How to recover from an 'expensive' month

Every once in a while, I have a month where I blow my budget. Not just by a few bucks, but by a serious chunk of change. Usually, it's when there are large one-time expenses (i.e. car repair bill, surprise taxes, holiday shopping, or paying for an upcoming trip). These things may or may not be planned for, but as the month wears on, I start to feel like I've lost complete control over my spending. That leaves me feeling one of two ways: either I throw my hands up and say 'screw it' and just buy whatever I want or I become a miserly old man and never step foot outside my home unless it's to go to work to make more money.

Neither response really seems healthy, especially when the situation is beyond my control.

So I've come up with a quick fix for when I'm feeling pretty crappy about my spending.

  • Sit down and look at exactly what I spent my money on. When I look at my budget and see that I've been good about all of my discretionary spending and the only thing that's messing up my budget is the one-time expense, I start to feel a little better about things. I'm not a failure, or at least this isn't evidence of it.
  • Figure out how to prevent the expense from happening again. Young people are notorious for underestimating the ongoing cost of purchases. Maintenance is just one of those things that just comes with territory. So when I recognize that fact, and agree to pay the few bucks to keep my car in tip top shape, I start to plan for it and include it in my budget. This helps even out my spending expectations and prevent surprises from cropping up in the future.
  • Accept that sometimes, expensive things are just going to happen. When I look at the hospital bill I'm still paying every month, I wince a little and am amazed that it's still there. Then I start to kick myself for getting all worked up about something that turned out to be nothing. And then I finish that thought with the old adage "nothing is more important than your health" and become grateful that I'm still here. Sometimes life is just going to throw us curve balls. That's what an emergency fund is for.

I'm going to have to deal with this feeling this month, with the repairs on my car and buying plane tickets for two trips this summer. My account is not going to be looking pretty. Later in the year I'm going to have to lay out some more money for these trips, but it'll be worth it and I'll go through my process again to feel better about it. In the end as long as you’re not wasting money, what does it matter really?

How do you recover from an expensive month?