I spent Saturday night doing something super exciting. Okay, not really – I filed my 2012 taxes – but it was a little exciting to find out I overpaid my quarterlies and will be getting a refund. I was really worried about how my first year of self-employment would affect me at tax time, which is why I decided to start the process early.
Anyway, as I was sorting through my business and personal records, I realized that
some a lot of my bills have changed since I made my current budget. For example, my gas and electric bills are on a levelized plan where they’re the same every month. At some point in 2012 my gas bill dropped by $15 a month, but I’ve been paying the old amount. My latest gas bill was only $9 because I’ve overpaid so many times.
The more time I spent looking, the more these oversights started to add up. By the time I submitted my return (I use TaxACT in case you’re wondering), it was clear I needed to sit down and create a totally new budget to reflect my current life instead of my life in late 2011.
How Did This Even Happen?
Luckily my lack of attention didn’t result in any money catastrophes last year – all my bills were paid on time, I didn’t go without anything I needed, and I haven’t lost any money that I can’t get back in the form of statement credits. But the only reason I avoided disaster is because my bank pays my bills automatically. I allowed myself to become “too busy” to pay attention to where my money was going other than knowing it was going toward bills.
It’s so easy to get caught up in other things… I’ve been very fortunate to make enough money to cover my expenses (which are very low) pretty easily. Yet I can’t help thinking, What if I hadn’t been so lucky? What if that extra $15 I was sending to the gas company had been the difference between staying afloat or overdrafting my bank account? It’s not like it’s been soooo long since that would have been the case.
Keep Your Budget Updated, People
I wish I had a really cool reason why I haven’t looked at my budget in months. I guess I could make one up but I’m not a fan of lying. When it comes down to it, I just didn’t do what I should have done. I knew how much I needed to put in that account to pay my bills (as of the time I made the budget, anyway), I had a cushion in there to cover anything unexpected, and I just stopped paying attention other than checking the balance once or twice a week.
From now on, my phone and computer will remind me once a quarter to review my budget and compare it to my actual bills and spending. I have no plans to stop using my bank’s bill pay services, but I think I can do a little better than blindly throwing money in my checking account without looking to see where it goes.
Nobody likes budgeting (I know I don’t!) but it’s a necessary evil for most of us. If you’re still using the same budget you created a year ago or six months ago, are you confident that it’s the same budget you should be using right now?
When was the last time you updated your budget to reflect your current circumstances? How do you stay on top of things even when life gets busy?