- Fox Searchlight Pictures
- Jesse Mecham is the author of “You Need a Budget” and the founder of a personal-finance platform by the same name. He says unplanned expenses are never really unexpected. Budget for these expenses in advance and you’ll have a better shot at saving money.
About one-third of Americans have a budget. The rest are more or less winging it.
Jesse Mecham, the founder of personal-finance platform You Need a Budget, thinks he knows why: surprise expenses. That is, people believe it’s useless to set guidelines for spending and saving since you never know when something unusual is going to pop up.
In his forthcoming book, also called “You Need a Budget,” Mecham tears this logic to shreds. “Many of your surprise expenses aren’t surprises at all,” Mecham writes.
For example, one month you have to replace a flat tire. The next month you have to buy a fancy new outfit for a wedding. The month after that you buy 100 boxes of brownies for your kid’s school fundraiser. And the month after that … get the picture?
Mecham suggests taking a look at some past credit card statements to get a sense of a) how much you’re spending on “surprise” expenses and b) any important patterns in the kinds of “surprises” you spend money on. Mecham says that if you have a car, you’re bound to have car trouble once in a while; if you have a pet, you’ll make at least an occasional visit to the vet.
And if you notice, say, a pizza-after-work pattern, Mecham says that’s an opportunity to realign your spending with your goals, whether those goals are saving money or staying svelte.
He also recommends redefining these unplanned expenses as “true expenses” you can absolutely plan for. Create room in your budget for this category.
Business Insider’s Libby Kane wrote about a similar realization after reviewing her spending habits: “Everyone has different expenses and varied amounts of foresight. But here’s something we probably all have in common: Unplanned expenses are a given.”
Ultimately, it’s about being honest with yourself – and realistic about what your life looks like today. Mecham writes, “It never gets better, because it’s not an ‘especially crazy month.’ It’s just life.”