Budget Setbacks {& how I handle them}

When it comes to planning and organizing, I am 100% Type A. You should have seen our first budget as a married couple; there were pages and pages of categories and formulas and colors. It was too specific. Because of the specificity, our first budget failed. Big time. I was trying to be far too precise and particular about tracking our money and telling it where to go. For example: under Little Daisy’s category, I had 5 budget lines. Why does an infant need 5 budget lines? I was also trying to track every transaction as it occurred. I would be checking our online banking at least once each day. You know what happened? I got tired, burnt out, and pissed that my day was now revolving around our money.

Fast forward 3 years and several other budget system fails: I’ve created a much simpler, visually pleasing, and easy to navigate budget. Even my free-spirit husband doesn’t mind sitting down to our  weekly and monthly budget meetings. I still tweak it each month because life happens. Our daughter is getting older and we are hitting different milestones and seasons of life. Just like the world around us, our budget is a living thing. It evolves with the ebbs and flows of time. We have the quick weekly check-ins, the mid-month check, and the “big” end of the month/beginning of the next month meeting. Less is definitely more when it comes to our budgeting style.

The Budget Setback

But just when you think you’ve got said perfect balance and your system is flowing perfectly…BAM! In comes the budget buster! Crashing through your wall like the god damned Kool-Aid Man. Not just a $50 buster that you forgot to budget for. But a $600 vehicle repair that was most definitely NOT in your plans.

Mr. Daisy has been worried about his transfer case for about a month. We knew it was going to need replaced eventually. He crawled under yesterday and in his words, “It’s puking fluid. Needs fixed now.” But as he was under there he also noticed that the front ball joints were in bad shape, the water pump needed to be replaced, and might as well throw in the wipers while we’re at it. Before our balanced budgeting days, I would have had a mini meltdown any time something popped up that I hadn’t accounted for.

Now that I’m in my budget-Zen mode, I take a few breaths and look at the bright side:

  1. If we had to take his truck to a shop to get repaired, this would easily cost us well over $1200 with parts and labor. Mr. Daisy is a mechanic so no labor costs and we have the wholesale hookup on parts through my Dad and brother’s businesses, so no crazy marked up parts prices.
  2. Daisy’s truck will get him from point A to point B safely.
  3. I enjoy working on vehicles with Mr. Daisy. One of his 5 Love Languages is Quality Time and he appreciates when I take interest in something that he’s doing. (I would prefer that it didn’t cost $600, but I digress).
  4. We can afford the costs of repairing his truck and we can afford having two vehicles. We are fully aware that this type of setback would cause other people in other situations much more grief than it has caused us. It will not affect our ability to put food on the table, get to work, or disrupt our daily lives and we are grateful for that.

It is natural and automatic to immediately compartmentalize unplanned and unfortunate setbacks into the “The Sky is Falling” category. It’s something that I did for a really, really long time. I would get frustrated and give up on budgeting and gaining control over our finances. It was difficult for me to see that light at the end of the tunnel and still is sometimes. If this would have been a $3000 repair, I would have panicked. No doubt about that. In my struggle to become more calm and Zen with our budgeting and finances; I am trying to teach myself  that much (if not all) of life is about balance. It’s about understanding which situations require calmness and which require an intense approach. Does this small thing really require an argument with my husband? Does the plant that Little Daisy accidentally knocked over validate me losing my patience?

It’s nothing groundbreaking on how I handle budget busters and life setbacks in general. I attempt to find and keep stability, get back up from whatever set back it is, notch it in my brain for future reference, and move on. It may require creative tweaking in next month’s budget, but life will go on with or without me pouting about something. There’s no room for hostility towards something I cannot control when there’s an adorable three year old asking me to play Candy Land with her.

What types of budget setbacks have you encountered? How do you handle them?


  1. Willow @ Miter Saws and Mary Janes | 23rd Mar 17

    I’ve had plenty of budget setbacks over the years (haven’t we all?!), but I always have been able to rely on an emergency fund or slush fund to cover the issues. This comes after years of retraining myself to prioritize saving over spending and making diligent efforts to always have a security fund of some sort.

    With my flips and investment properties, I automatically build in a 15-20% contingency fund to the original budget. This helps me cover the inevitable, unforeseen expenses. It’s awesome when I don’t have to use this money, but it’s a great sanity saver to have it if I need to use it!

    • Mrs. Daisy | 24th Mar 17

      Hi Willow! We have an emergency fund, but have yet to start slush funds. I know it goes against some financial experts’ recommendations but we just aren’t there yet with money. Anything that is left at the end of the month goes directly onto debt. The money is there if there is an emergency…like this month. We have the $600, it just won’t be going on debt (sad face). Thank you for stopping by!

