Sticking to a household budget is apparently difficult. As in, really difficult.
While 74% of people say they have some sort of budget, 79% don’t stick to it, according to new research from SlickDeals.net, a crowd-sourced shopping platform. The average weekly amount consumers spend — not counting bills such as mortgage or rent, utilities, etc. — is $340, or $143 more than the average $197 budgeted. That equals overspending by about $7,400 each year.
“The struggle with overspending exists regardless of how much people earn,” said certified financial planner Josh Nelson, founder and CEO of Keystone Financial Services in Loveland, Colorado. “I’ve heard ‘I don’t know where all the money goes’ from people who make a gazillion dollars and from poor college students and everyone in between.”
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The survey, conducted in August, asked 2,000 adults about their budgeting habits and weekly spending. Topping the list of categories where respondents overspend is online shopping, followed by grocery shopping and subscription services. (And, yes, overindulging on coffee ranks in the top 10.)
Consumer debt has continued to climb, reaching nearly $13.9 billion in the second quarter of 2019, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Credit card debt comprises roughly $1 trillion of that. Separate data from CompareCards.com show that just 38% of cardholders are “very confident” they can pay their monthly balance in full.
If going over your budget is causing credit card debt to pile up or is standing in the way of your ability to reach other goals, there are some ways to rein yourself in, financial advisors say.
TOP 10 BUDGET KILLERS:
- Online shopping 40%
- Grocery shopping 39%
- Subscription services 37%
- Technology products 36%
- Buying lunch everyday 35%
- Household essentials 32%
- Coffee 32%
- Food delivery 32%
- Gym memberships 30%
- Entertainment (movies, concerts, etc.) 29%
For starters, make sure your budget is realistic.
“Most people hate budgeting and going through the exercise of figuring out where they’re spending their money,” Nelson said. “But people end up finding a lot of areas where they can cut back without affecting their quality of life one bit.”
For example, he said, you might be paying subscriptions to online publications, games and services that you no longer need.
“Sometimes people don’t even know they’re still being charged for things they aren’t using,” Nelson said.
And if online shopping is a weakness, one trick is to leave the item in your cart for at least 24 hours.
“Chances are it’s an impulse purchase,” said Jessica Goedtel, CFP and assistant vice president at Valley National Financial Advisors in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “By delaying it a day or longer, you give time for that impulse to cool off.”
Additionally, don’t view budgeting as deprivation, said CFP Eric Roberge.
“What I always tell my clients is that it’s not about depriving yourself, or not spending, or being cheap,” said Roberge, founder of Beyond Your Hammock in Boston and co-host of the “Beyond Finances” podcast.
“Good budgeting is about getting clear on what’s actually important to you and then putting your money where your values are,” Roberge said.
In other words, he said, align your spending with your values and cut back in areas that don’t reflect them.
“By tracking your spending and just paying attention, you’re well positioned to make more intentional, mindful choices about your money,” Roberge said. “You don’t need to deprive yourself, but you do need to be disciplined and focused on what matters most to you.”
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.