It’s no secret getting on a budget can really help you manage your finances and meet certain goals. Budgeting can help you stay organized and avoid overspending so long as you don’t have to deal with a budget deficit.
What if you have more money going out than coming in? This is a common problem that most people face. If you’re spending more than you earn for whatever reason, you have a budget deficit.
This doesn’t mean that budgeting is useless for you. It just means you’ll need to make some adjustments. Here are some steps to help you deal with a budget deficit.
Find Out Where the Leak is Coming From
Let’s face it, your budget may have a few leaks in it. If you’re spending more than you’re bringing in, it’s important to start by narrowing down the cause of your increased spending.
Sometimes, it can be due to an obvious life change or your partner being out of work. It could also be due to having a child and needing to take an extended maternity leave. You might also have large, unexpected expenseslike major car repairs or small costs that have just added up over time.
Recently, we endured a budget deficit, and it was a result of too many unexpected expenses popping up at once. I had to pay for some doctor’s visits after getting sick, my husband’s car broke down and needed to be fixed ASAP, and then we also had to start paying for his fall classes.
See If You Can Lower Other Expenses
This is an obvious solution which can be your lead strategy. Depending on the cause of your budget deficit, you may be able to lower some of your expenses to provide relief.
You may not be able to lower fixed expenses like your rent or mortgage. So instead, focus on variable expenses and cut some things out even if it’s temporary.
Go through your budget line by line and see where you can make cuts. Maybe you can lower your food budget by 20%, get a cheaper cell phone plan and keep your same number, or cancel any subscriptions you have.
Lowering your expenses may seem tough, but it can give you relief overall and more financial wiggle room. Be open to using coupons and receiving discounts to lower the cost of things you prefer to spend money on so you can still save.
Determine How You Can Earn More
One of the best ways to deal with a budget deficit is increase your income. Overspending may not be a result of poor spending habits and more a case of having justified increased expenses.
For example, if you’re a teacher and don’t get paid during the summer, you may endure a budget deficit during that time if you don’t have savings lined up.
If you’re on the hook for a huge medical bill and have to spend extra money each month to pay it off, you may want to start looking at your options for earning extra money.
Calculate what your budget deficit is by subtracting expenses from income. The amount you come up with is a good place to start for your extra income goal.
Whether the amount is $300 or $1,000+ extra that you’ll need per month, break it down by a weekly amount and consider how many extra hours you can put into a side hustle each week.
See if you can make extra money by picking up more hours at your job, monetizing a hobby, or offering a service on the side. You can try freelancing online, driving for Uber, selling items online, delivering food, babysitting, or walking dogs.
Choose something that fits your schedule and would provide you with enough income to stay afloat during your deficit. You can also do a combination of earning more and spending less. So, to give an example, if you need an extra $500 per month, see if you can lower expenses by $250 and make an extra $250 per month to bridge the gap.
Lean on Emergency Savings
As always, having a healthy emergency savings fund can really be beneficial when you’re trying to deal with a budget deficit. If you know that your expenses could drastically increase in the future, it’s best to start planning ahead now and saving up.
When my husband and I planned on him returning to school, we knew we wanted to save up some extra money to help cover classes and other expenses since he could only work part-time.
Another thing I’m glad that we did was work on lowering some of our expenses and cutting unnecessary costs.
Sometimes, budget deficits are unexpected, so be sure to contribute to emergency savings regularly even if nothing is wrong at the moment. Start by automatically transferring 5% to 10% of your income to savings until you reach a balance that you feel comfortable with.
When the unexpected happens and you’re suddenly spending more than you earn, you’ll have a cash cushion to fall back on.
Having a budget deficit can be a stressful experience. It’s important to assess the situation and start working on practical solutions that will help stretch your budget, increase your income, or both.
Do what you can to prepare in advance by building a solid emergency fund. Also, realize that having a budget deficit is often only temporary so any sacrifices that you make to solve the issue don’t have to be long-term.