  2. Katy | 23rd Mar 17

    When we were first married, ANY unexpected expense was a budget setback! A lot of this was because we had low paying jobs and tons of student loans.

    When I was working as a bedside nurse, we hardly ever had budget setbacks in a sense. If something came up that needed extra cash, I would work an overtime shift or two to pay for it. Now that we are both in salaried jobs (without OT options), that’s not an option anymore!

    • Mrs. Daisy | 24th Mar 17

      I feel ya on the OT! Mr. Daisy’s OT in the summers can nearly double his paycheck. Our plan is to throw that directly on debt. There are weeks when it takes a lot out of him, but he’s a hard working guy and never complains. One of the many reasons I love him 🙂

  3. Nathalie | 24th Mar 17

    I echo the comment from Katy that when I was first married and working very low paying jobs (back then we got paid $5.35 an hour and that was above the minimum wage!), any unforeseen expense was a major budget emergency that would set us back and our only option was to charge it to our credit cards. Our cars broke down quite a bit and each time it was a huge repair bill. So little by little we got into debt because we kept having to charge it and didn’t really have a plan to get out of debt, aside from paying the minimum every month. I wish someone would have sat us down and explained how long it was going to take us to get out of debt with this lack of direction. We also worked a ton of overtime but never seemed to get ahead.

    Nowadays I’m older and I’ve read the financial advice books and I was lucky that my second husband fell into a good paying career. We sacrificed a lot and paid off our debt, built a catastrophe fund (which represents a year of bare bone expenses, in case Greg gets laid off), and also have an emergency fund, from which such things as unforeseen car repairs get deducted. But secretly I still get stressed about such expenses because I remember those days when I didn’t know how I was going to pay for them.

    I admire how you are able to look at the situation and delineate what is important and is not (“why should I fight with my husband over this?”) especially since so many marriages are in trouble over financial matters. It doesn’t sound to me like you have an emergency fund set aside, though.

    It is hard to try to balance a wish to get out of debt fast, and the need for having an emergency fund for situations such as this one. You said that a $600 expense disappointed you but didn’t stress you, whereas a $3,000 expense would have stressed you a lot. May I suggest that you slow down the debt repayment a bit, and build up an emergency fund of $3,000? The thing is, emergencies will always crop up, whether it be a car repair, a medical emergency, a house repair (I think you’re renting from family) or damage to your belongings, someone losing their job, and those are the ones that tend to undo people. People have deductibles on their insurance policies (whether it be vehicle, renter’s or homeowner’s insurance) but don’t think to put money aside to be able to pay the deductibles should something bad happen that would require to use that insurance policy.

    I know that for me, even though I still get stressed about such things as expensive car repairs, having enough money in the bank to cover it brought down my stress level a lot and allowed me to redouble my efforts in cutting costs in other areas so we could get out of debt faster. Your mileage may vary!

    • Mrs. Daisy | 24th Mar 17

      Thank you for your kind advice, Nathalie! This vehicle expense is the first major unpredicted expense we’ve had in a while, and it has opened our eyes to exactly what you said…maybe we should turn down the intensity on debt repayment and split that money between savings. We have decided to build up our emergency fund to $3000 in the next 4 months in hopes of curtailing any other disaster that might come our way 🙂

  4. Adriana @MoneyJourney | 25th Mar 17

    I remember our biggest budget setback was a few years ago. We had just moved in together, got new jobs and… I suddenly needed dental surgery!

    I was in pain and thought I had a simple cavity problem (which was affordable), but when the dentist pulled out the X-ray and showed me I needed surgery, I almost fainted 😀 We just started working, had no emergency fund, we didn’t even get paid for our first month at the jobs. Boy, were we panicked.

    Needless to say a new budget category was born 😀 To this day, whenever we remind ourselves we need to save more, we think “medical emergency”. Seems to be the perfect motivational factor.

    • Mrs. Daisy | 26th Mar 17

      Ooo, I know so many people that have had budget setbacks due to unforeseen major medical expenses. We have a high deductible insurance plan through my employer. The upside to that is that we have an HSA that can be used for any medical expense. I have a set amount pulled out of my paycheck and placed in that account each month. I always make sure that there is at least enough money in there to cover our deductible ($2650). After the deductible, we are covered at $3000 max out of pocket. A dental emergency though…that would set us back if it went over what we had in our HSA! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Leave A Comment