Money·3 min read

When Should You Adjust Your Budget?

When Is It Time to Adjust Your Budget?
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
May 11, 2021

The Story

Sometimes what used to work for you just doesn’t anymore. Think: Juicy sweatsuits, cheap liquor...and maybe your pre-pandemic budget. 

I thought my budget was supposed to be my forever friend.

It is. But like any good, long-term relationship, it takes some effort to keep the love alive. That’s why it’s a good idea to schedule monthly date nights with your finances. And if money check-ins aren't already a recurring event on your cal, you may at least want to pencil one in when things get especially rocky (see: this past year+). Positive life changes – like getting a raise, paying off your student loans or credit card debt, and moving in with your partner – are also good reasons to rethink your budget.

Give me a hint about the types of things I’m looking for here.

Review your income, goals, and anything new, which could be a lot these days. Maybe it's stuff “February 2020 you” might never have thought to budget for. Like regular grocery deliveries or COVID-19 tests for your whole fam. Or it could be a shift in priorities. Like if you’ve got babies on the brain, want to start saving for a new home or a post-pandemic career change (because YOLO), or are planning a wedding.

Take a look at a few of your bank statements from the last year and note new spending habits, as well as costs you've cut. If you're thinking about bringing back old expenses (hi, eating AT restaurants), but also want to keep some of the new (or add something completely different), you need to make sure your budget has room for it all. 

And if you’ve had to dip into your emergency fund or lean on credit cards to cover any surprise expenses or loss of income, try to work replenishing your savings or clearing that debt into your plan, too.

What if I get a good surprise?

Pop the champagne...then figure out how you want to use that windfall. Maybe it’s a raise, bonus, birthday check, or tax refund. Whatever the source, that extra money could go to buying yourself something shiny... but putting as much as you can toward your goals can help you reach them faster.

I like the sound of that. Anything else to look out for?

Bigger patterns. Like if you consistently spend more than you earn and have to borrow from your savings account. Or if the amount of debt you owe is going up instead of down. Or if you tend to have just a little money left after paying bills.

What then?

Reset. If tweaking a few numbers isn’t enough to make managing your money, well, manageable, consider a brand new budgeting style. A few ideas: an all-cash diet; organizing your spending by needs, goals and wants; or keeping it simple and just focusing on paying yourself first.


When it comes to a spending plan, setting it and forgetting it doesn’t always work. Check in regularly to see whether or not your budget is still working for you. Then keep Tan France-ing it until you hit your financial sweet spot.

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