Budget Basics – Wiggle Room in the Budget

Photo Credit: www.keepcalmomatic.com

Photo Credit: www.keepcalmomatic.com

When it comes to allowing wiggle room in the budget, there are two main and drastically different styles: Those who wiggle, wiggle, wiggle and those who are rigid, rigid, rigid. Despite being able to “go with the flow” across most areas of my life, regarding my budgets I do not like to bend—which has resulted in some seriously over dramatic breaks when the numbers don’t work themselves out exactly, I have to put less than I planned toward my debt, or I spend more money that I originally intended and/or planned to. As I accumulate more life experiences (and monetary moments that don’t go along with my perfectly budgeted plan) I keep noticing that my life—financially and otherwise—tends to be a little bit better when I loosen my grip on my extremely detailed, overly analyzed, and fiercely capped budget to embrace a little wiggle—where some wiggling is warranted of course.

After years of drawing a maximum budget line and never crossing it, I have finally convinced myself that I’d be better off with a new found mindset—determined to interweave the rigid budgeting strategies that help me stay on track and achieve my financial goals while incorporating some cushions that increase my ability to stay calm and happy on my journey to accomplishing them. While rigidity is the backbone of any budget, there are some specific types of sub-budgets that can greatly benefit due to some built-in wiggle room.

When Looking at our Sub-Budgets we must ask ourselves:

To Wiggle or Not to Wiggle?

Photo credit: Disney

Photo credit: Disney

Since setting a specific budget and saving the funds to pay for my upcoming wedding with cash, I have spent MONTHS refusing to add some wiggle room. It literally makes my stomach turn when I envision myself saving (not even spending—because that is how crazy I can be) $10 more than the reasonably budgeted amount my fiancé and I agreed upon. Through my rigid-budget-ice-queen-glasses saving more than the set budget looks like planning not to reach the goal we set for ourselves—so then what’s the point of the budget anyway!?!?! However, after much research, listening to firsthand accounts of others, and reflecting on my own personality downfalls differences when I’m stressed about money I realize that a wedding budget—or any other budget that is large in sum and typically created over several months—is a prime place to leave some wiggle room. The reality is that not planning on a having any “surprise expenses” doesn’t ensure that there won’t be any “surprise expenses”. Hence, the very definition of the word “surprise”.

definition of surprise

photo credit: Google

I encourage Type A Budgeteers (not a typo, I just invented that word. Go me.) to relinquish delusional grips on what can’t be controlled—the inevitability of surprises—when budgeting for a wedding or any other large scale event, and make good decisions regarding the matters you can control—which in this case is saving above the budget to give yourself room to wiggle during the process. When it comes to big money, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And if you are like me, feel free to give yourself a daily reminder that just because you save that extra does not mean you will end up spending it.  “I’m not a budget failure. I’m not a budget failure. I’m not a budget failure…”

Related Posts: Wedding Planning on a Budget: Shifting your PerspectiveWedding Budget 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Wedding Budgets for the Financially Unprepared Bride-to-Be

gft-givingWhen it comes to gift-giving, I am a firm believer in over-budgeting and leaving room for the wiggle. While I struggle to leave a buffer on budget areas that are directly related to me, myself, and I; I actually would much rather over spend on others than under spend. Not only do I believe cheap gifting to be tacky behavior, but not letting my gifts represent how much I care about my loved ones leaves me with a “yucky” feeling in my stomach (truth: I was literally scrunching my nose up while typing that sentence—physical manifestation of “yucky”). That being said, the budget can’t be completely thrown out the window because my income is not limitless. When I know that birthdays, holidays, babies, and housewarmings are in the near future, I always over save to create a buffer. Then when I meet my girlfriends on their birthdays I can bring a gift and chip in with everyone else to cover the old lady’s tab 😉 My peeps are worth it a hundred times over. <3

