What to Do When Your Budget Fails

It happens to us all. We budget, we plan, and yet our budgets sometimes still fail. Whatever the reason may be, it’s okay if your budget fails. The part that sets you apart from the masses is if you have the courage to pick yourself back up and create a new budget to get back on track. 
The numerous times that our budget has failed, we’ve had to work hard to get it back on track. These tips are ways that we’ve been able to get our budget back on track and keep our heads afloat. I hope that you’ll find these useful as well. 

No Spend Month  

Last May, we went on a no spend challenge. It was horrible and it was awesome at the same time. If you’ve noticed that you or your spouse has been bitten by the spending bug lately, try this challenge. How it works is that you still pay for your usual bills; mortgage, loan payments, insurance payments, and utilities. You still buy groceries and you pay for fuel or transportation but you spend no other money. 
That means no stops at the convenience store for RedBulls {this one gets my hubs every time!} or online shopping. It means that if it’s not on your grocery list it’s not going to be purchased this month. Chances are you will completely forget about whatever it was that you wanted to buy during your no spend month. 

Sell Your ‘Junk’

If you’re like us, you have random items throughout your home and garage that you just don’t use or even need. You have no where to store them and you have no idea what to do with them. Or maybe you or your spouse is like my hubs, a sentimental hoarder. My hubs always has hated to get rid of things that he has a memory attached to it. 
Sell off any of those items that you can on sites like eBay, Craigslist, or on any Facebook Yard Sale Sites. You could even host a yard sale to avoid having to package any items to sell. If you or your spouse is a sentimental hoarder, it may help to start small. This is what worked to get my hubs over his hoarderness {like my new word? :) }. I started to sell off a few items of mine that my hubs didn’t care about. Once he saw how much money I was making off those items and I was simultaneously creating more space in our home he was sold. 

Donate Your Items for Tax Deductions

If you can’t sell some of your items or you would rather donate them, make sure you take advantage of any tax write offs you can receive. Make sure you get a tax receipt and that the receipt includes the charity’s tax ID number and date that the donation was made. Use The Salvation Army’s Valuation Table to estimate the value of your donations. Make sure to write this amount down on the receipt and store it with your tax records. Also make sure you log into either your tax software program, spreadsheet, or where ever you log your tax information. The more organized your taxes are the more money you’ll save come tax time. 

Take a Crash Course

If you’re really struggling to get a hold on your budget, I highly suggest reading Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover. You can even enroll in his Financial Peace University to help you even further. Or if you’re looking for the free option, you can try out You Need A Budget’s free 9 Day Budgeting Course. It will be emailed to you every day. You can also read through my Budgeting Basics 101 Series where I walk you through the 4 basic steps to setting up a budget. 
What are some ways that have helped you and your family get back on track when your budget fails? 
Linked Up To: A Bowl Full of Lemons

TBM Comment PolicyI love comments from y'all, so please feel free to chime in below. However, I do ask that you remember to be kind and to sprinkle your comments with grace. If you're being ugly and not adding anything of benefit to the conversation, your comment will be removed. This is a place to encourage others, not tear anyone down. You can read more of my comment policy here.


  1. says

    Found you on the BFOL link up. These are good ideas for what to do WHEN the budget fails. But one thing not listed is to examine WHY the budget failed. Sometimes all our work to set a budget becomes pointless when something totally unexpected happens – like a job loss, death in the family, unexpected pregnancy, etc. And sometimes it happens just because we slip and get lazy when it comes to self-discipline.

    But sometimes we just planned a bad budget from the get-go. Did you forget to factor in a quarterly expense (for me, that’d be the water bill) or a big once a year expense (like your property tax bill). Did you forget that memo at work about the employee’s share of health insurance premiums going up? Did you make a major change in your family’s diet and not think ahead about how the food bills would change?

    My point is, if you don’t bother to analyze WHY the budget failed, you’ll keep on failing. A little analysis can help you rebound…or at least plan a stronger budget for next year.

    • says

      Of course you should always look into why your budget failed but that’s another post entirely. You make some great points and thank you so much for sharing! I especially love your point on the health insurance premiums as that happens a lot!

  2. says

    We’re doing a debt snowball this year to get rid of hubby’s school debt, so it’s basically like we’re doing a no-spend challenge for 12 months! It’s so, so hard, but being accountable for every dime (and knowing that when we’re done, our lives will drastically change!) is worth it in the end. Excellent tips!

    • says

      Ugh, student loans. I hate mine so, so, so much! A debt snowball in my opinion is the best way to go to get rid of debt! Good luck to you and I know that you can do it! Your lives will be changed for the better and thank you so much for your kind words. :)

  3. says

    We’ve done this a few times. We actually did this last month but not actively. Meaning we ended up spending no extra money just because. We were able to put more in savings and it really pointed out some extra spending we had been doing unnecessarily. Good post.

  4. says

    Great post! I just started a series on my blog called Proven Strategies For Budget Cuts In The Home. I will have to link to your great information. I love that you included the Salvation Army Valuation Table and a free choice for online budgeting. I hope to see you around the blogging world!

