How to Recover When You Blow Your Budget

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The holiday season has, once again, come and gone.  I don’t know about you, but every year, we set a budget for Christmas.  And every year, it seems like we surpass it.  Some years it’s like a long-jump, other years a little closer to a game of leapfrog – on budget, over budget, on budget, over budget – you get the idea.  This year, we landed somewhere in between (no pun intended).  So here we are in January, and it’s time to get our act together.  We’ve got big plans for the coming year, and paying off debt isn’t one of them!  Well, actually it is, but that’s another story …  So how do you recover when you blow your budget?



While there are a host of reasons that our holiday spending can go awry, we really just want to focus on how to right the ship and get back on course.

Five Ways to Get Back on Track

Let’s start out by looking at five steps we can take to get our budget back on track.  Some are easy, some maybe not so much, but they are steps that pretty much anyone can take.

1.  Do your grocery shopping in your pantry

As much as possible, use up food that has been sitting in your pantry, just waiting for you to remember it’s there!  By all means, buy fresh items as you need them – milk, eggs, etc. – but try coming up with recipes that can make use of what you have on hand.  You never know – you might find items that are closing in on expiration dates, which is really a win-win for you – no purchase today, and no throwing away unopened food tomorrow!  Hooray!

Pinterest is an AMAZING resource for simple pantry meals.  And don’t forget about what’s in your freezer.  For a quick and easy meal, try my Easy Slow Cooker Chili.  And be sure to read the Best Way to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons for even more money-saving tips!

2.  Implement a No-Spend Month for January

Now hear me out on this one.  I don’t mean you literally spend ZERO dollars all month (although if that’s an option for you – DO IT!!).  What I mean is you buy nothing outside of necessities.  I would NEVER tell someone to not buy toilet paper or not pay their electricity bill because they bought one too many Christmas presents.  Nope, that’s not what no-spend is about.  Buy groceries.  Put gas in your car.  Pay your bills.  Do what’s necessary to keep your family and household running.

What no-spend means to me is asking myself, “Do I really need that latte?  Can I make dinner at home instead of hitting the new restaurant downtown?  Is it necessary to buy yet another sweater?”  It’s very likely that nothing bad will happen if I don’t do any of these things.

3.  Get an accountability partner

This one might be a little harder for some people, as many of us have grown up believing that finances are private, and not to be discussed with anyone outside our immediate family.  But you know what?  Times change.  If accountability is what you need to get you back on track, ask for help.  Reach out to a friend or family member that you trust, who won’t make you feel bad about your situation.  You are asking for help, not judgment.  You can decide what the accountability looks like – do you need a weekly check-in?  Maybe what you need is a sympathetic ear and someone to listen to your ideas on how to dig out of debt.  Decide what you need, and ask for help.

4.  Earn extra money to put towards debt

Did you get a lot of amazing new gifts for Christmas?  Perhaps a replacement or two for items you already own?  I sure did.  So what to do with the old?  If they have value, sell them.  Remember, when trying to right to financial ship, every penny counts.  You can list items for free on many, many sites.

Consider picking up a part-time job.  Who knows – you might really enjoy it and after this year’s holiday spending is paid for, you can SAVE for next year’s!

5.  Review your expenses

This one might sound like a no-brainer and maybe should be at the top of the list, but for many people, this is the hardest part.  Really take a hard look at where your hard-earned money is going every month.  Are you paying fees for subscriptions you’re not using?  What can you do without, even temporarily? When was the last time you went to the gym?  If you can’t remember (and you don’t plan to start again tomorrow), you might want to cancel your membership.  But remember – the trick is to take any money that would be coming out of your account and apply it directly to your debt.

An added bonus – going forward, you’ll likely not even miss the service you were paying for, and you’ll get to pocket that bit of money.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to recover when you blow your budget, but they might be the quickest wins you can see.  But maybe the most important thing to remember is this – DON’T be too hard on yourself because you spent a little (or a lot) too much at Christmas.  It happens.  We’ve all done it.  The important thing is to learn your lesson and dig yourself out of the hole as quickly as possible.  The sooner you finish paying the holiday bills, the sooner you can focus on saving that money for something else!


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