Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Budgeting numbers is relatively easy as it’s basic math; however, things can get tricky when it comes to miscellaneous expenses.
Miscellaneous Expenses Breaking Your Budget Into Pieces
Our miscellaneous expense category is one of our most significant budget expenses for the variable year.
For some of you, this budget category might be called a “Slush Fund,” but realistically, you can call it whatever you like.
You can build a miscellaneous cost into your budget every month, and if you spend less than that amount, take what’s left and put it into your bank account (slush fund account).
You take money from the slush fund for months and spend more on miscellaneous expenses.
The only problem is that you must watch how much money you have in the slush fund and what you’re expensing.
Miscellaneous Expenses Are Unbudgeted
What are the various expenses?
Years ago, a fan reached out to me and asked me why our monthly miscellaneous expenses were so high some months.
Honestly, it wasn’t until then that I looked at that category with a more profound thought as we took it for granted.
Anything that didn’t have a home got stuffed in the miscellaneous expenses category, which was kind of lazy of us.
We were not lazy because we weren’t monitoring our monthly expenses but tracking why these miscellaneous expenses were happening.
I could explain to the reader why we put the items into our miscellaneous category.
However, that’s where it ended.
6 Months Of Tracking Our Miscellaneous Expenses
Mrs. CBB and I have been testing our new miscellaneous expenses tracking log for our monthly budget.
Although planning for bills you know will arrive, these miscellaneous expenses hit you in the face, sometimes all at once.
I wanted to give our miscellaneous expenses a solid six months of tracking to see how we could improve our budget.
Sometimes, we’d find items such as birdseed from Costco, Mulch, Government documents (PR Card, Passport, Passport photos), etc., that we had never considered before.
By tracking our miscellaneous expenses, we knew we would need to include birdseed in our home maintenance category.
We would buy four bags a year from Costco at $15.99, which we now factor into our monthly budget.
Since mulch falls under home maintenance, we will include these expenses in the next budget update round.
The government documents were one-off expenses, so we couldn’t do much with them.
These expenses would be considered legit miscellaneous for our budget and left alone.
However, the Passport, PR Card, and even my education expenses for University that weren’t expected all needed a home.
I’ll pay to upgrade my University degree for the next year or so.
This expense will fall under Membership, Clubs, and Sports since it is part of a membership requirement for my employer.
Your budget categories only need to make sense to the user and nobody else.
As long as you know what goes in each category, that’s all that matters.
Understanding Your Miscellaneous Expenses
In our world, miscellaneous expenses are those you don’t plan for but end up spending money on.
A trip to Costco might yield some garden plants you hadn’t budgeted for or a speeding ticket.
One might suggest tracking your speeding ticket under vehicle maintenance and expenses; however, you’re spending too much if you don’t budget for that speeding ticket.
Not only that, but unless you’re tracking expenses in every category, you won’t know that you slid that expense in.
Although a speeding ticket may only be a one-time expense, it does fall under miscellaneous costs as it wasn’t expected nor budgeted for.
The Costco garden plants again have no home in your budget unless you stash them under home maintenance, but is that really where you want to put them?
Ideally, I’d put them under miscellaneous expenses and track those expenses so that at the end of the year, I can review them.
How to Review Your Miscellaneous Expenses
The first question I would ask myself is whether or not the expense was a one-time or yearly expense.
When you re-evaluate your budget, doing so lets you know whether you need to budget for this expense.
For example, if I find that we spent $200 on plants for our garden that we had not budgeted for, I’ll consider whether we should
- Add a gardening section to our budget, including seeds, pots, soil, plants, etc., as a projected expense. We know we will have this expense at some point in the year. In this case, it would be a Spring or Summer expense, so we would take $200/12 and save $16.65, rounded to $17 each month. When the time comes, we will have most or all of the money saved in our projected expenses savings bank account.
- Increase our Home improvement or maintenance budget category for the following year and drop the expense here.
You are taking what started as miscellaneous expenses and deciding whether they are projected or monthly payments.
I don’t know anyone who buys plants every month unless plants are a hobby, so I’m going with projected expenses for this example.
You’ll see the importance of tracking numbers and shifting categories as you better understand your monthly budget and how it fits your lifestyle.
Types of Budget Expenses
When it comes to budgeting, I believe there are five types of expenses to consider based on budgeting needs:
- Fixed Expenses – One of the easiest to budget as these expenses are always the same.
- Variable Expenses – Expenses where the bill can increase or decrease based on variables. Ex: Electricity.
- Projected Expenses or periodic expenses – Expenses that are periodic throughout the year.
- Discretionary Expenses – These expenses are classified as non-essential ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs’ or items you can get by without.
- Miscellaneous Expenses– Those expenses that don’t have a budget category home
You could also classify the above expenses as discretionary expenses and essential expenses.
In personal finance, essential expenses are fixed, variable, and projected.
These are all expenses you must pay for, no matter what.
However, discretionary expenses are those that you don’t need but spend the money on anyway.
Your budget may allow for discretionary expenses; there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you can afford it.
Some examples of discretionary expenses you could lower or eliminate may be;
- eating out
- adult allowance
- child allowance
- make-up, spa, hair care above cut and wash (beauty)
- video games, DVD’s, cd’s
Considering the above examples, you can quickly chop or trim these expenses on a tight budget.
It’s not to say that you shouldn’t allow yourself these types of expenses because if they fit your budget, then great.
However, there are times when slicing and dicing may be necessary, such as the current pandemic crisis.
Should You Track Your Discretionary Expenses?
The short answer is yes because it makes it easier to weed out the expenses from most important to most essential.
Tracking your discretionary expenses from most important to not too important will be a valuable resource for when and if needed.
The advantage of tracking your discretionary expenses is that if you must trim your budget, this is where you start.
For example, if you face job loss or income cuts, you will have the financial data at your fingertips.
Basic Budget vs. Expanded Budget Categories
Regarding your budget categories, you can create an elaborate budget or a simple basic budget.
The choice is up to you and how much data you want to receive from your budget.
Basic budget expense categories include;
I like to call these “condensed budget categories” that are must-haves to survive.
Expanded Budget Categories List
As you will notice above on our free budget Excel spreadsheet, many budget categories exist.
We chose to expand our budget categories as much as possible so we could retrieve critical data.
Over the years, our budget categories have increased or changed based on the end-of-year data from tracking.
You’d be amazed at how much money gets funneled into miscellaneous expenses, which you don’t budget for but classify as essential or discretionary.
Personal Miscellaneous Expenses Examples
What are some examples of miscellaneous expenses?
- Party Food, which could transfer to projected expenses IF you know you will participate in a Super Bowl Party every year. Catch my drift?
- Weekend Trips – Unplanned could be included in a holiday budget category (consider increased petrol)
- Broken Cell Phones, TVs, computers, lights, or replacement products.
- Racoon broke into your house, and you called in the professionals.
- Charitable Donation (How often are you donating, and should it have a dedicated budget category?)
Just remember that miscellaneous expenses are those that are unbudgeted or unplanned with no budget category home.
Please don’t beat yourself up about your budget categories, as it’s a life-long learning process.
We continue to learn about our budget and how to improve the balancing act.
However, tracking your numbers in specific budget categories helps improve your relationship with your money and budget.
Discussion: How do you handle your miscellaneous expenses each month, and do you track them?
Leave me your comments below, as I’d love to read your experiences.