedom I have now is one I never want to give up.  :-)

  • So true, conradsmom!  This is even more than a case of an unexpected necessary expense.  We could have said "No" to every one of "extra" expenses, but we made a conscious decision to break the strict "zero spending" goal we put in place.  Not only is an emergency fund necessary (for those unexpected necessary expenses), but we need to be realistic about our own spending habits, and how likely we are to really deviate to them.  Oh, and those detours in life.....sometimes they lead you to priceless memories, don't they?  :)

  • Monica, we must never, ever forget how being in debt feels.  It's a weight that hangs around the neck and just drags you down.  Without that memory, we are much more likely to end up back in trouble.  We have to stay in control, and keep the freedom we EARN!

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