Do you keep a double budget on the sly?

I am.

But wait, what’s a sneaky spender?

Someone who has a budget, has a plan, has categories and still manages to go over budget in areas she didn’t mean to.

The Journal of Consumer Research found that most people went shopping with two budgets in mind — an official budget, and a secret stealth budget that lets them go over by a certain percent.

33% to be exact.


So let’s say you go grocery shopping with a budget of $50, and you decide to put a couple of items in your basket that are treats. Unnecessary, fried, fatty, sugary, or all of the above, treats.

You get to the cash register, and the amount is $75, and not your $50 estimate.

You cry bloody murder, but you secretly knew you were going to go over by $25, and you allowed yourself to do so, because you had a second secret, stealth budget.

Of about 33%.

It’s double-budgeting

Kind of like keeping two budgets — your “ideal” and your “realistic” one.

It sounds kind of silly when I think about it, but I totally do this.

I expect to spend $20 on something, and I go over by $5, but I let myself do it, instead of putting something back.

Turns out I am not alone because about 75% of shoppers entered the store knowing they were going to buy more than what was on their shopping lists.

Solution for sneaky spenders

Lift the restrictions a bit

I give myself a set budget of $1000 a month, and for yearly expenses, I have a rough round number of about $1000 to cover them (dental, car insurance, apartment insurance, etc).

If I go over budget in one category, I lower categories in another.

I defer purchases that aren’t necessary for the next month.

I call them one-off expenses. Oops. Heh heh. Am trying to break myself of that habit.

The longer your list of items, the less you will spend impulsively

Don’t go in with a “hmm I just want to pick up some milk, and maybe some vegetables for my salad tonight”….

The more structured your “To Buy” list, the less room you will have in your sneaky second budget to spend.

The less items you have on your list, the more you will have in your sneaky second budget to spend on impulses.


I get as tempted as little as possible

Get in, and get out.

I try not to spend time just browsing, window shopping or looking. It always ends up making me tempted to spend impulsively.

But even if I make a mistake…

.. I don’t beat myself up over it for too long.

Sometimes I do need a little impulse release, so that I don’t feel totally restricted and then binge out of control.

See, even when I spend a little extra impulse money, I have a mental stop in my head that says: Okay, that is SERIOUSLY enough. Stop.

And I do.

Are you a sneaky spender?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.