Thursday, March 5, 2009

Variable Expenses

Variable expenses in my expenses are a source of anxiety and confusion. I'm not quite sure how to account for them and figure out what to budget each month for each of them.

Also, some months I don't have those expenses and some I do. I keep forgetting to add certain things to the budget because it isn't something I've needed to spend on in a while. Like household items, sometimes I don't buy any for months and then bam I run out all at the same time and need new of everything, which can get expensive for the month. How do I figure out how much of these items I use in say a year and budget out the money for them all year long so the money is there when I need it?

What variable expenses do you have in your budgets? I know I'm overlooking items and I'm afraid of doing it all wrong again.

Photo by: FCN


  1. I have several different categories on my budget that are variable: home improvement, groceries, entertainment, dining out and auto fuel for starts. I do also have a "misc" column - but that is tricky. I tend to go over in it a lot. Household items I lump into groceries, for me that is $125 a month. In all those categories my goal is to come in under the budget amount I set. My home improvement budget is $50, but I love coming much lower.

  2. In "account's" speak, anything that isn't fixed is variable. Fixed is an expense that is the same month after month after month. Rent, insurance premiums, loan payments, credit cards, budget-plan utilities, etc.

    Variable is everything else. Groceries, utilities, gas, household, etc.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "doing it all wrong." Living on a budget is not a "right" or "wrong" thing. You have just started budgeting, so you don't have enough history of expenses to know what you spend per year per category.

    One thing you can do is estimate what you think you spend in a year for a category, then divide by 12. If you don't spend it this month, put in savings for when you do need it.

    I change my budget from month to month depending on what's going on in my life. Some months have 5 paydays, and I figure that in. It also means I have to make 5 day care payments. Some months will require that I spend money on new clothes for the kids, or birthday presents for family, etc. I also have expenses that are quarterly, like my water and life insurance.

    You can take these types of expenses, and budget for them monthly (divide your payment by three,) and save the money each month until it's due.

    The most important thing for you to do right now is track your expenses, by category for a few months. Then you will have an idea of how much you are spending and can better anticipate you expenses. You will also see where you can make some changes.

    Good luck!

  3. As far at household items or toiletries go, I look for the items I buy on sale. I don't shop for things all at once. That way I can pay for them when I DO have money.

  4. @ Dawn, that is what I have in mine too. Maybe I'll lump the household items into groceries too that might help any extra can go into a fund of some sort.

    @ Jennifer, I think what I mean by doing it all wrong is failing at it. I'm not very confident in money matters and I get nervous and feel like I am unable or not smart enough to get it.

    @ Moving on up!, it sounds like you stock up. That is an option on some small items but I have limited space to stock up on toiletries and other household products.