Mr. PoP here –
After blowing the budget for the second month in a row, Mrs. Pop and I discussed some ways to keep costs down in November. The frustrating thing about our October expenses was that the stuff we spent too much on was totally in our control. There were really no emergencies or surprise expenses, it was just excessive spending on food and gas (mostly on my part!) that led us to go over our limits.
Here is the process we use when recovering from a bad month, and some things we’ll be doing in November to make sure we don’t have another.
1.) Let it Die
When you’re talking with your significant other about money, the worst thing you can do is get emotional and start pointing fingers. What is in the past is gone and done, and blaming the other person will only make moving forward more difficult. If your DW/DH/BF/GF isn’t ready to talk about what went pear-shaped in your finances the month before, let them cool off until they are.
2.) Do A Post Mortem
You are tracking your budget in Mint, right? RIGHT? Good! So bring up the areas that you went over budget in, and figure out if they were one-time emergency expenses that you couldn’t have planned for (Did a tree fall on your house?), or if it was just a case of your expenses getting away from you. What habits have you changed in the past month that would lead to spending more money?
3.) Develop A Plan And Execution Strategy
If your post mortem was good, you know what went wrong, now figure out what you are going to change and more importantly, how you are going to make sure you change it! Habits are powerful thing, and it can take some time to break them.
After we did the post-mortem on October, it looks like our spending on gas, coffee, and fast-food just got away from us, partly because of travel, and partly because we haven’t been reviewing the finances every Sunday like we aspire to. To make sure we have a better month in November, I’m going to start brown-bagging it some days at work, and running on my lunch break instead of driving to a fast food joint or cafe. Mrs. Pop and I are also going to get back in the habit of reviewing the finances every Sunday.
Mrs. PoP here –
I’m not always the best at “letting it die”, so this step is something I have to consciously do. But, without blame, it was interesting to figure out with Mr. PoP why our gas bills had gone up by about 20-25% from our “norm” in both September and October. When I looked into it, it wasn’t just gas prices. Mr. PoP was filling up his tank (and it’s a big tank) every 4 days instead of every 5 or so like he used to. (For the record, without Mint, I could have never figured that out.)
So I asked – do you think your gas mileage has gotten worse? [Frame it as the car's fault...] Do you think you’re driving more? After thinking about it, Mr. PoP admitted that he was driving to get out of the office at lunch most days. He wasn’t spending tons on any single day – but it was just little trickles that added up. He came up with the idea to do some running to get out of the office at lunch instead of driving for a coffee and I think it’s a great plan. And I think he’s more likely to stick to it than if I had said something like, “Your gas spending indicates that you’re driving MUCH more than usual. You need to stop that RIGHT NOW! Be more efficient!”
And while the past couple of months were hectic for both of us, especially at work, we can’t let that be an excuse to bust the budget. With determination on both our our parts, we’re not going to let holiday craziness be an excuse for this to happen in November or December. And hopefully this public declaration of sorts will help keep us accountable to it.
What are some of the things that you do to help recover from a “bad month” on the budget? Do you struggle with letting it die like Mrs. PoP does?