For those who budget...how much do you allow monthly for 'incidentals' - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 02-20-2010, 09:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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and what does that money usually get spent on? I am assuming it is for stuff that comes up on a one-time basis that you don't expect you'll need money for.

I am putting together a stricter budget for myself and wondering what other people find to be reasonable in this category.

I know, I know, I should base it on my past spending habits, which I will, along with a healthy dose of extra discipline, but I'm really curious about what other people do.

I am guessing that for me it will be for can't-pass-up thrift shop finds, random household things that need replacing or replenishing (things that don't fall into the groceries-and-consumables category), an occasional local event fee, surprise homeschooling needs, medicine if someone is sick, "emergency" food if we find ourselves out with poor planning and no snacks, gifts (rare)...etc.

I'm thinking I should budget $50/month...what do you do?

Amanda, mom to Everest (12), Alden (10-1/2), Ellery (7-1/2), & Avery (6)
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#2 of 14 Old 02-20-2010, 11:13 AM
 
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We don't really have an "incidentals" category. All of our money is allocated into funds that have names. For instance, we have a medical fund. This covers copays for dr visits, prescriptions, etc. We budget $30/mo into that b/c we don't go to the dr or need prescriptions that often. We have a school materials envelope that gets $10/mo for any homeschooling materials we might find we "need". We have a gift envelope that gets $50/mo and an eating out envelope that gets $90/mo.

We use a cash envelope system, so all of these funds either just build up or at the end of the month, we move what we haven't used into savings (this is usually what we do w/ the eating out fund). Right now we don't have a clothing fund, but we really should. We don't buy clothes often, so when we find the need, we usually pull from savings.

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#3 of 14 Old 02-20-2010, 11:25 AM
 
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Hubby and I get $20 each per week to spend on whatever we'd like that is not a household/food/pet/baby need. It's our allowance.
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#4 of 14 Old 02-20-2010, 02:15 PM
 
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We have a pretty big range of things that come under that category. Co-pays, gas, clothes, personal care, stationary, disposable diapers, eating out. Anything that's not groceries, hardware or utilities comes out of the misc budget. It's $100 a week, so if I've had a specialist's appointment and filled the car up I can't go to Kmart and buy new picture frames as well as socks. But another week we might go out for dinner. It rolls over from week to week, and I've rarely had to borrow from next week's budget except for dentist visits.

This works well to keep my little purchases from adding up. But the system is kind of breaking down with our house renovations, so I've made hardware purchases something I can use my debit card for, and we just buy what we need when we need it.

We have this instead of multiple categories, because I'd just lose track, and since we live in a small town I'm normally buying things from five categories at Target. This way we get what we need out of the money we can spare from our budget. It allows me to prioritise our needs week by week.
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#5 of 14 Old 02-20-2010, 04:40 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amyamanda View Post
I am guessing that for me it will be for can't-pass-up thrift shop finds, random household things that need replacing or replenishing (things that don't fall into the groceries-and-consumables category), an occasional local event fee, surprise homeschooling needs, medicine if someone is sick, "emergency" food if we find ourselves out with poor planning and no snacks, gifts (rare)...etc.
All of those items would fit into an already defined category in my budget. What budget categories do you currently have and do you carry over from month to month?

 

 

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#6 of 14 Old 02-20-2010, 06:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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All of those items would fit into an already defined category in my budget. What budget categories do you currently have and do you carry over from month to month?
I don't think it makes sense for me to list my categories as I'm only budgeting for my spending, not DH's, and DH will have to cover the bills (phone, electric, insurance, mortgage, etc) and anything unusual that comes up (any one-shot deals, like kids extracurricular activities, any large necessary purchases or repairs, etc). I currently make X amount at my part-time job and need to keep my own spending within what I'm making. I have a category for groceries/consumables, gas, and then a couple of other categories specific to certain recurring expenses, then "incidentals," and a category for the cash I withdraw for a specific set of things each month.

I won't carry over from month to month. Anything I don't spend goes into the EF, which needs help right now.

I need to keep it simple or I will bail - too many categories and it's not useful to me. (I know this from experience.) Mostly it's just to help me track my spending each month so I can be more careful about keeping within a set amount and hopefully have something left over for savings or at least zero out each month.

Edited to say, in case that sounds like "duh!", I am already pretty good at keeping intuitively within my means, but I haven't tracked it to this level for awhile. I mean, when the money's gone, it's gone, and I don't spend, but then sometimes I don't have gas money or groceries money, and I think this will help me make sure I always have enough to cover the basics without accidentally spending some of my grocery money at the thrift shop, you know?

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#7 of 14 Old 02-20-2010, 09:46 PM
 
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I have a household/misc. budget that is about $200-500/month. This includes things for the house, toiletries, gifts, decorations. This month my spending in this category has consisted of things like towels, toilet paper, light bulbs, paint (and painting supplies), stamps, and a couple of birthday gifts.

