5 Check Engine Signs of Your Budget

My hubby Tom and I were headed to see the fireworks on Saturday and as we’re driving down this back country road, the check engine light of our car came on. Now I wasn’t surprised when it happened, because for our car, that simply means it’s time for a tune up and I knew that was about to be due any day now. I realized though that just like my Accord, our budgets have check engine lights too. It is so easy to just keep on keepin on when we’re having an easy time of it, but it’s even easier to ignore those subtle signs that can mean that our budget is going to skid off course. Luckily, if we’re paying even the slightest bit of attention, we are able to see those check engine signs in our budgets and catch them early on with some routine maintenance.

Are the check engine lights of your budget on? If so, it's time for a tune up!


I don’t want to put out there that I am the end all be all, kick butt, always on track budgeting Queen because if you’ve read this blog? You know that at times, I struggle the same way that you do. In fact? I struggle with staying on budget more than I really care to admit. I am a boredom shopper combined with an emotional shopper and you know as well as I do what those things can do to destroy a budget. So I’ve learned that I need to have willpower when it comes to my spending and I’ve learned that I have to keep my dreams and goals in the front of my mind so that I don’t spend and I have learned how to recognize the signs of trouble early on so that I can go and do something about it.

One bill is all it really takes for me to realize that I may be off track. No, not a current bill, but one late bill. I make more than enough money to cover all of our bills and my business expenses so if I have a month that does not have enough money to go around? I’ve done something wrong somewhere. That’s your first check engine light. When there isn’t enough money to go around and there should be…stop and check your budget.

Next, I notice that not only is there no longer enough money to go around, but that I have no idea where the money went. That brings us to check engine sign number two; when you haven’t got a clue where your money is going? It’s time to pull off the road. If you’re at this step, the easiest way (and I use the term easy very loosely) to get things under control is to stop, pull all of your bank statements and track your spending right then and there. Chances are if you do that, you’ll be able to spot the money hemorrhage pretty quickly.

Third, not only will you start to notice the bills going unpaid and not know why, but you will also start having trouble meeting your regular necessities such as groceries. I don’t even want to tell you how few times I was actually able to grocery shop back in 2014 when our budget was wonky the last time. To make matters worse, like I mentioned in sign two, I had no idea where the money was going. Luckily for me, we were able to track it down pretty quickly and get it fixed.

The next check engine light for your budget might not be so obvious, but it is indeed a sign that you need to take control of things. If you’re worrying about your budget? You probably have a reason to. Adults spend so much time worrying that we can completely miss it when we add another worry to the list, but if your budget is keeping you up at night? Take a look at things to be sure you’re on track because you may not be. If nothing else, you’ll reassure yourself that things are fine.

Finally, if your accounts are negative, it’s definitely time to take a look at things…actually it’s past time. Sit down and figure up your expenses to try and see where things went sideways. If you’ve gotten to this point, your finances are in a dire place obviously and need some first aid. If you’re in this spot, first off, stop spending. Right now, no more spending money. Then, once you know where the money bleed was, work on fixing it. Start small and go from there.


The thing with noticing these signs is that you have to be paying attention. If not, most of them are easily missed as being warning signs. Instead, you might think that they’re just a fluke or for some other reason. Maybe you didn’t have a big enough paycheck this week, maybe you simply spent too much, but no matter why, the best way to deal with your new budget issue is to do just that. Deal with it and get it under control. The next time you go through this, you’ll recognize the early warning signs sooner.

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Stacy Barr
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Stacy Barr

Stacy Barr is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family. A true gypsy soul, her newest blog, Unsettled Hearts, chronicles the journey of her family to become full-time travelers. By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

Click here to learn how I made over $100,000 blogging in 2016!
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