Author Topic: The squishy items in the budget?  (Read 3250 times)

The squishy items in the budget?
« on: May 12, 2017, 01:41:32 PM »
So I'm pretty dialed in on my budget, but there's the X part, the miscellaneous piece, that keeps getting me. The $ you spend on a trip to the hardware store, the the little odds and ends you need around the house, etc.

What's a reasonable amount monthly to budget for the sundry items?

Orvell

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2017, 01:49:14 PM »
I don't "budget" so much as I track every penny I spend and assign them all to categories. I don't have a "misc." category. Hair cuts, toiletries, projects, art supplies are all often-used categories on my own spreadsheet. I even have one for "avoidable/fees" which is a library fine I inevitably end up paying once a year lol :) When you share your spending patterns here or elsewhere, you can roll your mini categories together, but you should understand the nitty gritty yourself if there's a leak in your spending you want to plug.

I'd figure out what the purpose of all these trips is, first, to get a better feel for what you can assume/estimate for the future.
Example: Hobbies, like gardening? Household repairs? Upgrades to your house? Personal items, like TP?

Once you know what (rather than "misc") you're spending on, you can build a clearer picture, and budget a $# that actually makes sense for you in your situation.

moonpalace

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2017, 01:52:48 PM »
So I'm pretty dialed in on my budget, but there's the X part, the miscellaneous piece, that keeps getting me. The $ you spend on a trip to the hardware store, the the little odds and ends you need around the house, etc.

What's a reasonable amount monthly to budget for the sundry items?

Take this with a grain of salt, since I've only been doing it for 6 months!

But I have a budget line for "House stuff" that includes all of what you described. I read somewhere that one should expect to spend about 1-3% of one's house's value on maintenance, appliances, etc. each year. So given a $300,000 house, that's $9k/year or $750/month. I roll this budget line over month to month.

I've used this budget line for screws, lightbulbs, a new fridge, paint, tools, and probably other things I'm forgetting right now. And it's still growing over time, so it should serve as a kind of house-specific emergency fund, too (like if the furnace breaks, or the roof starts leaking, or whatever).

COEE

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2017, 02:12:03 PM »
I have a pretty detailed Budget.  I have a Home Maintenance category that I put stuff in.  Occasionally there's something that just doesn't fit anywhere - like TurboTax... where the hell do you put that?  I usually have a category that I call 'Other' that I just put a few extra bucks into as I need it.  I also put ATM fees in there (my bank reimburses them each month - so I know if they miss one too).

HipGnosis

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2017, 03:36:57 PM »
I tried budgeting and tracking every penny...  SUCH a time and attitude sink!
Now I just have a happy medium point between "I'm broke" and "I can afford what I need".  It works for me, which is the most important part.

Every budget does need a 'misc.' or 'other' category.  Life simply isn't simple enough to go without.

englishteacheralex

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2017, 04:03:11 PM »
After 6+ years of tracking our spending, we have a reasonable understanding of how much per year we spend on almost any category you can think of. We divide categories by 12 and create sinking funds for everything that isn't month-to-month. For us, the sinking funds are their own accounts. Every month we transfer funds back and forth from checking to sinking funds and vice versa as needed.

The expenses you describe would be included in our "household supplies" line item, which is $75/month, and also includes sundries such as dish detergent, diapers, toilet paper, etc. We have a slush fund that we go to if the household supplies line item is exceeded in any given month and we can't make up the difference from a different line item, such as "furnishings" or "groceries" or "gas".

druth

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2017, 04:12:35 PM »
I use YNAB, which does amount to tracking every penny.  They sync with my credit cards though, so I really just have to categorize everything, not put it all in by hand.  I put 100$ into the "Home Maintenance" category each month.  This is more than we spend normally but the excess rolls up into a home maintenance emergency fund.

Other squishy stuff like shampoo, or whatever, also has categories, but I just roll the excess budget over so it is there when I need it.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2017, 04:19:18 PM by druth »

khangaroo

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2017, 05:41:15 PM »
I don't categorize my misc. costs as I don't have any useful need for that data. I create my budget for every bi-weekly paycheck and I forecast what my credit card budget (I only use one credit card) is for the next two weeks.

For example, I got paid today 5/12/17 and in my spreadsheet I already allocated every dollar into 3 categories: savings, bills, credit card. The budget then gets me to my next paycheck on 5/26/17 and I have a lump-sum number (this bi-week it was $338) once I complete savings/bills for how much I can spend. Like I said, I don't track my spending so it accounts for all kinds of stuff like gas, eating out, entertainment, clothes, etc.