Related Post: Holidays on a Budget

traveling - wiggle

I believe that the traveling budget deserves a little wiggle room for a few different reasons. The first reason is that “traveling” is a very broad term—are you traveling to Costa Rica or are you traveling to your grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving? If you are going on a big trip to an unfamiliar destination you are going to need to create more wiggle room than if you are traveling a short, familiar trek that you’ve conquered many times before. For a short trip, you’d be wise to establish a budget and then be sure you have access to additional buffer money just in case an unfortunate scenario, like car trouble, leaves you stranded in a Motel 8 for a night (that actually happened to me once). For big-time trips I usually create a buffer that totals about one-fourth of my entire travel budget just to be on the safe side. The most difficult part for me  regarding travel wiggle room is to detach myself from “vacation mode” after I get back and actually do something responsible with the buffer I’ve created and didn’t have to spend—hello impulse coffee table purchase that was the main catalyst in scaring me into better spending habits nearly two years ago…

Related posts: Saving Money on your Road Trip across the USofA

 Caution: No Wiggling Recommended Beyond this Point!

Groceries – I think food is one of the areas that people overspend on, and I really think my grocery budget has cut out more mindless spending more than budgeting any other area. Creating a buffer for your grocery budget is simply not necessary. It will open you up to being less aware of using what you already have, throwing away unused/spoiled food, and buying overpriced junk. It just makes you forget to be appreciative of food. Don’t wiggle!!

Monthly spending money – No buffer needed. Period. Start finding ways to spend your time that don’t involve spending all of your money. Trust me, it’s easier than you think.

Shopping – If you let yourself wiggle a little bit when you head out shopping (especially if you don’t tote around shopping bags too often) your wiggle is very, highly likely to snowball into a full-blown Harlem Shake. Before you know it your “buffer” has doubled your original budget and that’s not what “wiggle room” is all about. Set a shopping budget, grab some cash, and never look back.

Bills – Take advantage of the consistency that comes with bills—it might be the only good thing they’ve got going for them, right? Set those automatic withdrawals and forget ‘em. No wiggle room needed.

Head on over to BrokeGIRLrich to see more posts featured in this week’s Financially Savvy Saturday!



For more information on how to gain control of your finances check out our Getting Started page by clicking the link in the menu bar at the top of the page. Which “sub-budgets” do you allow wiggle room in and where do you hold your ground mercilessly?

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10 thoughts on “Budget Basics – Wiggle Room in the Budget

  1. Brian @ Debt Discipline

    Always good to build in a little wiggle room for some categories, somethings are just unpredictable. We are just adding a free spending category to our budget that we can use to help cover the wiggle in other areas.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…CommissionMy Profile

    1. Brittany Post author

      Oh my–you are what I strive to be with that free spending category. I know that wiggle room is important but oh MAN, it is hard for me to include it!!

  2. May ~ Messy Money

    I am more of a budget reviewer (hindsight budgeter) vs. a forward budgeter BUT I am trying to budget more for Christmas. You are right about needing some wiggle room. I just steal from one category and to apply to another category. For example spending more in gifts might mean cutting back on groceries. Keeps spending down and helps me understand what my priorities are.
    May ~ Messy Money recently posted…A Retirement Story – Part 2My Profile

    1. Brittany Post author

      That is smart to take a little from one area in order to cushion another. It kind of reminds me of calories, haha, like if I’m going eat pie this Thanksgiving I won’t get a second helping of mashed potatoes 😉

  3. Mel

    I agree with budgeting in a little wiggle on travel. You really never know what will happen. Two of my friends were on a trip once and they BOTH managed to misread their flight departure times and missed their flight home. They totally had to spend another night and rebook their flights.
    Mel recently posted…Yakezie CarnivalMy Profile

    1. Brittany Post author

      Oh my GOSH! I’ve never had an unexpected expense that was that extreme, but I’m a HUGE nerd about double-triple-quadruple checking everything related to the airport…but I probably just jinxed myself 😉

  4. Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver

    I definitely agree on wiggle room for gifts and travel! Travel can have a lot of unexpected surprises, like you mentioned – you never know if there is a conference in town, which ruins your rental car/metro transport/taxi-cab-hailing plans, or if a storm arrives and you have to buy some extra supplies (like an umbrella!) You literally never know. Thanks for sharing that it’s okay to have SOME wiggle room! :)
    Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver recently posted…Halloween Costume Time!My Profile


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