How to Stop Going Over Budget Once and For All

This ONE tiny change to my budget completely revolutionized my finances. I finally was able to stop going over budget once and for all!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Whoa. How did I not think of this yet? SO SMART! I'm constantly going over budget on food, especially since I try to buy healthier options. The planner she references is wicked cute, and super affordable too. I'm trying her method starting with my next paycheck! #budgeting #howtobudget #goingoverbudget #overbudget #budgetfail #budgetftw

This is super embarrassing for me to admit, especially for a girl who’s all about teaching you how to manage money better, but I can’t hide it any longer. You ready for my confession? Okay, here it goes…

My name is Kalyn, and I’ve been going over budget….by a lot. Mostly in the FOOD category, but also in the MISCELLANEOUS category too. You know, because there’s some expenses that just don’t fit anywhere else!

For reference, Joseph and I try to stick to about a $70/week budget, which includes all food from the grocery store and eating out. But the problem wasn’t from eating out. It was trying to eat healthier foods and spending more in the produce section that pushed us past the breaking point.

I suppose we could just increase our food budget, right? But after looking at all the other expenses we pay for, there’s no other place I could justifiably cut.


Then an idea popped into my head.

For Fixed Expenses like our Mortgage, Insurance, and Hulu subscription, going over wasn’t ever a problem. It was those Variable Expenses like Food, Gas, Clothing, and other supplies, that was a huge source of stress, and where the overage was most likely to happen.

So I stopped separating them, and combined our Food, Gas, Home, Personal Care, and Miscellaneous categories into one single column.

Here’s why—some weeks you spend more in food. Other weeks, you need a few items of clothing. And other times, the toiletry department needs replenishing.

My new system embraced the fluidity and flexibility these kinds of expenses demand.

However, my only fear was not knowing where our money went until our Friday check-ins. It’s mighty temping to spend whatever we wanted throughout the week, and I worried we would be hit with a big surprise whenever I sat down to update our Expense Tracking Spreadsheet.

Enter: The Budget Notebook

The Budget Notebook is a small purse-sized planner created by Ashley Shelly, whom I’ve had the genuine pleasure of getting to know over the past few months. Seriously, she is super sweet! And of course, anything budgeting is right up my ally, so I was thrilled we had the chance to connect.

I’ve been experimenting with The Budget Notebook over the past two months, and I have to say it gets my 100% stamp of approval. Especially since it was THE tool I used to implement my genius strategy outlined above.

This planner includes:

  • Daily Spending Pages
  • Savings Tracker
  • Financial Goals
  • Purchase Wish List
  • Debt Repayment Plans
  • And of course, lots of notes!

Let me show you exactly how I use it, and why it’s essential to my budgeting success.

How I Use The Budget Notebook:

Because I already have a budgeting system in place, how I use this notebook might be a little different than how you use it. But that’s the great thing—it’s super flexible!

  1. On the All Bills List, I wrote down all the expenses I was combining, as well as approximately how much we budget for each. This is the amount we need to cover variable expenses every two weeks.

Note: Even though things like Medical Expenses, Maintenance/Repairs, and Gifts are technically Variable Expenses too, I’m not spending money on them every week. That’s why they are not included here.

2. Each Tracking Page is a breakdown of that two week period. Every time I spend money and it fits into one of those five categories, I write down the amount spent {left hand column}, and subtract it from the amount I have left to spend {right hand column}.


3. Whatever I have left at the end of the two week period is Savings, and tracked on the Savings Log. This inspires us to spend as little as possible so we can reach our financial goals even faster!


4. I also make little notes about things we need to buy, but don’t have to be bought during that specific pay period and can wait until the next. This really helps us prioritize our spending.


My main takeaway

It’s really easy to get caught up in the specifics of HOW to budget.

For me, I was trying to micromanage every single expense, which in turn, destroyed the flexibility budgets can provide. And then because it felt too restrictive, I had no desire to use one at all. It’s a vicious cycle that stifles our freedom to move things around.

When done right, budgeting is actually fun and wildly satisfying. And no, I’m not joking when I say that! Remember, YOU are in control of all those numbers. You just have to find the right system that works for your way of living.


By the way, I convinced Ashley Shelly to give my readers 10% off in her shop. She never does this, {and her products are totally worth it the price listed}, so you are getting a very rare treat! Just use code CREATIVESAVINGS10 during checkout.

How do you track variable expenses?

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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  1. I just bought this because of your post and I absolutely LOVE it! This is my main budget struggle as well…actually sticking to the budgets I set for those variable expenses. Thanks for the great idea! Just started filling mine in like this and I’m hoping to get the same great results πŸ™‚

    1. It’s so much easier to stay on budget with a plan…even more so when the plan is wrapped in a cute little notebook. πŸ™‚

  2. Hi Kalyn,
    When I was looking for a budget I ran across you budgeting series. I have to tell you it is the best explained and specific information I had found to that point. Easy to understand and follow. I have not seen anything on anyone’s site that compares to yours. Thank you so much for that help and free spreadsheets that were in the series. I now have my $1000 00 emergency fund that I’ve never had in my life.
    I know it’s been a tuff year for you and your husband but your site has truly helped many people I’m sure. May God Richly Bless you both.

  3. I really like this method Kayln. We seem to have the exact same struggles with budgeting! I always seem to go over on mine and wonder what is even the point? I will have to look into getting one of these little binders.

    1. They are great! We’ve been able to keep our variable expenses much lower with this new system. I’m pretty excited about it! πŸ™‚

  4. We used to go over on food too mainly becuase DH and I are both food shoppers depending on who isn’t slammed when we need something. We’re healthy eaters so we’re always going back to the store for more organic produce.

    Several things helped us: We made saving a game and money is the score. When we come in under, that money goes to the game (which is ultimately going to set us free). I blog about it and the rate of growth is making my head spin. I had no idea we were letting so much money get away from us.

    We started using YNAB because both of us can see how much food money is left from our phone and we can update it in real time as soon as we pay for anything (YNAB lets us track everything not just food).

    We stopped buying “designer organic food” and started sticking to produce and lean protein plus nuts & grain in bulk. We completely stopped buying junk food and that balanced each other out. We actually came out ahead because we stopped getting sick.

  5. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who goes over on food! I feel like 90% of the reason we live so frugal is so we can enjoy good food and travel. We have a tendency to go over budget when we stop tracking our expenses. This pocket sized way of keeping track is awesome! We check in on our budget 3x a week, this helps makes sure we are still on track and lets me know how to plan my grocery list.

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