Once again, you might have some need for the categorization but all I need to know is that I'm holding my savings rate and getting all my bills paid. I can send a screen shot of my spreadsheet if you're interested but it's very, very simple. I'm a spreadsheet nerd like a lot of people on here but I don't need to analyze every last penny to "optimize" my spending.

Goldielocks

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2017, 01:11:55 AM »
I found that when I owned a home, this was a lot higher than renting... Small fix ups and such, plus a larger home (or townhome).  I used to budget $150 per month.  That covered everything from a dishcloth, to a garbage can, to a few bedding plants, to getting material to make a kitchen blind, to small repairs, programmable thermostat, etc occasionally.

Later, I created a budget for household / grocery combined, and just used cash for grocery store, hardware, etc.  I could spend cash, or I could save the cash for next month (top up).  I could use it for eating out if I wanted, but I could not take out more cash that month, even if I ran out of groceries.  After all, it did not matter to me whether the extra money was spent on a birthday gift for my niece, or on screws to fix / hang up our bikes in the garage.

Laura33

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2017, 06:07:43 AM »
I think this is too individual.  E.g., we have an old house, so our maintenance is going to be higher than someone who is renting or living in a condo/townhouse.  I go to the library but DH buys books for his iPad, so he is going to have a bigger budget for that.  Etc.

My advice is just track it for a year or two, so you can get a general view of how your particular combination of things averages out.

But in the end it is all somewhat meaningless.  If you are meeting your savings goals and are careful with your spending and have enough for the rest, you're good.

Sarah Saverdink

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2017, 06:23:52 AM »
I track our overall spending and just try to keep it below a certain threshold. Some months "random" expenses are high (DH just bought a $400 hard drive thing...) and others they are not. Overall, we have decent spending habits. My ultimate goal is to save at least 50% of take-home income and not worry about the smaller details.

PoutineLover

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2017, 01:41:58 PM »
I don't worry about budgeting for those little things because I find that they vary a lot and I don't see myself every saying "well, no budget left for TP, lets just go without it this month!"
I have a system similar to what khangaroo does, in that I know how much I'll get paid, how much my bills cost, and how much is automatically transferred to savings, so I can spend the rest however I want. It gives me the freedom to spend that money while knowing my obligations are taken care of, and it's allows for weird one-off expenses without throwing off the system. I don't think I'd gain anything by knowing exactly how much is in each category and it would just be more effort/stress.

AlanStache

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2017, 02:03:37 PM »
I sort of look at the CC merchant breakdown every few months and see if anything is higher than I would like and if it is then I dig a bit more into it.  If your spending is low you should be able to look at merchant lists and read over your misc category fairly easily to see what stands out.  But also I dont keep a budget, I am just aware of what I spend and think about if what I am buying is something I need or want and will it make me happier.  It probably helps that I am somewhat minimalist in decorating.  (Last week I did impulse by a new hamper at Target; 8$ because it is from Target it will get lumped in with food but that 8$ will not change anything.  Side note Target sells 50$ hampers WTF!!!!!!)

TaraB

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2017, 09:54:08 AM »
I had tracked every penny for 2.5 years and then lost my file!! (That's what I get for trusting a work computer).

I have an estimate for annual spend for a lot of categories- I'm a single homeowner. This year I know I need to do repairs, so I budgeted $2K. Every month I don't use it, I roll it over. This is "Flex budgeting"- I'm experimenting with rolling over my unused budget from month to month.

Another example of flex budgeting- I assume I'll have to take one of my cats to the vet for something stupid this year, so I put aside $300 for vet bills. I don't know what month I'll use it (or if I'll have to use it at all), but I have it essentially set aside this year.

I also used to do budgeting for my employer/company. This is fixed budgeting- if you don't spend your allotted $2K on your office supplies this month, you lose it. I found doing my personal budget this way was not so helpful for me.

It sounds like you're tracking what's going out the door each paycheck, which is good. "If it's not broken, don't fix it!" But if you want to look at your spending habits, you can create whatever categories make sense to you.

nobody123

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Re: The squishy items in the budget?
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2017, 12:34:30 PM »
We track every penny.  Did it for a while, then stopped, then restarted last year after noticing too many "leaks" for our liking.  We force every expense into a category, so we don't have a "miscellaneous" category.  We allocate funds to each category out of every paycheck, and unused funds roll to the next month.  We do keep our credit card cash back / Ibotta / mail in rebates in a line item and let it build over the course of the year.  If at the end of the year a category is negative, we reallocate funds from other areas to get it zeroed out and then adjust our paycheck allocation to cover our expected spend for next year.  It is a bit tedious, but the couple of hours a month it takes is well worth it to us to keep our spending under control.  The only thing we don't do detail tracking of is cash expenditures from our individual allowances.