Things that can Bust your Budget (and How to Avoid Them)

Mackenzie Smith, SDSU Extension AmeriCorp VISTA

  1. Not writing everything down – How can you know if you’re over budget if you don’t keep track over everything? It’s important to keep track of all the little vending machine purchases as well as the big grocery trips. Try having a dedicated Google Sheet that you can access on your phone anytime.
  2. Recurring charges – That magic FaceTune app may be free when you download it, but then starts to rack up a dollar a day charges after its week-long trial period is over. To avoid this make sure you look through the fine print on the things you purchase and keep an eye on your account balance regularly so you aren’t surprised at the end of the month if you missed something.
  3. Fees – If you will have enough money to cover all your bills, but don’t time your payments to when you get your paychecks, you can rack up overdraft fees. Getting due dates confused with different responsibilities can come with fees, as can using a credit card instead of a debit card when you pay online. Keep a calendar of when things are due, and write down how and with what you are paying if you need to. 
  4. Not accounting for sales – If you go through a lot of paper towels and the store is having a big buy one get one free sale, obviously it makes sense to buy in bulk. However, if you don’t have enough to make rent, it doesn’t really matter how much buying extra could save you in the long run.
  5. Not keeping your budget updated – A $20 gas allowance every month might have made sense when gas prices were $3/gallon, but now prices have raised to $4/gallon, and it’s getting to the point where you are going over every month. When you consistently break budget, it’s a good idea to figure out why and either stop doing that thing, or allot more to that area from somewhere else you can cut back from.
  6. Not staying informed – Laws change, fees change, your situation changes. Maybe your own car insurance didn’t make sense when you started college, but now that you are older and out of the “dangerous new driver” age range it might be a good idea to get off the shared plan with your dad who manages to hit all the roadkill. ( is a great resource for keeping up to date.

If you want to know more about how to manage your finances, you can visit ( or for articles geared especially towards college students, visit It’s free!