So You Overspent Your Budget – Now What?

This past weekend my sister invited me to go thrift store shopping with her. It’s one of our favorite pastimes (even the kids love it) and clothing was 50% off that day, so I couldn’t resist tagging along. With coffee and kids in tow, we scoured the racks for deals on kids clothing, and an hour later, I’d purchased nine dresses, four shirts, two fleece jackets, one vest, one pair of Bermuda shorts, and a set of pajamas, all for my daughters. It was the jackpot of all thrift store shopping experiences and the girls and I were ecstatic.

Until, however, I pulled the receipt from my pocket in the car, and realized with a sinking feeling that I’d just spent $45 on clothing, and my budget this month only allowed for $10.

There was no going back. My daughters were excited about their new clothing, it had already been purchased, and I’d gotten a steal of a deal, but when they walked through the front door squealing to their dad about their “new” clothes, I had to come right out and admit I’d made a mistake and overspent the budget.

After oohing and aahing over the girls’ clothing picks and hearing how much I spent for the many articles of clothing, my sweet husband’s response was (and I quote), “This will be a great topic for your next blog post – what to do after you’ve overspent.”

He was right.

Tip: Creating and maintaining your family budget shouldn’t be hard. Grab my FREE Family Budgeting Workbook to help you get (and stay) on track! Find it HERE.

So You Overspent Your Budget, Now What?

Perhaps you have also made a purchase without thinking through the long-term budget consequences. Maybe you’ve felt that guilty feeling that you’ve failed miserably and might not be able to recover from it. If so, the following four-step process is just what you (and I) need to get the budget back on track after an epic fail.

Step 1: Admit you did it

You made the choice to make the purchase. Now, like we teach our children, it’s time to ‘fess up. Tell your spouse, say it to yourself in the mirror, do whatever you have to do to make it known: you aren’t perfect…

…and then move on.

It seems self-explanatory to admit you made a mistake, but I find this is one of the hardest things to do, especially if you come from a background of credit cards with expenses your spouse may or may not have always known about. Communication, though, is key to long-term budget success, so don’t neglect the honesty portion of this.

I’d overspent the clothing budget by $35 and I knew it. Feeling bad about it doesn’t change that fact, but by admitting I’d made the mistake, my husband and I could work together to figure out what to do next.

Step 2: Fix it from somewhere

It’d be easy to put that simple expense on a credit card and deal with it next month, as many of us are used to, but you are working toward financial freedom, correct? If so, leave those credit cards in the safe and deal with the issue now. You’ll be happy you did.

In our case, that $35 had to come from another area of our budget. I’d worked in a little miscellaneous fund, so we were able to pull a little money from that category, a little from our eating out budget, and I also donated my own $10 budget for clothing this month, since it was, indeed, my fault. Thankfully the purchase happened towards the beginning of the month when our budget categories were still fully funded because it would have been a little harder at the end of the month and the money would have had to come from areas including groceries and gas.

The overspent amount has to come from somewhere – scour your budget for the areas you can pull that money from to cover the expense. It might make this month tighter, but next month you will have the opportunity to start fresh again.

Step 3: Determine if it could have been prevented

You’ve admitted your mistake and taken the time to divert funds to cover it, now it’s time to determine if the mistake you made could have been prevented. Sure, I could have told my sister that I couldn’t be trusted to go shopping that day, or I could have decided that I was going to leave my wallet at home. Either would have been a good method of prevention.

In the end, though, I found items that my girls actually needed as we head toward summer and warmer weather. In addition to that, I was able to get a couple of fleece jackets that they will be able to use when camping this summer. Was it the right timing? No, because I hadn’t planned for it in the budget.

In the future, I can recognize that the early- to mid-April budget needs more money allocated to kid clothing. They’ve worn out and outgrown their winter clothes and are in need of a few items to get them to and through the upcoming months. That $45 purchase should, hopefully, include all the clothing they will need until back-to-school sales come around this fall. That’s a win in my book and yet, this time next year I want to be prepared, so I’m not left scrambling to make it work in the budget.

The key is to learn from our mistakes and use the knowledge we obtain for success in the future.

Overspent Your Budget? Don’t Let it Derail You

The most critical step in this whole process is recognizing that screwing up doesn’t mean death to your budget. This does not call for you to compound one small mistake by maxing out every credit line you have and blowing your emergency fund. I know you because I’m the same way: it’s easy to let that one small setback take you back to your old habits. In the past, we’ve made mistakes in our budget, and have let it snowball out of control with the mindset: I’ve already screwed it up this month, so what does it matter if I add a couple more screw-ups to the mix. Trust me, it matters, and you will regret it. Don’t let the mistake you’ve made in this month’s budget destroy all you have worked for and all you hope to achieve.

Take the lesson you’ve learned this month, and apply it to the upcoming months as well, recognizing that, like us, our budgets are not perfect. We will make mistakes, but those mistakes don’t have to define our future financial freedom.

Now get back to making smart choices! Have a wonderful day!

Tip: Creating and maintaining your family budget shouldn’t be hard. Grab my FREE Family Budgeting Workbook to help you get (and stay) on track! Find it HERE.

Updated March 2024