    • says

      I’m a huge fan of free so I always try to share great, reliable free resources. :) And I love the Salvation Army Valuation Table, it helps me figure out our donations so much easier. And your series sounds awesome and I can’t wait to read it! Thank you so much for sharing with me!

    • says

      Yes, totally true, what good does a budget do if you are not accurately and intentionally following it everyday. Thank you so much for reading!

  5. says

    Had not thought of a no-spend month. I believe I will have to talk to my hubby about it. We use quicken and it helps but sometimes you just need a little push and that may do it! Thanks again!

    • says

      Do it! It works wonders. I took me a while to get my hubs on board but once I presented it to him as a true challenge he was game. Most men love a good competition so make it a game and have fun with it so it’s no so scary. :)

  6. says

    I love Dave Ramsey! We read Total Money Make Over and are working on it :) I’ve heard a lot about people doing no-spend months and that ideas kind of scares me :) it would be an incredible challenge but it would be a good one!

    • says

      Total Money Makeover is one of my favorite books and I refer back to it often! The no spend month is definitely scary but it’s so so worth it! I was actually surprised to see how much I was spending (typically I’m the saver and my hubs is the spender)! My culprit was online shopping. :-/

  7. says

    We sometimes will do a budget challenge which works well for curbing spending and it’s fun too! We’ll each get a set amount of “spending money” and that’s all the extra we can spend for the month – has to cover anything except food, gas and bills. Then whomever has the most money left at the end of the month is the “winner.”

    • says

      I LOVE your spending challenge! I think that my hubs and I are going to have to try it, after all most men are competitive! :) Thank you so much for sharing your idea!

  8. says

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m always looking for ways to save money and keep us on or below budget. I’ll be checking into your site very often. When I saw Dave Ramsey’s name pop up, I knew this was the site for me!

  9. says

    We are budgeters as well. I’d like to try a new spend month – that sounds like it would be tough but worth the effort. Working on paying off debt and saving a decent sized emergency fund are our current goals.

    • says

      A no spend month is so worth it! It is definitely challenging but it really gets your spending under control ASAP. And good luck on your goals! I know that you can do it :)

    • says

      Some of the FB yard sale sites are private but you can typically do a search to find one near you. You can post a status update asking any of your friends if they belong to a yardsale group and if they do if they can add you to it. That’s how I got into the three that I’m a part of. :)

  10. says

    Love the total money makeover -it is a game changer. I don’t know how people can live with so much debt and feel broke all the time. My husband and I are debt free -but, it is still not easy. Society is always trying to make you want to purchase things! Life pulls some loopholes too! Right now we are really trying to focus to keeping on a budget to save a certain amount each month -and, wouldn’t you know it -both our cars needed major repairs! Murphey’s Law! Despite having to dig into savings, we did stick to the budget otherwise…and that is a win!

    • says

      Good ol’ Murphey’s Law! lol. And I often wonder how on earth I survived when I had literally more debt than income for the entire year. I remember feeling like I was drowning. We aren’t a 100% debt free but every time we pay off something that feeling is SOOOO amazing! Congratulations to you for sticking with it and being debt free!!! That is truly amazing and something to be proud of! :)

    • says

      Thank you so much for your kind words. It definitely was a challenge to get my hubs on board but put the bug in his ear and hopefully he’ll be game! :)

  11. says

    I think I could really benefit from a “No Spend Month”! Do you make exceptions if you are invited to a birthday party, etc?

    Sarah’s Fare recently posted → <a href=”http://sarahsfare.com/eggs-in-a-nest/”>Eggs in a Nest</a>

    • says

      This is the hard part of a no spend month – you make no exceptions. If you’re invited to a birthday party you either don’t go or make/bring something homemade that didn’t cost any money. Before planning a no spend month we look at our calendar to make sure that we aren’t planning to do one when we know that we’ll be invited to a lot of birthdays or events.

  12. says

    My husband and I need to take the “No Spend Challenge”. I remember when my husband used to buy energy drinks practically everyday (he no longer does this) and I’d complain about it. Now, it’s his turn to complain, because I have to buy kombucha tea at least 2-3 times a week (it’s $4 a bottle).

    • says

      Isn’t funny how life works like that? Most of the time it’s my hubs that over spends but then of course I’ll fall into the trap too! Do a no spend month – you’ll be super happy you did! :)

  13. says

    I was paycheck to paycheck for a while and did a no spend challenge by force. For those who find it daunting, let me tell ya, the first week was horrible with all the goodies I was so used to enjoying getting cut – no more drive thru coffee, no more work lunches out, no new outfits, no recreational shopping. Ugh.

    But if you can make it through the first week or so, it actually becomes enlightening. It is really amazing all of the things you think you need that you can actually live without. And you can really impress yourself by how creative you can get using the resources you currently have. I got so used to making fun trips to the fabric & craft stores that I was truly oblivious to HOW MANY craft/sewing projects I could complete with the stash I already had.

