woman at shopping mall

7 Tricks to Get You Back on Track If You’ve Blown Your Budget

The fact that you even have a budget is something you should be proud of. According to a Debt.com survey, 93 percent of Americans believe in having a budget but only 33 percent actually have one.

So, instead of feeling overly guilty from a shopping spree or spontaneous weekend getaway, take action so you can pay off the debt quickly. Here are seven tricks to help you get back on track if you’ve blown your budget.

1. Crunch the numbers

First thing’s first, calculate how much you spent. If you used multiple credit cards, add the total up on those and find out what the interest rates are for each card.

As you’re adding up the total, think about your mental state and the causes and triggers that influenced you to overspend.

  • Were you feeling blue and wanted to treat yourself with some retail therapy?
  • Was it because your friends were doing it?
  • Was it on sale and you just couldn’t resist?
  • Did you feel like you deserved it because you always work so hard?

This helps peel back the layers and understand your emotional triggers. Once you’re aware of the problem, you can start to move forward financially and learn to recognize and eventually break these habits.

2. Figure out how much to take out per paycheck

paying by credit card for purchases

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

After you’ve looked at the debt you owe, create a plan for how you’ll pay down that debt. Figure out where you can cut costs and how much of each paycheck you’ll need to dedicate to that debt to get rid of it quickly.

Use the snowball method to tackle your smallest debt first so you can pay it off quickly and feel a sense of accomplishment. Meanwhile, pay minimum balances on everything else. After paying off the first card, you can move on to the next card until all of your debts are paid.

Another option is to start with the highest APR (annual percentage rate) card, as well, if you’re concerned about paying interest.

3. Don’t use your credit cards when paying off your debt

One step forward, two steps back — this saying most likely came from someone who was trying to pay off their credit cards while using them.

There’s nothing worse than carrying a balance on your cards. An eye-opening poll from CreditCards.com revealed the amount and length of time people are carrying a balance:

People Who Have BalancesLength of Time With Balance
56%More than a year
37%At least 2 years
23%At least 3 years
14%At least 5 years
7%Can’t recall how long they’ve been in debt

Vow to never be in any of these groups and pay off your debt as quickly as possible!

4. Try a spending freeze

A spending freeze means you’ve made the conscious decision to stop spending for a certain length of time. A freeze may help you if you’re consistently running out of money each month.

The freeze focuses on not spending on things like paying $15 for your Monday through Friday work lunches, eating out at restaurants, bars, trips and entertainment. It doesn’t pertain to fixed bills you have to cover each month, like rent or utilities.

Perhaps you can start by trying out a week and you can always go longer if you find it to be helpful.

5. Download an app to help you keep track of your spending

There are plenty of free apps such as Mint and Personal Capital that will help you track your spending and saving. You can group your purchases into categories so you can see everything at a glance. This helps you identify where your money is going (i.e. $200 a month on Starbucks?!).

You can also choose to receive emails or text alerts when you swipe your credit or debit card, or if it notices you’re over budget for certain categories, such as food or transportation.

6. Get a side gig

working on a computer at a coffee shop

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

According to one study, people with side gigs earn about $12,609 per year, an average of about $25 an hour.

Personal finance and credit writer Louis DeNicola highly recommends picking up a side hustle “if you frequently find yourself going over budget. Boost your income to offset the spending.”

Think about what you can do to earn some extra cash. Perhaps you can rent out a room on Airbnb, babysit, tutor or use your creative skills, such as graphic design or writing to earn extra money.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are 20+ creative side hustles, with these being the top 5:

  1. Take online surveys: $2 to $75 per survey
  2. Be a website tester: Up to $30 an hour
  3. Rent out your car: Turo
  4. Drive for Lyft or Uber
  5. Deliver food on UberEats

7. Set aside “fun money”

A great mental trick to feeling stress-free about spending is to set aside money in a savings account specifically for your overspending. According to DeNicola, “Putting a little bit of money aside each paycheck for impulse spending means you’ll have reserves to pull from if there’s an emergency. Or maybe it’s been a really long week and you just want to treat yourself.”

What are your goals for saving and spending, and why? Savings goals for your fun money may include:

  • Travel fund: spontaneous weekend getaways or your dream vacation
  • Retail therapy fund
  • “Me time” fund: massages, going to the theater, checking out the new restaurant in town, anything that makes your day a little brighter

Stick to the plan

We’re human and it’s not realistic to tell yourself you’ll never blow your budget ever again. Saving is important, but spending is, too.

The important thing is to create a plan for yourself, pay off your credit cards as fast as you can and think about what triggers cause you to spend.

Catch yourself when you start to spiral into spend mode. Don’t forget to set up a fun fund so you have some money set aside the next time you feel the need to splurge.

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