Irregular expenses can be budget breakers! Whether you’re new to budgeting or you’re a seasoned pro and understand how you spend your money, those irregular expenses can sneak up on anybody. Compared to your fixed expenses, like a car payment or mortgage, non-regular expenses can include:

  • Education (school supplies, field trip fees, registration fees)
  • Pets (boarding fees, office visits, grooming costs)
  • Transportation (maintenance, parking passes, repairs)
  • Seasonal (vacations, gifts, sporting events)
  • Self care (gym fees, therapy, hair care)

These expenses are harder to plan for because they are more sporadic and unpredictable (if they happen at all!). But in order to not be surprised or financially “tight” at the end of the month when they do happen, it’s best to plan for the worst. 

Here are three tips to save ahead for irregular expenses:

  1. Reflection

The best way to reduce the surprise effect of irregular expenses is to revisit your past and see what expenses incurred before. Even if you don’t know exact amounts that were spent, you will be able to see patterns in your spending that will help you budget. 

For example, you may notice your travel expenses increased around Thanksgiving and Christmas because you were visiting family. You may not have the same plans this year but you can still budget for more gas expenses or hotel fees. 

  1. Monthly Budget

Have a specific section in your monthly budget that will cover irregular expenses–just for that month. I suggest taking a look at your calendar for these irregular expenses:

  • Birthdays (gifts, dinner, parties)
  • Anniversaries (gifts, dinner parties)
  • HOA Fee Reminders (typically quarterly or yearly)
  • Pest Control Appointments (monthly, bimonthly)
  • Club Dues

By breaking it down by month, it will seem more reasonable to save for. It will also allow you to prioritize your spending when you look ahead and know what costs are coming. Remember to review your monthly budget every month and adjust as needed.

  1. Sinking Funds Template

Sinking funds are funds that you put money into, specifically for irregular big expenses or little expenses you see often. Having a specific savings for these funds allows you to be flexible on how much and when you add, while giving you peace of mind that you don’t have to come up with full payments when these expenses occur. 

For example, I like to have a sinking fund for kids activities because every summer irregular expenses like camps, lessons, concerts and pool passes tend to hit us all at the same time. 

To help you keep track of your sinking funds, use this free and easy sinking funds template.

Bonus Tip: Use a Vacation Savings Tracker

A vacation tends to be under the irregular expenses category because we don’t always know if, when or where we might go on vacation in a year. But what is likely is some kind of vacation will happen. So start tracking and saving for whatever vacation might be possible.

Irregular expenses can be stressful to find the money to pay for, but if you’re prepared it doesn’t have to be a budget buster. Saving for these expenses will also reduce any guilt if you want to go out for your friend’s birthday or need to shop for new school clothes. Use these three tips to help you feel like you’re in the driver’s seat of your finances.