Going Back To Frugality After Something Has Blown The Budget

Dear Home Ec 101,

When nothing goes wrong, our budget we have set works perfectly. But it seems like the littlest thing happens- we have to buy a new tire, we have to replace our refrigerator, whatever- and our budget is blown and we’re back to our old spendthrift ways. We do budget for emergencies, but it seems like going off the budget leads us right off the path. How do you keep from doing that?


Spendthrift in Speedway

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

I can understand this. When we were new to budgeting, we behaved in much the same way. I don’t know why, but it seems like mishaps are permission to go off budget. The fact, though, is that nothing could be further from the truth. You have to look at it in this way- although the happening was unexpected, it was budgeted for. That’s why you had money in savings to pay for the emergency.

I mentioned this to a person I know who is fabulous at budgeting and his advice to me was simple- if you take any money out of emergency savings, instead of letting that blow your budget, you need to work extra hard to replace that money. I realized how important that is, since we tend to have emergencies happen to us in bunches instead of all nice and spread out.

So, even though it might blow that you had an emergency happen, remind yourself that even if you feel like you deserve extras right now, you don’t. I think that was part of my problem- “Oh, a tire blew out on me on the freeway, I deserve to not have to cook tonight.” While I probably do deserve not to have to cook after dealing with something like that, it’s important to remember that once you dip into “the fund,” you have to get right onto replacing the money you took from it.

Alternatively, you could do another thing I do and budget for crappy days. I keep an envelope hidden with cash that I put in there from time to time and call it my “rainy day fund.” If I’m having a tough day, I go to that fund and use it for retail therapy. There’s plenty of incentive to put money in there, since it’s purely for fun purposes, but I only use cash, so it never hits my real budget.

I hope that helps, just keep on keeping on!


  1. […] One of our bestest commenters, Mom of 3 asked this in the comments of this post: […]

  2. Sharon on April 1, 2009 at 12:14 am

    “Mom of three”, the best advice I can give you is to breathe deeply, go for a long walk, and learn to say “well, this sucks” with a smile.

    I’ve spent the last couple of years in a job that seems to be dealing with one disaster after another – sometimes the last couple of disasters are still happening when the next one starts. I’ve learnt the best way to deal with it is to remind myself that these things aren’t “personal”. They’re problems, issues, challenges – whatever you feel like calling them – but they aren’t “everything right now”. It’s not the end of the world – its something I have to do, but then it will be done, and I’ll be okay.

    I’m hoping this sounds more “Zen” than “trite”, but you have to see the problem for what it is, ask yourself why you feel about it the way that you do, and change what it means to you so that you take it less personally.

    Sure, it’s still a problem – one that has to be dealt with, and one that can be physically taxing and mentally exhausting – but now, at least, it’s not weighing on your heart. You’ve got it at enough of an emotional distance that you can appreciate the nuances of the problem – maybe even laugh at some of it.

    At least, hopefully, you’ll be able to see the other side of it. Knowing that the storm eventually blows over and then the sun comes out can be a big help.

  3. Sharon on March 31, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I started doing the “envelope” thing some time ago as a way to “layby” for fun things I can’t actually layby for – things I could only buy online (particularly from another country) but that were so expensive and unnecessary I didn’t want to just fork out for them…

    I haven’t managed to actually save up the amount I want for the “big stuff”, yet. I get to a certain point and find something cheaper to spend the money on. I make sure I wait a while before spending the money on anything – if I still want the thing a month later, then I go for it.

    Delayed gratification can be kind of fun, if you play with it on purpose.

  4. Mom of three on March 31, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    It’s not the money that’s killing me right now, it’s the stress. I need an article on that. How do you deal with the stress of an emergency situation when it comes on the heals of a previous stressful event?

  5. Joyce on March 31, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    One reason for this emergency issue is that your budget is missing a category — Maintenance. I don’t know what will need repair or replacement but I can pretty much guarantee that something will in any given year. Money needs to be set aside in budgeting to replace the blown tire or the dead electric element in your oven or to call the plumber for the leaking pipe. Even in a brand new house, something will go wrong even if in theory it shouldn’t.

    And for any of you buying an existing house, get a Home Warranty. It is well worth the cost. When the heat pump died the first winter we were in this house, the warranty paid to replace it.

  6. Kara on March 31, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    We have this problem too, though we are getting better. Whenever an emergency comes up and we have to use a credit card, we always end up using the card for more and more. The thinking is like “Well, we already charged $800 to the card, what $4-5 more?” Unfortunately we keep doing that until we have way more than we can easily pay back. But we really are getting better about budgeting and not spending so much, it’s a work in progress.

  7. DC Becca on March 31, 2009 at 3:36 am

    You guys read my mind……my husband and I were so happy to have some money from the tax refund to set aside. We FINALLY had our emergency fund set up (ahhhh…..it was SO EASY!)

    Ten days later our 4 year old daughter fell out of the chair at dinner and BAM broker her collarbone (poor girl….).

    There went the Emergency Fund we so easily set aside (we haven’t gotten any of the bills yet…but even with insurance we can only imagine the bills on this little spill!)

    So…..we have decided that every paycheck we are going to purchase $50.00 in gift cards from our local grocery store. We CAN’T dip into these for ridiculous purchases (ie: electronics, clothing, etc.)…..and since we go to the grocery store every two weeks we would just use these should an emergency crop up and we need to use some of our cash for that. We will also be putting aside money to build back up the emergency fund but we figured the gift card route would be a deterrent from supurfluous spending.

    We’ll see how it goes……there is only one in the envelope so far!

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