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#8 of 14 Old 02-20-2010, 10:22 PM
 
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We don't have an 'incidentals' category.

Our 'miscellaneous' category is $10/month and is truly miscellaneous items that do not fit into another category. It rolls over month-to-month and adds up to $120/year. It sits in the checking account until needed.

We each receive "personal" funds each month. DH's is direct deposited into his personal checking account and he covers any expenses he doesn't wish to discuss with me. Gifts for me, hobbies, that sort of thing. DD & I get cash out each month. She is 8, so her focus is learning spending, savings, charity - general money management. I use mine for anything I don't wish to discuss with DH or don't fit into our joint spending plan (gifts for him, crafts for myself - not family crafts, food when I am out by myself, etc). All of these are very small percentages of our family's total incoming funds. We don't track them and when it is gone, it is gone.

In our family's budget, the items you are discussing have known categories and I do take the time to track them because they are important to me and our budget.

In your case, it sounds like you have a number in mind ($50). Start with that and see how it works.

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#9 of 14 Old 02-21-2010, 02:04 AM
 
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We have 4 jars. (Family of 5 includes Mom, Dad, 14 yo DS, 4 yo DS and 1 yo DD who is still nursing)

Food = $900/month (everything that we eat whether it comes from a store or a restaurant)

Incidentals = $200/month (non-food items that are necessary such as diapers, cleaning supplies, toiletries, cold medicine, household items. we also buy gifts from this jar)

Clothing = $120/month (clothing and shoes for all 5 members of the family)

Entertainment = $80/month (fun stuff to do with the family such as swimming fees, movies, toys, books, outings)

DH and I also receive $20-$25 a week each (depending on finances) with which to fund out hobbies and pay for date nights and the silly things we both like to indulge in.
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#10 of 14 Old 02-21-2010, 07:30 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amyamanda View Post
I'm thinking I should budget $50/month...what do you do?
I think that it depends. For some $50 would completely put them over budget and for others it might be $950 too little. YKWIM? It's probably better to think of it as a percentage of income.

Gifts, we already budget for that, including to buy gifts for dd's friends when they have b-day parties. Anything left over from that gets carried over and is included for x-mas gifts. Medicine is also covered because we have a health savings account. We also budget for dd's activities. She doesn't have any that are surprises, as her only activities are horseback riding, sewing, Brownie Scouts and Science Club.

Our incidentals are things like a spur-of-the-moment coffee and snack when we're at the bookstore, contributions at work for different things (births, deaths, other special occasions where you need to put some money in an envelope), one-off charitable contributions (Haiti, for example), buying a few extra flats of canned veg on sale for the food pantry (we do budget regular contributions), a bottle of wine, spur-of-moment dinner party/cookout, a special cultural event we hadn't planned and just found out about. Those are just the ones that come to mind because they've been recent "incidentals" and they truly cannot be budgeted.

I wouldn't be comfortable with only $50 for incidentals, but that's just me and our lifestyle because your incidentals are not our incidentals. We budget for those you've listed, as those seem to be "knowns". Our incidentals are probably closer to $500 than to $50.
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#11 of 14 Old 02-21-2010, 12:17 PM
 
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I use cash for gas, all food, shoes/clothes and most of the things you are calling incidentals. I find the total amounts it to be fairly consistent from month to month (what the incidentals are tend to be very seasonal) If we have vacation or travel to grandparents (both my parents and in laws live 450 miles away/not the same place) we modify the budget accordingly and know we are not going to have as much to devote to savings that month.
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#12 of 14 Old 02-21-2010, 12:22 PM
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You mentioned medicine for when someone is sick....there should definitely be a "medical" category which would include medicine.

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#13 of 14 Old 02-21-2010, 05:30 PM
 
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We budget for healthcare, which includes copays and medicine. We also budget for gifts. And we each get cash allowances each week.

If it's a tight month, and some categories haven't been funded (our income varies, so if there is only enough for necessities, then "gifts" won't get funded), I find the money out of grocery money or our cash allowances.

I use cash allowances for things like fancy makeup, yard sale splurges (no, I didn't need that pretty painting, but I like it), an occasional coffee or coke out and about, and things like that. For us, it's a pretty broad category.
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#14 of 14 Old 02-23-2010, 05:07 PM
 
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We budget about $400 per month for misc things that don't happen every month - for us, this includes:
gifts/sympathy cards and flowers
throwing a birthday party
buying wine (we don't count this in our grocery budget)
clothes or shoes
school expenses (supplies/collections for teachers/field trips/class parties)
buying glasses
household purchases
Halloween costumes and candy to give away
eating out or "fun days" like going to the movies or skiing.

We modify our spending in other areas for lets say a birthday month - so if we spend money throwing the kids a party, that is a month we will try not to eat out or go to the movies...For instance, we throw a large Octoberfest each year --- it costs us a bit, but we love having so many family and friends together that we cut back on everything else that month
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