One of the struggles that my wife and I faced when we started budgeting, was purchases getting lost in categories that were too vast. We’ve always had a Misc (miscellaneous) category in our budget to handle unexpected purchases, but at the time, Misc was used for everything from tissues, to shoes, to Clorox wipes, to guitar strings.
It led to a lot of arguing about why certain categories, Misc in particular, were always going over budget.
If you do life with a partner, you’ll know that money fights are some of the worst you can have. They’re even more frustrating when you think you’re doing the right thing to avoid them, like using a budget.
Our problem was that some of the things we regularly tracked in Misc were not miscellaneous purchases at all. We bought them almost every single month, and they needed to be grouped together into a new category that made sense. Things like paper towels and toilet paper were not random or unexpected purchases that we couldn’t account for. They’re household consumables that we need on a regular basis.
The solution for us was to expand our budget and add more categories. Misc was split into Misc, Soaps Lotions Pastes Cleaners, Paper Products, and Clothes. From one category, we now have four.
Despite being comfortable with budgeting, we still went through new budget growing pains after the split. How much should we put in each of the new categories? Misc certainly needs to decrease because we can’t just add new spending money to our budget, so how much should these new categories get? How do we balance this?
It took a few months, as it always does, but we sorted it out, and splitting Misc apart significantly decreased our financial fights. Now when we need toilet paper, it’s not a stressful purchase.
How granular should a budget be? That’s entirely up to you, but it needs to be granular enough to work. The great thing about a budget is that you get a new one every single month, so if you feel like your budget isn’t working as well as it should, try to change something. If it still doesn’t work, try again the next month.