    Give it a go – it won’t be that bad!

  14. says

    I went through the trouble months ago to write out a budget that was pretty generous in all areas. We only live on $4k a month, and yet we’re trying to save $1k a month, which isn’t easy! Our budget definitely hasn’t been working out, and I’ve been discouraged since my husband makes extra purchases without keeping the budget in mind (he’s spending about $60 a month on McDonalds just to get a coffee and then “throw in a muffin because he doesn’t just want to put a coffee on debit), and he’s been blowing through our gas budget, also.

    You’re right though, and I need to write out a new budget and see what I can do. We definitely sell a lot of things after we no longer need them, especially baby things, since you only use them for a short period of time. Lots of good tips on this list! Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      My hubs was the same way back when Blockbuster was still around. No joke, he was spending $80 a month renting movies and some of them we didn’t even have time to watch. Once I showed him the actual amounts (I added it up in front of him from our bank statement) he stopped. Maybe something similar will work for your hubs? Good luck, I know it’s not easy but keep positive and you can do it! :)

  15. says

    I’m going to do the no-spend challenge for March. This will be extremely interesting, but I’m excited! Thank you for all these tips. Additionally, your organization is impeccable. I really like how you presented all the information.

    • says

      Thank you so much Liz! My hubs and I decided last night we’re re-visiting the no spend challenge for March. I’ll be blogging about it and I’d love to hear how it works for you! Good luck and thank you so much for your kind words! :)

  16. says

    Wow, this post really made me see just how horrible I’ve been with my budget. Thanks so much for such useful information. Now, I need to put some of these things into action :-) That will undoubtedly be the hardest part.

  17. says

    These are helpful tips! We are trying to put all our extra money into savings {we are military family facing tough times with them cutting the force} so I want to be prepared for the “just in case.” This article is really going to help us reach our goal. Thank you for sharing it!

    • says

      Thank you so much Stacey for your family’s sacrifice for our great country! Also be prepared for the unexpected and you’re doing a great job by putting all your extra money into savings! Keep going! :)

  18. says

    I totally need to do a no-spend month. We make a budget, then something happens and it’s off track. This is one of the hardest things we deal with. Thanks for the tips!

  19. says

    Love this! Such great tips – might be worth trying a few to get a few extra bucks in my pocket :) I look forward to checking out the rest of your blog and tips!

  20. says

    Since I quit my office/day job, we’ve been on a really really tight budget! Dave Ramsey helps… a lot! I found his books at our library. But, what you find out is that you waste a lot of money on just stuff. We are much better off now. Great tips, thank you

  21. says

    Great post! My husband and I adopted a very frugal lifestyle while we were saving up to buy our home. Since moving, we’ve continued to manage our spending very conservatively. It can be challenging, but I enjoy finding creative ways not to spend money. I make my cards for holidays, birthdays, etc and try to bake/ cook/ plan as much as I can to save on our grocery bill. This is a great reminder to help people stay encouraged, even if they falter with their financial goals.

  22. says

    This is a great post–my husband and I were gifted Dave’s seminar for our recent wedding. And, I bought that YNAB program from Steam when they were having a sale recently.
    I love the idea of giving my money a job so that I can eventually do the things I want and need.

  23. says

    I have seen these no spend months… I’m always curious to try but I don’t know if I could ever get hubby to actually do it with me. It’s tough when two people have a different relationship with money. Thanks for the post.

    • says

      My hubs was a challenge to get on board too. Once I presented it to him as a competition he was hooked! Hopefully, your husband will get on board. It’s a truly eye-opening experience! Good luck! :)

  24. says

    I am in the home stretch of no spend February. Im glad it was a short month… but man was it hard. The only things I bought this month were groceries and cleaning/paper supplies. Refraining from online shopping was the hardest.. but so necessary. Now I am happy to say my budget is on track again.. and im looking forward to March.

    • says

      It’s so easy to over spend when using a card! $43 and $40 are the same thing when you’re using a card but if you only have $40 cash on you then you can’t afford the extra $3. Cash definitely makes all the difference – thank you for sharing! :)

    • says

      Sorting through it is definitely the challenging part! I feel like I’m pulling my husband’s teeth to get him to sort through his stuff! :)

  25. says

    Found you via the SITS gals. My hubby and I are big fans of Dave Ramsey. As a trucker’s family, I learned that budgeting is a huge problem for many people in our industry. Irregular income plus the challenge of what it cost to be an over-the-road driver can create havoc in our budgets. Putting ourselves on a financial diet was one of the best things we have ever done. Good post!
    Lucy recently posted…Truckers Wife Weekly Money Saving Challenge: Week 10My Profile

    • says

      Thank you Lucy! Irregular income is such a pain to budget for since you have to budget backwards, expenses first than income. Back when my hubs owned his own business that was always so challenging. Thank your hubby for us as I know that this country wouldn’t be where it’s at without truckers! :)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge