Budgeting is a solid foundation for a stable financial life, but even the best-laid plans can go sideways. Lots of people find themselves off track due to common budgeting mistakes. But those mistakes can easily be avoided. Whether you’re just starting your budgeting journey or trying to refine it, here are some common budget fails and how to steer clear of them.

1. Not tracking every expense

The mistake: It’s tempting to overlook small, everyday expenses—things like coffee or snacks—but these can add up and throw your budget off balance.

How to avoid it:

– Use technology: Budgeting apps like Brigit automatically track and categorize your expenses, making it easier to see where your money goes.

– Keep receipts: Save your receipts and log them at the end of each day or week. This ensures every penny is accounted for.

– Cash only: Use cash for your non-essential spending. Using a tangible payment method reminds you that it’s real money you’re spending, and makes it easier to track how much you’re spending.

2. Setting unrealistic goals

The mistake: Creating a budget that’s too restrictive or setting unattainable savings goals can lead to frustration and even make you abandon your budget altogether.

How to avoid it:

– Be realistic: Set achievable goals based on your actual spending habits. If you’re used to spending $300 on dining out, don’t cut it to $50 immediately. Aim for gradual reductions.

– Build in flexibility: Allow some room for occasional splurges or unexpected expenses. A little wiggle room can help you stick to your budget longer.

3. Ignoring irregular expenses

The mistake: Forgetting to account for irregular expenses like car repairs, medical bills, or annual subscriptions can disrupt your budget.

How to avoid it:

– Create an irregular expense fund: Set aside a small amount each month to cover these occasional costs. This fund acts as a buffer and keeps your budget intact.

– Review past expenses: Look at your spending over the past year to identify irregular expenses and plan for them in your budget.

4. Failing to adjust your budget

The mistake: Life changes and so should your budget. Not adjusting your budget as things change can lead to overspending or missed savings opportunities.

How to avoid it:

– Regular reviews: Review your budget monthly to make sure it still matches up with your current financial situation. Make adjustments as needed to reflect changes in income or expenses.

– Be proactive: Anticipate changes like a new expense or an upcoming holiday. Adjust your budget ahead of time to stay on track.

5. Not prioritizing savings

The mistake: Treating savings as an afterthought rather than a priority can derail your long-term financial goals.

How to avoid it:

– Pay yourself first: Treat savings like a non-negotiable expense. Automate transfers to your savings account as soon as you get paid.

– Set clear goals: Define your savings goals clearly, whether it’s an emergency fund, a vacation, or retirement. Having a purpose for your savings makes it easier to stay committed.

6. Overestimating future income

The mistake: While it’s good to be optimistic, it’s better to be realistic when you estimate future earnings. Counting on future raises, bonuses, or side hustle income can lead to overspending in the present.

How to avoid it:

– Base your budget on current income: Create your budget based on your current, guaranteed income. Treat any additional income as a bonus rather than a necessity.

– Save windfalls: Use unexpected income like bonuses or tax refunds to boost your savings or pay down debt, rather than increasing your spending.

7. Neglecting to include fun money

The mistake: A budget that’s all work and no play is really hard to stick to. And kind of miserable. If you don’t include money for entertainment in your budget, that can lead to burnout and impulse spending.

How to avoid it:

– Set aside fun money: Include a category in your budget for entertainment, dining out, or hobbies. Having a designated amount for fun helps you enjoy life without guilt.

– Stick to the limit: Once your fun money is spent, resist the urge to dip into other budget categories. That discipline helps maintain overall financial health.